This season has been filled with unique stories for the Los Angeles Clippers, perhaps best embodied by a week which started with a historic shorthanded win over the Brooklyn Nets and saw the second coming of an old friend in Patrick Beverley — though it ultimately ended in a defeat at the hands of his Timberwolves. Amidst the biggest plot lines it has thrown up there have been plenty of smaller storylines to keep us gripped week by week, with the latest seeing the franchise sign a series of players to 10-day contracts in order to cover for the guys designated into health and safety protocols.
On seeing some of those guys getting a shot, Marcus Morris Sr. said: “I’m happy that these guys are getting an opportunity to see what the NBA is like, even if it’s for 10 days, whatever it is. Being able to see what they’re up against and being able to see what the competition really is. Guys work their entire life for this moment. For me, that’s an accomplishment for them, man. They’ve been playing their whole life and they get a chance to step and grace an NBA court for their families, to be able to see that, that has to mean a lot. I’m happy they’re getting an opportunity and, shit, I hope some of them stick.”
“I’m not happy about COVID, let me get that straight, I’m happy that these guys are getting an opportunity to see what the NBA is like even if its for 10 days. Guys work their entire lives just for this moment. For me, that’s an accomplishment for them man.”— Tomer Azarly (@TomerAzarly) December 30, 2021
- Marcus Morris pic.twitter.com/B0BSbp5CSW
Xavier Moon is one such player who has been handed that opportunity of a lifetime with his first spell in the league, and he has grabbed it with both hands. He not only starred off the bench in that big win against the Nets but has looked every inch a player who can handle himself at the highest level, and the proof is in the pudding, with him being handed a second 10-day contract by the Clippers. His story is one that any basketball fan can get behind, and it’s good to see veteran guys like Morris acknowledging that. We can only hope that out of such a terrible situation, more good like this can come.
Fans should be able to celebrate those stories, too, and being a part of Clipper Nation gives us ample opportunity to do so. It would have been easy to view this season as a bust as early as it was announced that Kawhi Leonard would likely miss the majority of it, and things have unraveled further in terms of injuries. Almost every single player has missed some time through injury or illness this year, and the past week or so has seen a serious number of absentees, including coach Ty Lue. Yet this squad haven’t let that deter them from giving their best, and it’s a testament to their ‘next man up’ mentality which has even translated through to their newest members.
Isaiah Hartenstein has been one of the guys to embody that mentality, stepping up to replace the rehabbing Serge Ibaka in the early throws of this campaign. Having turned down guaranteed money with the Cavs in order to catch his big break in the league, his decision to bet on himself has paid dividends and then some, bearing fruit in the form of a newly guaranteed contract with the Clippers. His energy and effort made him a key part of the infectious bench unit that started the season so well, though injury has seen him sidelined and his running mates step into starting spots, we should still be excited about the prospect of his return to the court and all that he can bring to this squad.
It’s been evident in the younger guys in the team all season long too, and each has stepped up to take their chance when it has come. In some ways, the designation of Brandon Boston Jr. to health and safety protocols felt like one of the biggest blows the team has had to take because he was quickly becoming one of the best stories of this year. His return couldn’t have come soon enough, particularly with some of the Clippers’ more ball-dominant stars still sitting on the sidelines, to see his talents develop even further with more minutes and touches as shown by his 13 points off the bench against Memphis on Saturday.
Whatever happens at the end of this year, I hope the stories of these guys who may not have otherwise got their opportunity are lasting themes that we can look back on and celebrate. It may not have been conventional for a franchise that wants to be in contention for a championship by any means, but the circumstances are completely unconventional and it’s times like these we need more reminders of why we all fell in love with this sport. What better way to do that than to support and follow a team with a group of young guys with compelling backgrounds, getting chances that they’ve spent their entire lives working towards, on a team that can still achieve big things this season thanks to their efforts.