Three luxury buses and motorcycle law enforcement officers waiting to escort them idled outside the Clippers’ training center in Playa Vista on Monday just after noon.
The Clippers were heading south for nearly a week of training at training camp at San Diego State University and the start of a season in which their challenge builds on the unprecedented appearance of last season’s conference finals – not knowing when any of their All- NBA superstars will be healthy enough to join them.
Ahead of camp, five takeaways from the Clippers’ media day session on Monday:
1. Serge Ibaka’s back
The veteran says his surgically repaired back is “close to 100%“healthy.
Of course, close is a relative descriptor. The center, who said he suffered from back pain all last season before requiring end-of-season surgery in the first round of the playoffs to “clean my disc”, said there was no timetable for his return. He will begin the training camp limited to non-contact exercises.
Could this situation have been avoided? Maybe by having the surgery earlier, as he hinted at he wanted? He didn’t explain what had stopped him.
“I’ve just been dealing with the pain for so long for almost a year, that’s the hardest part, because I thought if I kept working, keep taking baths, strengthen my heart, I’ll be fine, but it wasn’t, “said Ibaka.” I wish I could have surgery earlier, earlier in the season, but hey, things happen. Now I will focus on that for next season.
Coach Tyronn Lue seems confident that Ibaka this season – his last on contract – will display the kind of offensive ground stretching talent the team expected when they signed him.
“I think Serge will have a great season once he’s healthy,” said Lue.
The best news for the Clippers’ big-man rotation is that center Ivica Zubac is ready to play. He said the sprained medial collateral ligament that ended his season in the conference finals has felt perfectly healthy over the past six weeks and has progressed to five-on-one basketball. five.
2. Mowers prepared for grinding
Despite Ibaka and Kawhi Leonard injuries in the playoffs, the Clippers won by relying heavily on Paul George, Nicolas Batum, Marcus Morris and Reggie Jackson. But that was in a series of seven games. Will they be able to maintain that on an 82-game schedule?
âWe have to be smart about it for sure,â Lue said. “That’s why I think we have the best sports science team in the league, and they’re going to let us know when the guys are in that red zone.” [physically] or guys need a day or two off, and we gotta be smart about it.
âReggie, Nico, Marcus, PG, they all played a lot of minutes last year, so we have to be smart about that. But we want to win games by doing this, but we also have to pay attention to their health. “
3. What a difference a year made for George
Twelve months after leaving the Orlando NBA bubble as a target of social media criticism for his game when the Clippers left early in the season, George is coming out of a playoff streak this summer in which he was redeemed his public image with an average of 26.9 points, 9.6 rebounds and 5.4 assists.
George on Monday called his state of mind entering the season “night and day, night and day” compared to coming out of the offseason last year.
âI feel like Iâm a lot more lucid, a lot more focused and just more specific as I go into the situation,â he said. âAgain, I can’t repeat more than to say I’m just ready. I am ready for this in any capacity. I am up to the challenge.
Leonard said, âI think he’s motivated enough and knows what he can do. He always knows it – he’s proven himself over the years in this league, from defenseman to top scorer to two-way player.
âBut he’s going to do some good. His expectations must be better than mine, so it all depends on him and his state of mind.
4. Prepare for the attack
Leonard averaged 59.6 offensive touches per game last season, second on the team. How will an attack that revolved around Leonard adjust in his absence?
No Clipper averaged more points per touch (0.417) last season than Leonard, which is why the team consistently fed him the ball where he was most comfortable: his first touches. line are ranked 14th in the NBA, just behind the Lakers’ Anthony Davis.
George now becomes the indisputable # 1 scoring option. The Clippers also acquired Eric Bledsoe in hopes he will rebound from a dismal season in New Orleans and open shots for his teammates and the juice team scoring with his practices to the basket.
âWe will do some things differently, but I don’t think of massive changes,â Lue said. âWe can do some things that we did last year, but also incorporate new things for our new players and different things. A lot of our offense was based on Kawhi and PG
âNow to have Kawhi out, we don’t know how long, but to have him out, now we have to do some things differently, do some other stuff through Reggie, perform some other stuff through Marcus, also in PG We ‘ we’re going to do a lot of the same things, but we’re going to add some as well.
5. Rebuild with the kernel
Retaining the team’s core veteran was the No.1 priority for top executive Lawrence Frank in free agency, a goal seemingly made easy by Leonard, Batum and Jackson.
Ibaka has said he knows Leonard will be back as Clipper last season. Batum called it an âeasy decisionâ to reverse a two-year contract with a second-year player option.
“Why go elsewhere? Said Batum. “They gave me a chance to be a player again, so I want to come back and have fun and keep winning.”
As for Jackson, the team’s unexpected source for so many playoff offense, “I never really thought of myself being anywhere else.” Even considering his options, he continued to train in the team’s training center, he said.
âUnless they didn’t want me here, I think I was going to become a Clipper,â he said. “Even then, I was just going to bring my bags and sit on the front door and ask for anything.”