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Clippings: Batum’s day off is all part of the plan

The Clippers continue to have their eye on the long game.

Detroit Pistons vs. Los Angeles Clippers Photo by Adam Pantozzi/NBAE via Getty Images

The Clippers have had their fair share of injuries throughout the season, missing Kawhi Leonard and Paul George as well as all of their other preseason starters for extended stretches, and they’ve had more late scratches than seemingly any other team. Perhaps it’s a consequence of the condensed schedule, or simply the natural breaks of playing at such a high level.

Whatever it is, the Clippers are proactively making sure that this is a regular season phenomenon and not something that will affect them during the playoffs. In addition to all the injury absences the team is dealing, they’re also continuing to plan scheduled rests until the start of the postseason. Leonard, George, Marcus Morris Sr., and Rajon Rondo all got rest days over the previous week. Last night against Minnesota, it was Nicolas Batum’s day off.

As Ty Lue put it, “[Nic] deserves it. Coming here, I think he didn’t think he was gonna play that many minutes as he’s played, but he’s been phenomenal and tonight, we’re giving him a rest day.”

The Clippers will have seven players over the age of 30 in their postseason rotation (plus Patrick Patterson) and Leonard isn’t exactly a spry 29. They wanted to build a team with people who understand how to play the game; that know-how often comes with age, so it isn’t a surprise that some of their players aren’t suited to play four games in six nights.

Luckily, Terance Mann and Luke Kennard are more than ready to pick up the slack when the minutes become available. Fellow 24-year-old Ivica Zubac joked that he had plenty of rest at the start of his career. Now, he takes pride in being an iron man — knock on wood, he hasn’t missed a game due to injury in his Clippers tenure — and he appreciates every minute he gets to be on the court.

At the start of the season, there was some concern about how much functional depth the Clippers had since they were only carrying 14 players and two of their roster spots were being used for Daniel Oturu and Mfiondu Kabengele. But Mann and Patterson have both exceeded expectations as productive role players, and Reggie Jackson has been even more than that.

The Clippers’ success this postseason may begin with the play of Leonard of George, but they’re reliant on the efforts of everyone on this roster, not just how they complement the two starts on the court, but how they fill in the gaps on random nights during the regular season so that the main guys are rested and ready to go in May.

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