When the Clippers play their first exhibition game Thursday night against the Houston Rockets at the Stan Sheriff Center at the University of Hawaii, the type of offensive system they run will not be on display.
It’s not only because stars Kawhi Leonard and Paul George will sit out the game.
The main reason is that there has been less importance placed on the Clippers’ offense after three days of practice and more emphasis directed toward defense.
“We have one set in that we put in a half-hour ago,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said after practice. “They know how to play. That’s what we are trying to teach them. We are teaching them backwards in a lot of ways. You get to the playoffs and every play breaks down and then it becomes a play after the play, making a play. So we are teaching them that now so we can get used to it.”
Even if there is less structure and more freelance, Rivers said, that freedom he will allow his players to employ against the Rockets can be beneficial in the long run.
Rivers sees that as a way for the Clippers to adjust when the opponent’s defense is stacked to stop one of their offensive plays during the season and in the playoffs.
“It is probably more random freelance than it is structure early,” Rivers said. “Because, literally, and that’s every night, some team will figure out one of your sets and the second and third option, what happens when you get to the fourth option? That is called playing basketball, reading each other. So we are doing a lot of that early.”
Rivers said don’t be surprised if he plays a lot of players, and at different positions.
Landry Shamet and rookie Terance Mann aren’t known as point guards, but Rivers said it’s possible both could play the position against the Rockets and at times during the season.
“For me, I can see different lineups, No. 1, and I can see different combinations on the floor, where in practice the teams are pretty much set,” Rivers said. “It’s the red against the white and the white against the black. In the game, it’s just five guys and you have to keep changing and you may see a group of guys that function better than another group of guys. So we’re going to try to play a lot of guys tomorrow. We have a lot so we can play a lot.”
The Clippers had one of the best offenses in the NBA last season.
They were ranked fifth in scoring (115.1), seventh in field goals (47.1%), second in three-point shooting (38.8%) and 10th in offensive efficiency (109.7).
“Well, tomorrow night, I have no expectations,” Rivers said. “That will be the first time that we have gone up and down with the clock on, so my guess is fatigue early. When you actually play, it’s different. When you’re going down and back and down, three to four times and then we stop it. But when you have to keep doing that, my guess tomorrow I will be coaching fatigue more than actual good and bad play.”