Doc Rivers won’t talk about Clippers players who haven’t arrived in Orlando
Coach Doc Rivers declined Friday to say whether any of the three Clippers players who had yet to report to the NBA restart have since arrived at the Walt Disney World campus in Orlando, Fla.
Starting center Ivica Zubac, forward Marcus Morris and guard Landry Shamet had yet to arrive by Wednesday, when the team last practiced before taking Thursday off.
“As far as guys that have showed up and not showed up, we don’t talk about that, so we’re going to continue to not talk about it,” Rivers said before the team’s practice Friday morning.
The arrivals of Zubac, Morris and Shamet are still considered a matter of when, not if. The team expects to eventually have all 15 players on the roster available. The first of the team’s three scrimmages will be held July 22, and the first of eight “seeding games” is scheduled for July 30 against the Lakers. The postseason-focused Clippers have not viewed the players’ absences as overly concerning because the first round of the playoff does not begin until Aug. 17.
One week after the Clippers began practicing together, Rivers said he’d seen progress as well as plenty of work ahead.
“There’s days I think our conditioning is great, and it is, and then there’s days I don’t know if our conditioning is ready for an NBA game,” he said. “Practice-wise our guys are hanging in there doing great.
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“Continuity will take time. You can see that. That’s been the thing that I would say, especially with us being a new team together and had made a lot of different trades right before the trade deadline, you can see we need to be in the gym. ”
Being away from the team doesn’t mean players have been disconnected. A group text chat among players that was already lively before the season was suspended in March became much more active during the hiatus, and though Clippers players have gone fishing and played cards together since arriving in Florida, limitations on group gatherings have kept the group chat essential. It’s there where star Kawhi Leonard, one of the NBA’s most reserved personalities in public, has shown a different side, guard Reggie Jackson said.
“The funny thing is people don’t know Kawhi has a lot more personality than I think people give him credit for,” Jackson said. “I think you just have to be his teammate or be close to him. But the guy is amazing. He’s funny. He’s outgoing. He is who he is. I don’t think a lot of people get to see who he is, and it’s unfortunate for them.”
Of course, those who have yet to arrive in Florida have missed out on some experiences.
“[Patrick Beverley], shoot, he’s one of the funnier stories,” Jackson said. “We’re all locked up now in quarantine, can’t leave your room, but it’s probably 2 a.m. and all we get is a ‘Yoooo! Yoooo!’ Everybody is like, what is going on? Bev is just yelling through walls, making sure everybody is good. It’s the first day , he’s just checking, everybody opening their doors saying what’s up, looked at each other, and that made, I guess, the first part of the 24 hours of lockdown even better just knowing that your teammates were there with you. ”
Though players have grown comfortable within their surroundings at Disney World, some are anxious to learn what the in-arena atmosphere will be like on game days. Dallas coach Rick Carlisle told reporters Thursday that “virtual fans” will be in seats and “home team sounds” will be heard. Not having an actual crowd will test players’ energy and motivation, Jackson said.
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“It’s definitely a way better experience with fans there, so it’s going to be tough without the fans and y’all here supporting us,” he said. “We know everybody will be watching from home, but it’s a different energy when everybody is in the building. But for the most part we know the statement is true now that we’re all that we’ve got, so we have to rely on each other. We have to bring energy for each other. We’re constantly talking about it.”
The NBA has pledged to use the spotlight of its televised games to amplify messages supporting social justice issues. “Black Lives Matter” will be painted on the court and players can choose to wear league-approved messages instead of their name on the back of their jersey. Coaches plan on being heard, too, Rivers said.
The league’s coaches association, which created a committee on racial injustice and reform in the wake of George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis, has held weekly video conference calls to discuss ideas, with Rivers crediting Carlisle, the association’s president, and Atlanta’s Lloyd Pierce for their work.
“We plan on doing a lot of stuff, with T-shirts or with pins, but we also plan on talking,” Rivers said. “You know, voting is so important. You can put that under Black Lives Matter or just in general. We need to vote. So I think that’s going to be a major focus coming out of the coaches’ association.”
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