Earlier this season, coach Tyronn Lue opened up about his conversations with Los Angeles Clippers forward Robert Covington.
Ty Lue has told Robert Covington, currently out of the rotation, "thank you for sacrificing." He said that Covington will have opportunities but that as of now they're trying to find a rhythm with rotations.— Andrew Greif (@AndrewGreif) November 20, 2022
Lue knew just how important this season was for himself and the team: he needed to win. Toward that end, he was busy crafting new offensive strategies — three-guard, small ball, and even no point guard lineups.
But to many’s surprise, none of his offensive ploys involved Covington. And the veteran forward peacefully accepted his role on the sideline. If anything, he embraced it — he passionately cheered on his teammates from the bench and, in Lue’s words, “was working on his game and staying ready.”
And as the cliched saying goes, hard work pays off.
Amidst losing and winning streaks, countless injuries, and experimentation of different rotations, Covington has secured a much-deserved spot in the rotation. He’s played in 11 of the Clippers’ last 12 contests. With the exception of the team’s blowout loss against the Utah Jazz, RoCo has logged a positive plus/minus value in all the games.
It’s no surprise that he’s able to convert after sitting out a considerable number of games this season — he’s always been the tough-defending, energy maker he’s, once again, proven to us.
On the offensive end, Covington is a capable three-point shooter and an efficient finisher near the rim. Though a team player at heart, when needed, the Tennesse State product can knock down shots. In January, he’s shooting an impressive 46.4 percent from the field and 40 percent from long range.
But RoCo’s best attributes shine the brightest on the other end of the floor. His size allows him to be the team’s stretch four or even the small-ball center. His agility and defensive IQ broaden his elite defensive coverage to the wing.
Often overlooked — his deflections and blocks have been key in taking time off the shot clock or snatching momentum away from opposing teams. Let’s also not forget the amount of energy he brings on the court. In many ways, he’s the next best energizer since Patrick Beverley.
His admirable attributes are the kind of assets that don’t just make him a better player; they’re the kind that brings the best out of teams.
Covington — much like his French teammate, Nicolas Batum — is the best bet at stretching the floor while not risking too much on defense. With him on the roster, Lue can more confidently run small-ball lineups, taking advantage of an opposing big’s poor perimeter defense or spacing the floor for Kawhi Leonard and Paul George to go to work.
Let’s not forget how much of an impact Covington can have when given a more prominent role. Last season, the second-year Clipper averaged 10.4 points on 45 percent shooting from three, 5.1 rebounds, 1.3 steals, and 1.2 blocks.
Once again, he’s showing that he’s more than capable of producing at an elite level for a contending team like the Clippers. The answer — to me, at least — seems to be pretty clear: don’t trade the man. Give him the minutes he deserves and see where it takes you.