Two big men on nonguaranteed contracts battling for Clippers’ final roster spot
Clippers coach Tyronn Lue said it was “nice to see” himself recognized by NBA general managers in their annual preseason survey, in which 37% rated Lue the league’s best coach at making in-game adjustments.
That skill ties in with another that has drawn just as much praise for Lue within the Clippers since his hiring — his reputation as a clear communicator. It’s why Isaiah Hartenstein and Harry Giles, 23-year-old backup centers on nonguaranteed contracts competing for the 15th and final roster spot, know exactly what they need to do to tip the scales in their favor of sticking with the roster into the regular season.
“Defensively, [are] they able to pick up our defense foundation and what we’re trying to do, being in the right spots, being a rim protector?” Lue said Wednesday, before the Clippers’ second preseason game, against Sacramento. “And offensively just being able to roll, get to the dunker [spot], understand what we’re trying to do offensively, and be able to execute. I think it’s our biggest thing.”
Where Hartenstein and Giles were often asked to play Denver’s smaller forwards Monday, matchups that Lue said made it difficult to rate each’s performance, Wednesday’s second preseason game, a 113-98 loss against against Sacramento, saw each matched up more against traditional frontcourt size. Hartenstein generated three rebounds, three assists, a lob dunk, steal and only one foul in his first stint of seven minutes. When he was replaced midway through the second quarter, it was by starter Ivica Zubac, with Giles still waiting for his first minutes.
“He’s a guy, in today’s NBA, a screen-and-roll guy that puts pressure on the rim, a good athlete, has a lot more skills than I think people realize,” said Denver coach Michael Malone on Monday, who coached Hartenstein for 30 games last season. “And he fit our culture in terms of work ethic and being selfless. I root for Isaiah.”
Kings coach Luke Walton, who coached Giles during his two-year stay in Sacramento, said he is likewise “pulling” for his former player to stick with the Clippers. Giles started the third quarter, and finished with three points, six rebounds and two assists. The Clippers were pulverized in the quarter, outscored by 21, but Giles gave Clippers officials something to consider with his block that sent the ball nearly to halfcourt, followed by a crossover to get to the rim, finished with a nifty layup.
“He is a great playmaker offensively, his passing ability gives him a unique skillset for bigs,” Walton said. “Defensively he’s good, he’s aggressive. Continuing to play without fouling was a big thing we talked with him about but he’s a very talented basketball player.”
That assessment came only two nights after Giles said he could have done a better job to avoid two particular fouls against Denver. Giles said rebounding and defense are his calling card and displaying each of both could help his case to stick with his third team in four NBA seasons, should Lue’s criteria hold. Once the nation’s top high school recruit, Giles is convinced that promise isn’t yet gone.
Isaiah Hartenstein, Harry Giles and Moses Wright make their presence known in the paint as Clippers rally late to win their preseason opener.
“I’m still him, I’m just 23 now, I went through some injuries but I’m still him,” Giles said. “I do everything I did then just better.”
Starting forward Marcus Morris missed his second game because of rest. Reserve forward Justise Winslow did not play because of a non-COVID-related illness, according to the team.
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