Jason Preston, other young Clippers ready for Summer League
“We did it!” he wrote in a post honoring his mother, Judith Sewell, who died of lung cancer when he was 15. In all-caps celebration, he called his new team a dream come true. The player who had zero college scholarship offers out of high school, and who resorted to posting his own highlight tape online to gain any exposure after a year at a prep school, then wrote a message that would soon be shared 3,000 times: “NEVER LET ANYONE TELL YOU WHAT YOU CAN, CANNOT DO.”
When Preston arrived at the Clippers facility later, he saw a glimpse of his future: Guards Luke Kennard and Terance Mann were working out. So was Reggie Jackson — the point guard who on Friday agreed to re-sign with the team on a two-year contract worth $22 million.
Before Preston ever throws them a pass with either hand — one of the abilities team president Lawrence Frank mentioned after acquiring his rights in a draft-night trade — he will spend the first week-plus of his career in Las Vegas with teammates on the Clippers’ summer league roster. The team is scheduled to play four games, beginning with Monday’s opener against Milwaukee.
First-round pick Keon Johnson, 2020 draftees Daniel Oturu, a center, and Jay Scrubb, a super-athletic guard, and Amir Coffey, the versatile forward and restricted free agent who is coming off a two-year, two-way contract with the Clippers, are among Preston’s teammates on an NBA stage he might reasonably have considered to be out of reach at times during his career. His maturation into an all-conference guard at Ohio the last three seasons changed his trajectory, making the NBA, once-unthinkable, a reality.
“It’s amazing,” Preston said Thursday. “Like I tweeted right after, it’s a dream come true to be where I am and be in this position, even me doing this. So I’m just very thankful for it, I’m not going to take anything for granted.”
Jeremy Castleberry, the Clippers assistant who will be coaching roster, said that he hoped to “just let them have some success and kind of build off that going into the regular season. That’s really what we’re trying to get out of our young guys.
“With Amir, just want him to show everything. Same thing with Scrubb, same thing with our new guys that we just drafted is just getting them out there, show what they can do, and get out there and just do everything properly as far as defensively and offensively, and just show what they can do.”
Johnson, a 6-foot-5 wing from Tennessee the Clippers view as a shooting guard, shot 27% while taking a limited number of three-pointers during his lone season in college. He shot 49% inside the arc. After being selected 21st overall, Johnson said he believed his shooting and ball-handling had improved vastly throughout pre-draft training. This is an early chance to see the returns from that practice.
“I feel once I get more comfortable making shots, being a three-level scorer, then it’ll just open up my complete game,” Johnson said.
After averaging 16.4 points, 7.4 assists, 6.8 rebounds, 1.4 steals and making 55% of his two-point shots and nearly 40% of his threes the last two seasons, Preston has certain expectations for his NBA introduction, too.
But unlike his tweets, he’s not making them public. Not yet.
“I got a few,” he said. “But I like to keep that stuff to myself.”
CLIPPERS SUMMER LEAGUE SCHEDULE
in Las Vegas, all times PDT
Monday, 6 p.m., vs. Milwaukee, Cox Pavilion (ESPNU)
Tuesday, 8 p.m., vs. Portland, Thomas & Mack (ESPNU)
Aug. 13, 7 p.m., vs. Lakers, Thomas & Mack (NBA TV)
Aug. 15, 2 p.m., vs. Utah, Cox Pavilion (ESPN2)
Playoffs to be determined
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