Clippers coach Lue says starting point guard will be ‘right fit’

As a longtime former NBA point guard, Tyronn Lue appreciates the position he once played. And he hasn’t decided yet, he said, whether incumbent Reggie Jackson or John Wall will be the starting point guard when the Clippers’ season begins Thursday.

His comments ahead of a Sunday scrimmage at the team’s training facility came a day after Yahoo Sports reported Jackson was expected to receive the starting nod. Lue said he hasn’t made that call yet and that the report “didn’t come from me.”

Lue was instead a compliment to both veterans’ preseason performances, including during another lengthy intrasquad scrimmage on Friday, which he says made his rating tougher.

“Both guys are in a great position and their mindset is in the right place,” said Lue. “It’s about winning. It’s not about who is the starter, who is the best player. It’s about getting the fit right and trying to win and both guys are on board with that.”

Of course, whatever decision is made doesn’t necessarily apply to the entire season, nor does it necessarily guarantee a spot in Lue’s game-ending lineups. Since his promotion to manager in 2020, Lue has regularly waited up to 10 games into the season before changing line-ups. That early evaluation period will likely last longer than 10 games this season, Lue said, because if key contributors sit out games for recovery reasons, it will take more time to reach the desired sample size.

When asked straight out on Saturday if being the starter was important to him, the typically chatty Jackson, who has been familiar with fellow starters Kawhi Leonard, Ivica Zubac, Paul George and Marcus Morris Sr. since 2020, was on point .

“I’m all about winning, man,” said Jackson, who started all 75 games he appeared in last season and helped the Clippers secure their 11th-place finish Consecutive winning season despite a litany of injuries.

“We just have so many parts, so we have to figure out how all these units work together,” Jackson added. “I’m sure I’m glad it’s not my job, I just have to play. But I think we just got the best coach in the league with this team and this depth of talent.”

Coming off the bench would be a significant departure for Wall, the former No. 1 overall pick who has played in 613 career games and started all but 12. Previously in preseason, Lue admitted that playing Wall off the bench with younger teammates who can match his willingness to up the offensive pace in transition is stylistically fitting. But Wall said his biggest adjustment since joining the Clippers as a free agent in July has been realizing he doesn’t have to do this job alone.

“I’m used to every time a rebound goes, I have to go get the ball and be the outlet guy,” Wall said. “We have so many people who can pick up the pace – Kawhi, PG, Norm [Powell]reggie jackson, [Terance] Man. You get the rebound, I don’t have to come back and get the ball. They can push and now I have to get used to walking on the track.

“I never had to do this that often. That’s the only thing that was probably quite different for me.”

Clippers guard John Wall is looking to take on Minnesota Timberwolves guard D'Angelo Russell.

Clippers guard John Wall (right) goes for a go against Minnesota Timberwolves guard D’Angelo Russell (left) in the first half of a preseason game Oct. 9 at Arena.

(Raul Romero Jr. / Associated Press)

Also of note is that bringing Wall off the bench wouldn’t stop him from pairing with starting center Ivica Zubac. Though Zubac will start, Lue wants to replace him early in the first quarter, only to bring him back later in the quarter with the second unit to help rebound. The Clippers want Zubac to “punish” smaller defenders at the post when they switch to the 7-footer; Last season they also realized that in such situations they had to bring the ball to Zubac better. Wall’s assist average is seventh all-time.

“I think if Zu were playing with him, he would get some easier shots, easier dunks because John is penetrating and getting to the basket but also being able to read and see the ground,” Lue said.

“Just giving him an opportunity to get eight to 10 easy points a game,” Wall said. “I feel like as soon as he touches the paint he has to try and dunk in on everyone – a dribble and up to his chest. That’s how I see it.”

Since training camp opened in late September, Lue has preached that the point guard who is staffed with the starting and finishing line-ups is determined by fitness, not sheer talent. In that regard, it was clear to the Clippers early on that Wall’s fit was already valuable. Morris, clipper since 2020, said the camaraderie has been better than before this season, attributing it to Wall’s outspoken, aggressive personality.

“I feel like we needed that,” Morris said. “Apart from me, we were kind of quiet.”

“Every room I walk in earns you more respect for just being yourself than trying to fit in and being something you’re not,” Wall said. “I’m not trying to step on anyone’s toes, but I’m just trying to be vocal about being the leader that I know as a point guard.” Clippers coach Lue says starting point guard will be ‘right fit’

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