The Clippers bowed out in the Play-In Tournament last year after Paul George entered health and safety protocols, while Kawhi Leonard had already been sidelined for the entire regular season. Other teams suffered similar issues around the fitness of their stars, leaving NBA fans feeling short-changed once again as grueling schedules continue to put extra strain on the league’s biggest and best.
However, most teams are heading into the new season with a clean bill of health, thanks to the first full offseason program since the start of the pandemic. Mann believes that, coupled with the amount of top-end talent each team possesses, will make it tough every night he and his teammates take to the floor.
“I think that the West is a monster conference right now,” Mann told Bally Sports’ “Scoop B” Robinson in a recent interview. “I feel like it’s back to where it used to be every night it was a battle. Every night you’re facing a superstar. Every night you’re facing a dragon who has at least three dudes on their team that are All-Star potential, or if not close to it on every team in the West.”
While also being able to call on a healthy Leonard and George, the Clippers’ move to acquire former All-Star John Wall means they’re going into the new season with perhaps their strongest roster ever — reflected in their ranking as the second favorites to come out of the West, behind last year’s champions Golden State.
Mann has spoken of being personally excited to play with Wall, having idolized him and his Kentucky teammates during the now 31-year-old’s college days — of which he has already played with DeMarcus Cousins, Eric Bledsoe and Patrick Patterson on the Clippers.
“It’s definitely exciting for us to have a player like that of his caliber. I know people say that he hasn’t played in a couple years so they do not know what to expect, but he’s been working real hard over these past two years,” Mann added. “I’ve been in the gym with him and working out with him and been seeing him grind so you know... He’s ready to go and he’s excited.”
With three All-Star caliber players on their books, the Clippers have to be confident of their chances at going all the way this season. It will just be a question of keeping their stars fit and available to endure whatever the Western Conference can throw at them — which, if Terance is to be taken at his word, will be a lot.
When asked about the prospect of playing alongside a healthy Leonard and George, Mann smiled and exclaimed, “I’m saying this is the first time since I started the season with them both being healthy!”
The West better be ready for the fight. It certainly sounds like Mann and his teammates will be.