Perhaps it was a matter of habit that when Paul George discussed how the Clippers might manage their deep roster’s looming crisis for Monday’s season, the star forward adopted the “Team USA approach.”
When Paul visited UNLV’s Mendenhall Center a decade ago, he was there to train against an overloaded US basketball roster to work out the issues of team building ahead of the London Olympics. In 2013 and 2014, George and the talented and All-Star-decorated national team used the university’s practice facilities to prepare for the World Championships – as well as in 2016 when the building was the backdrop for the Team USA Olympics in Rio de Janeiro was preparation.
George is back this week, and against a familiar backdrop comes a familiar mission: how to run a roster that could have more skilled rotation players than available minutes, heading in the same direction most nights and winning big.
“We should go for Team USA, where you bet hard on the minutes you get,” George said. “…In terms of talent, I wouldn’t say we’d match the top team in America, but in terms of talent we’re pretty special. When everyone takes their minutes seriously, we attack at 100% and when we’re tired we ask for a break and know we’ve got someone behind us who brings the same energy, I think it should be a lot of fun. “
Keeping it that way will challenge what coach Tyronn Lue has called the team’s sacrifice, and it will also require tapping into what several Clippers have cited as one of their greatest strengths: experience. Eight players expected to be part of the regular rotation have played at least seven NBA seasons and six have played at least ten seasons.
“Where the guys are age wise and mentally up to scratch, hopefully this year we can show some level of maturity because we know we have so much talent,” said guard Reggie Jackson. “We know it could be anyone’s night. We know the coach will put in a great system for us to play.”
Loaded with veterans, the Clippers have enough confidence to understand that the team’s hierarchy starts with George and Kawhi Leonard – who Lue said were feeling good after attending both practice sessions Tuesday – and opportunities it doesn’t come often for a championship like this.
“My window is shrinking to be a champ,” said George.
Eleven Clippers have averaged at least 19 minutes per game during their careers. The kind of experience that can create expectations will continue and chafe when they don’t. That’s a factor Lue has to deal with. But that same NBA longevity has brought something else — enough individual wealth, the Clippers suggested, to make chasing a championship a higher priority than chasing a contract. It’s a different feeling, said winger Nicolas Batum, than being in a squad of young players trying to establish themselves. Of the major players projected, only Jackson will be a post-season free agent.
“I’ve made a lot of money in my career, that’s really good, but it’s not about the money,” said winger Robert Covington, who extended his contract by two years in May. “It’s kind of like actually winning. At the end of the day, we always want that on the back of our CV.”
Batum, the longest-serving veteran entering his 15th season, shrugged, smiled and said he’d play any role Lue wanted when asked if he could play in the middle, as Lue said , it is a possibility.
“We sometimes know, yes, you deserve to play more, yes,” Batum said. “Some guys will need to play more, yes. But what do we want in the end? So we want to be the last team on top? Yes.
“So sometimes we have to make sacrifices. Some nights it sure won’t be easy. In the long run, it’s not going to be easy for certain guys, myself included. But hey, we want the same thing, so we have to do it.”
That attitude is more easily expressed in the early days of preseason than in the days leading up to the February close or a postseason streak where a bad matchup could wipe out a particular player’s minutes. The Clippers are hoping scheduled nights off could ease some of the minute shortages. Because of this, Lue began a dialogue with players about their roles on Sunday and will ensure it remains consistent throughout the season.
Mann and Jackson experienced that two seasons ago, during Lue’s first year in office, when both were pushed out of the rotation in the early weeks. At the time, Mann was a sophomore winger and former second-round pick trying to prove he deserved a consistent spot in the rotation but said Lue’s message helped.
“[Lue] keeps you informed and he lets you understand that he appreciates you, that sometimes he just has to take different paths,” said Mann.
Mann’s versatility, playing anywhere from point guard to small-ball center, will give him more playing opportunities, but his career-high 28 minutes per game last season may be difficult to match — as may the 27-minute average by Guard Luke Kennard and Brandon Boston Jr The nearly 15-minute average of . could be significantly reduced. John Wall, the 2010 No. 1 draft pick, has felt that “a lot of people don’t give me my respect” throughout his career and has never averaged less than 32 minutes per game. He’s not guaranteed a starting job with the Clippers.
“Whatever my role on this team, I’m just trying to come here and help them win,” Wall said. “…We’re all a little bit older in our careers now and that’s the ultimate goal, trying to win.”
Celtics seek interview with Clippers assistant
The Clippers have given Boston permission to speak with assistant Jay Larrañaga as the Celtics seek to expand their coaching staff following the seasonal suspension of coach Ime Udoka, a person not authorized to speak publicly on the matter, told Opposite TheTimes.
Larrañaga coached in Boston for nine years before joining the Clippers for the 2021-22 season. He has mostly worked with the big men at Clippers. The Celtics also interviewed candidates other than Larrañaga after Joe Mazzulla was promoted to interim manager, the Boston Globe reported.
https://www.latimes.com/sports/clippers/story/2022-09-28/clippers-camp-paul-george Paul George says Clippers should have ‘Team USA approach’