Joakim Noah continues to prepare for duty with Clippers
In a black tank-top and gray shorts, 35-year-old Clippers center Joakim Noah finished a drive to the basket Tuesday afternoon inside Chase Center before putting his hands on his knees and inhaling deeply.
The pregame workout came nearly one year since the 6-foot-11, 230-pound Noah last stepped on a court as a member of an NBA team. How often the NBA’s 2014 defensive player of the year will step on the court in future games, not only warmups, remains to be seen.
Noah’s 12 seasons of NBA experience mean “he doesn’t need minutes” immediately, coach Doc Rivers said, as the backup to starter Ivica Zubac and Montrezl Harrell. “He just needs to keep working, keep getting in shape and, you know, he knows how to play basketball.”
Noah signed a 10-day contract Monday and the team is hopeful he will stay on the roster through the postseason barring any setbacks from his recovery from an Achilles tendon injury suffered in September. His value is in his experience from 60 career playoff appearances and, potentially, his size to combat top Western Conference big men.
Rivers didn’t say whether Noah will be activated to play Friday against Brooklyn.
“Joakim is here to be a backup for the other guys, so if he is activated and he is playing that’s probably a good sign, that means we’re probably up,” Rivers said.
After his workout Tuesday, Noah shared a long conversation with Zubac, 22, in courtside seats.
The two talked “about matchups in the playoffs, about how everything changes in the playoffs,” Zubac said. “He’s been through a lot in this league and he’s got a lot of experience, so me being my fourth year and I’ve only been in the playoffs one round, it’s definitely going to help me to hear from him on what to do, how it’s going to be, because he plays my position and he’s been deep into the playoffs.”
Playing with a fully healthy roster, as the Clippers have done for nearly three weeks, has been good news for a team that has won seven of its last eight games but also led to a minimized role and disrupted rhythm for guard Landry Shamet, who has averaged 18.6 minutes a game — down from his season average of 27.5 — during that stretch.
The NBA on Wednesday moved to suspend the season indefinitely amid the coronavirus pandemic, which included Utah’s Rudy Gobert contracting COVID-19.
With reserve guard Lou Williams missing Tuesday’s victory because of a sore right calf, Shamet scored 10 points in 28 minutes off the bench, the most he’d played since Feb. 22.
“Doc reached out and he just said just to stay patient because it’s an adjustment like anything else,” the second-year guard said. “It’s going to come — I know that, he knows that, my teammates know that. I’m just trying to continue to play and play hard and learn and keep my mind-set the same as it always is. That’s all he really said. But it’s an adjustment, for sure.”
The return of a healthy Paul George at forward and addition of point guard Reggie Jackson have most affected Shamet’s rotations. Jackson now handles the majority of the ballhandling off the bench, a responsibility that used to be shouldered by Williams and Shamet.
Said Rivers: “When everybody’s here, your minutes will be less. [Against Golden State] he was just patient, and when the shots came he took ‘em. When they weren’t there he moved it. That’s how he has to play when he gets two minutes, four minutes, 30 minutes.”
A career 41% three-point shooter, Shamet has made 29% of his shots from the field and 28% of his three-pointers in nine games since the All-Star break.
“I think I need to just continue to play and be aggressive when I’m in the game and I don’t think I’ve done that the last couple of games, to be honest,” he said. “I think I’ve just been trying to get adjusted and figure it out. I felt a little bit better tonight. But, ultimately, I want to get to a point where I feel really, really good like I have at points in the season.”
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