At the end of nine days of training camp with a slew of new faces, the Clippers departed Hawaii Wednesday morning with a sense of purpose.
But a team bond started to take shape from the very first day of camp when every player passed their condition test.
Two exhibition games against the Toronto Raptors at the Stan Sheriff Center — the last of which the Clippers won 98-84 on Tuesday night — further cemented this squad.
The off-court activities, such as visiting Pearl Harbor, talking with military personnel, the luau, the outrigger water competition, the boat cruises and the innumerable meals all contributed to their attempt to bond.
“I think when you’re in a place like this you spend obviously all your time on the court together,” Blake Griffin said. “You spend your free time together. We had a lot of appearances, a lot of different stuff we had to do. [Monday], we took a boat out, just the players, hung out for three hours. That’s the type of stuff to me that is team bonding. It’s not the mandatory stuff. It’s the stuff you chose to do as a team.”
The Clippers shared their views on issues about racial injustice.
As a team, they locked arms during the playing of the national anthem in both games.
But it was the visit to Pearl Harbor that was the most memorable.
“Going to Pearl Harbor was an education for our guys,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. “That’s in the form of team building as well. Seeing other people work, seeing the military and the team work, I thought that was important. I thought going out in the water as a group was important. … We got a lot of basketball in and we got a lot of Hawaii in and I thought it was great in both cases.”
One of the ongoing concerns for the Clippers is the health of Griffin.
He reported no issues with the right big toe that required surgery in May.
“I didn’t have any problems,” Griffin said. “So I’m moving forward.”
His willingness to take three-pointers without hesitation showed development in Griffin’s game.
He reeled off seven three-pointers in the first two exhibitions, making three, adding another dimension to his power play.
“I worked on it every day,” Griffin said. “I didn’t dedicate a ton of time to it, but the last two summers I’ve worked on it. It’s not a shot that I want to fall in love with. … I want to attack.”
Rookie Milos Teodosic wowed his teammates and the fans with his passing wizardry.
He threw behind-the-back underhanded passes, underhanded full-court passes, lob passes — all of which endeared him to his new teammates. He had 13 assists in two games.
“He does stuff sometimes that you are just kind of just impressed, surprised,” Griffin said. “I don’t know what the word is. His underhand full-court shovel pass, whatever you want to call it, was crazy.”
DeAndre Jordan, with 17 rebounds in two games, remains a defensive and rebounding force.
Patrick Beverley, who arrived from Houston in the Paul trade, was tough on defense.
Lou Williams, who also came from the Rockets, demonstrated an ability to score in bunches off the bench.
It seems Lob City and exciting basketball will remain a staple of the team.
“I don’t think we ever lost that,” Jordan said. “We’ve got guys who can make passes like that. We’ve got myself, Blake, Willie [Reed], Montrezl [Harrell], guys like that rolling and able to play above the rim. It’s good we added guys like Pat and Milos and Austin [Rivers] is capable of that. …We’re going to continue to play the way that we’ve been this camp and just try to keep it going.”
The Clippers believe they will remain relevant in the competitive Western Conference.
They saw how the offense came together, how the defense improved and how their bond grew with nine new players.
“There was a lot of growth,” Griffin said. “I’m happy with this camp. It was a good nine days and now it’s time to get back home and take the next step.”
Austin Rivers didn’t play Tuesday because of a strained right gluteal muscle he injured in the first game, leaving his coach to say the guard, “is going to be out for a while.”…Sam Dekker left Tuesday night’s game with a sore left rib.