The Clippers got a bit of a surprise Wednesday morning when Ty Lue showed up to practice. The coach entered health and safety protocols on Dec. 31 when the team was in Toronto to play the Raptors, and the status of his return was unclear.
Because Canada has stricter rules regarding Covid than the United States, that meant Lue’s quarantine was a bit different than that of his players, or his fellow coaches. Lue and Clippers PR declined to share how long he was across the border or how he got out, but the look of shock and joy on Reggie Jackson’s face when he saw Lue — and the bear hug Jackson wrapped him in — made it clear what kind of ordeal this was for Lue and the team.
Lue had to deal with some inconveniences while stuck in his hotel room. While watching the Clippers play Brooklyn on Jan. 1, his television went out with 1:56 left with Brian Shaw challenging a foul committed by Justise Winslow on James Harden.
“We just challenged the play when Harden got fouled and then it blacked out,” Lue said Wednesday before practice. “I called (assistant GM) Mark Hughes and he didn’t answer. I called him back and he answered and he said, ‘you see this?’ I was like, ‘nah, I don’t see it. What’s going on?’ He said, ‘we’re up four.’ I said, ‘what???’ Because it was a tied game when I think they fouled Harden. So when they challenged it, I knew he was going to the line. And then it went out. And then that’s all I saw.”
Not only did he miss the end of the Clippers’ big win, but Lue’s Superbox also broke, so he couldn’t stream any TV shows. He instead chose to watch film from his Cleveland days, focusing on the offensive sets the Cavaliers ran in 2016-17 and 2017-18, when the team ranked third and fifth in offense, respectively.
It’s no secret that Lue fancies himself an offensive coach — he jokingly grumbled about being in charge of the defense with Dan Craig (knee surgery) and Brendan O’Connor (health and safety protocols) currently unavailable — but things haven’t gone according to plan on that end of the floor for the Clippers so far. The team is presently 25th in the NBA in offensive rating.
“Actually looking at a lot of Cleveland stuff that we did in Cleveland to try to help this team out offensively, some ATOs, just some stuff, spacing wise, different combinations,” Lue said. “I had a chance to really look and see some good stuff that we did that I think would fit this team. So I did a lot of that, you know, looking back at a lot of our offensive stuff, what we’re good at, what we’re bad at, what we need to scrap, you know, what we will continue to get better at. And just had some time just to myself to think about this team and what I want to do offensively and how we can get better.”
In addition to Lue, the Clippers welcomed back Brandon Boston Jr. from health and safety protocols Wednesday. The team remains without coach Jeremy Castleberry, as well as Luke Kennard and Ivica Zubac, the latter of whom saw his streak of 205 consecutive regular-season games played come to an end due to testing positive.
Zubac is itching to come back, per Lue, and when he does, the Clippers coach thinks that his games played streak should resume as is.
“This can’t count against his streak. No, it can’t,” Lue said. “He didn’t get injured. It is something we are going through as a league. I don’t think you can penalize the guys for catching COVID and having to sit out because of that. It’s not an injury. It is just something we are going through the last couple of years, guys shouldn’t be held responsible for missing games just because he had COVID. So that streak shouldn’t stop.... I wouldn’t say he missed any games. That is not fair. You can’t penalize him for that.”
Petitioning the NBA to adjust Zubac’s stats is just one of many things Lue has to look forward to now that he is back on the sidelines. Among the others is getting more practices in, even if the Clippers don’t have two days off for the rest of the month, and continuing to keep the team organized even with the roster in flux. Those are all good problems to have compared to where Lue was a few days ago.