Before the Clippers can return to Los Angeles for their first home game in two weeks, they will close out a six-game trip by playing two games less than 24 hours apart, a situation coach Doc Rivers on Friday called “ridiculous.”
The Clippers play the Minnesota Timberwolves on Friday with an 8:30 p.m. tipoff that will actually start closer to 8:45. They then travel to Chicago for Saturday’s 7 p.m. tipoff against the Bulls. League rules require at least 22 hours between games.
Friday’s game in Minneapolis initially was scheduled to start at 7 p.m. but earlier this month ESPN added it to its schedule and pushed back tipoff. This is the first 8:30 p.m. local tipoff, and nationally televised game, of Minnesota’s season.
“We’re talking about trying to keep players out of harm’s way, and it’s the exact opposite of what we’re doing,” Rivers said. “If you play at 7 you shouldn’t play before 7 the next [day]. I’ve always said that. This is like a 22-hour time change difference and plus we have to travel. So it’s really a tough one but no one’s going to feel sorry for us tomorrow, I can guarantee you that.”
Clippers guards Lou Williams (sore right calf) and Patrick Beverley (concussion) will not play Friday. Guard Rodney McGruder (hamstring) will return for the first time in eight games and play “a little bit, not a lot,” Rivers said. Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, meanwhile, are available to play against Minnesota, Rivers said. That means Leonard will likely not play against Chicago, given he has not played on consecutive nights since 2017.
The NBA has said Leonard is not healthy enough to play on consecutive nights because of an ongoing left knee injury. That hasn’t kept the Clippers from being heavily criticized for their “load management,” with ESPN broadcaster Doris Burke among the most prominent voices to question why Leonard sat out nationally televised games earlier this season.
“It’s funny how everyone talks about these back-to-backs and they’re making it better and then they do this,” Rivers said. “It’s the exact opposite of what everyone said they’re trying to do. And then you have the Doris Burkes of the world complaining about guys’ load management and then the network they work on are the ones that are changing the game times.
“You can’t have it both ways, that’s all I am saying. I agree with the frustration from the fans’ point of view as well, but you just can’t have it both ways.”