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Marcus Morris takes part in Clippers practice; three players aren’t present

Clippers forward Marcus Morris drives as Phoenix Suns forward Cameron Johnson defends Feb. 26.
Clippers forward Marcus Morris drives as Suns forward Cameron Johnson defends Feb. 26 in Phoenix.
(Matt York / Associated Press)

Coach Doc Rivers wouldn’t say which Clippers will play Wednesday during his team’s first scrimmage ahead of the NBA’s restart. But the story Tuesday was more about the player who was, at last, on the court.

Marcus Morris, the starting forward since his acquisition from the New York Knicks in February, participated in what was believed to be his first practice since arriving at the Disney World campus near Orlando, Fla. Morris did not travel to the NBA bubble with the team July 8 and was not known to be on campus until he stepped on the practice floor Tuesday morning.

The addition of the 6-foot-8 Morris, who has averaged 9.5 points on 38% shooting in 12 games with the Clippers, moves the team’s 15-man roster one step closer to full strength, but key absences remain. Starting center Ivica Zubac and reserve guard Landry Shamet — neither of whom traveled to Orlando with the team nearly two weeks ago — were not seen at practice Tuesday, which was partially open to reporters. On Sunday, Shamet posted a photo of himself on Instagram with the caption, “Quarantine almost over.” Zubac, meanwhile, posted three hourglass emojis Tuesday.

Backup center Montrezl Harrell left Orlando on Friday because of an emergency family matter related to his grandmother. Harrell posted Tuesday on Instagram: “Hurting bad right now grandma I need you. We got to beat this!”

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Lou Williams of the Clippers was hesitant to return to basketball amid a national push for social justice, but he’s doing his part to raise awareness of the struggle.

The Clippers expect all 15 players eventually to play in the NBA restart, but the absences have left the team to assess the new arrivals’ conditioning levels and integrate them on the fly ahead of the team’s first “seeding game” July 30 against the Lakers.

“It’s a challenge. In some ways, it’s interesting,” Rivers said on a videoconference call with reporters Tuesday. “It’s allowed us to do things we probably may not have done in practice with different lineups.

“Again, I think what we’re all learning here is that there’s a real life out there. No matter what we’re in, sometimes the real-life stuff comes into play and you have to adjust. We’ve always been open to that. I think the league now is seeing that. ”

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Decisions about who will play in the scrimmage Wednesday against the Orlando Magic — in what will mark the Clippers’ first competition against an opposing team since March 10, the day before the NBA suspended its season because of the coronavirus outbreak — would be made after practice Tuesday, Rivers said. That included whether stars Kawhi Leonard and Paul George will take part.

Clippers center Joakim Noah’s role is on the verge of expanding during the NBA restart when scrimmages begin Wednesday.

George said the NBA’s nearly four-month hiatus allowed his surgically repaired shoulders to heal completely and gave him more confidence. Leonard, the most valuable player of the NBA All-Star game in February, also has declared himself healthy since arriving in Florida.

The Clippers have been careful to manage the workload of Leonard during a season in which he has averaged 26.9 points, 7.3 rebounds and 5.0 assists and missed 13 games.

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“Towards the end of the break, I was able to get a gym, go full out, pretty much shoot, lift weights,” Leonard said. “But in the beginning, just really wanted to be careful. Places were shut down, so it’s hard to work out. Towards that second half or the middle of it, I was able to find a place I could go to and shoot, run up and down the floor.”

Rivers and Orlando coach Steve Clifford already have discussed what each wants to get out of the scrimmage and shared plans to facilitate meeting those goals. The Clippers also will scrimmage against the Washington Wizards on Saturday and Sacramento Kings on Monday, and Rivers predicted the intensity of each game will gradually increase.

With only three scrimmages and eight seeding games before the playoffs begin Aug. 17, reserve guard Lou Williams preached the need for urgency.

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“I don’t think we have as much time as we think we do, so it’s time to start revving the engine up and getting going and getting the guys all on the same page,” Williams said Sunday. “I think for the first scrimmage on Wednesday, we definitely should start working on that camaraderie that we’re going to need, making sure everybody is on the [same] page offensively, defensively, making sure we talk and just working through the basic things that we’re going to need to be successful throughout this process.”

Times staff writer Tania Ganguli contributed to this report.


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