Several Clippers had taken their seats Sunday at the Thomas & Mack Center by the time Patrick Beverley walked in.
But before he joined his teammates to watch the team’s summer league roster play Memphis, Beverley first stopped by the front-row seat of former Clippers guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, embracing the 20-year-old rookie he’d grown close to last season.
Their greeting was a hello, and also something of a goodbye.
Two days before, Gilgeous-Alexander was traded to Oklahoma City as part of the deal that netted the Clippers star forward Paul George — and, as a result, free-agent star Kawhi Leonard. The Thunder gained a guard who earned second-team all-rookie honors and the Clippers now have an opening for a new ballhandler.
The Clippers have several options on the roster to fill the void, including Beverley, Lou Williams, George and Leonard as well as second-round pick Terance Mann.
Mann, who played both off and on the ball at Florida State and could spend time next season with the Clippers’ G League affiliate in Ontario, has impressed so far with his decision-making in transition. The 6-foot-7 rookie called himself “real comfortable” playing point guard.
“You see me the past two games, I feel like I’m out there trying to make the right decisions,” Mann, 22, said Sunday. “Whatever Doc [Rivers] and those guys want me to do, I’ll do. Whatever they feel comfortable having me at, I’ll play. I’m a guy who likes to adjust to all types of roles.”
Jerome Robinson, who was the Clippers’ other rookie guard last season, also spoke with his former teammate during Sunday’s game in Las Vegas, telling Gilgeous-Alexander he planned to visit him near his home in Canada this summer.
“At first I was scrambling to see who got traded,” Robinson said of his reaction. “It could have been any of us for Paul George. … [Shai] is one of my best friends but it is part of the game, part of the business and we’ll still be in touch.”
Going back to Canada
Leonard became a hero in Canada after leading Toronto to its first NBA title last month, to the point that his decision to depart the Raptors in free agency and join the Clippers was acknowledged by none other than Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
“Sad to see you go,” Trudeau posted to Twitter on July 6.
But Leonard will return to Canada, possibly in the preseason. The Clippers will play Dallas in an exhibition Oct. 17 in Vancouver’s Rogers Arena. Leonard appeared in Vancouver for a preseason game last year while with the Raptors, who spent part of their training camp in nearby Burnaby.
It will mark the second long trip of the preseason for the Clippers, who will hold their training camp in Hawaii for a third consecutive season.
Clippers draft picks Mfiondu Kabengele and Mann officially signed their rookie contracts, the team announced Tuesday. Terms were not disclosed, but Mann earned a four-year contract, with the first two guaranteed, worth $6.3 million, according to a person with knowledge of the deal.
Kabengele was drafted 27th overall by Brooklyn and immediately traded to the Clippers, who later selected Mann with the 48th pick.
Amir Coffey, a 6-foot-8 undrafted guard from Minnesota, signed a two-way contract.