Lou Williams is latest Clippers player to leave Orlando bubble
Throughout this season, whenever NBA observers discussed the possibility of a Clippers championship, their reasoning did not end with the combination of all-around stars Kawhi Leonard and Paul George.
Behind that duo, the Clippers also boasted one of the league’s deepest and most interchangeable rosters, loaded with long-armed shooters and defenders. That depth was tested by injuries all season and continues to be now as well, with the team’s 15-man roster down to 10 available players less than a week before the first counting games of the NBA restart begin in Orlando, Fla.
Reserve guard Lou Williams became the latest absence after leaving the NBA’s campus on the Walt Disney World resort shortly after scoring a game-high 22 points in Wednesday’s scrimmage victory against the Magic because of excused personal reasons, according to a person with knowledge of the situation but not authorized to speak publicly on the matter.
Williams is expected to rejoin the team soon, the person said, but his availability for the Clippers’ first seeding game July 30 against the Lakers is in jeopardy. Like center Montrezl Harrell and guard Patrick Beverley, both of whom left within the last week because of emergency family matters, Williams will be required to clear quarantine upon his return. That process could last between four and 10 days depending on whether Williams returns negative tests for every day that he is gone, according to league rules.
That will likely lead to disjointed preparation for their two remaining scrimmages, Wednesday and Monday, and the eight seeding games that follow, though that wouldn’t be anything new for a team whose injuries forced coach Doc Rivers to use a league-high 29 starting lineups in 64 games.
“I think what the league has learned that teams have already known, it’s more than basketball that comes up,” Rivers said. “Guys have life going on. Whether it be a family problem, a kid problem, a wife problem, anything, there’s issues that come in these guys’ life.
Lou Williams and Paul George led the Clippers to a 99-90 win over the Orlando Magic in an NBA restart exhibition game.
“We give guys days off all the time because of it. No one really notices it. Now when you’re in the bubble and you leave, it really targets it. I think in a good way in this, the public actually sees that the NBA players actually are human and they do have regular life issues going on. The problem is usually with the life issues you can come back to the team and play the next day. Now with the life issue, you have to quarantine for 48 hours or four days. That’s very tough.”
Before their July 30 restart against the Western Conference-leading Lakers, the Clippers will scrimmage Saturday against Washington, and Monday against Sacramento.
While Williams, Beverley and Harrell all traveled to Orlando with the team in early July only to leave since, starting center Ivica Zubac and reserve guard Landry Shamet have yet to arrive. That could change soon. Social media posts by Zubac’s fiancée Friday suggested he was en route to Orlando, and the timing could mean Zubac might be available to participate on the court by early next week.
Though their roster is decimated at the moment — the five missing players account for nearly 49% of the team’s scoring — the only deadline that concerns the Clippers is being close to full strength by the postseason’s start on Aug. 17.
“Some guys will return, we’re praying for those guys and their families,” said starting forward Marcus Morris, a late arrival himself this week. “Things are bigger than basketball. We’re not worried about our depth right now, these pre-season scrimmages, whatever this is. We know what we’re getting back, what kind of team we’ve had. We’re not real worried.”
The roster will not remain intact throughout the postseason, however. Morris revealed Friday that he plans to attend the birth of his second son, who is due in September. Depending on the timing of the birth, Morris could miss either a portion of the postseason’s second round or the conference finals.
The Inglewood City Council unanimously approved the environmental impact report for the Clippers’ proposed arena project Tuesday.
Morris, who grew up without a father, said it was important to spend time with his children.
“Fatherhood has been, if I can put my finger on it, the best thing that ever happened to me,” he said. “It’s big for me to spend time with them. In our society today, we need fathers growing up. That’s something big that we’re missing in the Black community. Growing up without a father, you know, puts so much stuff in perspective.”
Allowed by the NBA to bring up to 17 players to Orlando — two more than usual on an active roster — the Clippers opted for 15, leaving rookie forward-center Mfiondu Kabengele and two-way center Johnathan Motley off their official restart roster. A report Thursday from the NBA’s G League stating that Motley was en route to rejoining the team was incorrect, a person with knowledge of the decision said.
Following Friday’s practice, Rivers said he has been impressed by his players’ cohesion despite absences that have left many of the team’s most promising lineups to barely play together. But he acknowledged the challenges the departures presented.
“I do think it always hurts your team when you don’t have all your guys,” he said. “Today we have a practice, a lot of our guys aren’t there. That’s never healthy for your team, especially a team that really hasn’t been together.”
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