In the past, the Clippers have been forced to send their young players to other NBA teams’ Development League affiliates.
Now they can have their athletes play for their own D-League team, to be coached by their own staff, to be taught their own system and to receive treatment from their own medical personnel.
That became their reality when the Clippers officially announced Monday that they have a D-League team that will be called the Agua Caliente Clippers of Ontario.
They will start play for the 2017-18 season, and will play at Ontario’s Citizens Business Bank Arena.
“Just as a whole, we have a D-League team,” Clippers Coach Doc Rivers said at a news conference that included organization President of Business Operations Gillian Zucker, Agua Caliente tribal Chairman Jeff L. Grubbe and D-League commissioner Malcolm Turner. The new team is named for the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians,.
“I just feel like we’re on a level playing field, as far as development,” with everyone else, Rivers continued. “Before, we were not. Last year was a very frustrating year for us with our young guys.”
In their recent season, the Clippers sent rookie Brice Johnson to Salt Lake City to play for the Utah Jazz’ D-League team. Rookie Diamond Stone also was sent to Salt Lake City and had a stint with Golden State’s D-League team in Santa Cruz as well.
Next season, when the Clippers decide to send anyone to the D-League, it will be to their own team.
“We would have had our trainers down there as well and [Johnson, who was plagued by back problems,] would probably been able to practice more, which I think would have helped him. Diamond would have been down there most of the year playing. So now we’ll be able to do that, and I think that’s important.”
Rivers said they haven’t hired a coach yet but added, “It’s going to be most likely in-house.”
The Clippers became the 26th NBA team to own a D-League team. But at the start of the 2017-18 season, the league will be called the G-League — the G is for Gatorade.
Rivers said having the team in Ontario will allow him and his coaches the opportunity to go see how his players are progressing.
“This was really the last frontier that we needed to cross to feel like we’re just like everyone else,” Rivers said. “So this is a good day for us.”