Clippers’ Jason Preston gets chance at Summer League to display improved game

Clippers guard Jason Preston walks off the court at Ball Arena in Denver.
(Isaiah Vazquez / Clarkson Creative/Getty Images)

Jason Preston opened eyes during pickup games last fall with his passing and playmaking — until he suffered a serious foot injury. Then it was the point guard’s turn to watch.

Spending his entire rookie season sidelined wasn’t without benefits. He gained 15 pounds of muscle along with countless pointers from coaches and teammates who fielded his unending questions. None of it, however, compared with learning while doing.

Three weeks after the Clippers’ season ended in April’s play-in tournament came the moment for which Preston had waited more than seven months — five-on-five basketball without any restrictions on his play.


“It was awesome,” Preston said. “Just being able to grab a rebound, throw a pass, hit somebody on the cut, shoot a floater, do that in live settings, because a lot of the stuff I just do is in the half-court and one-on-one stuff.

“So it was amazing.”

This week, as all 30 teams descend on Las Vegas for the NBA Summer League, a healthy Preston no longer will be relegated to watching from the bench — and how he performs will be one factor in just how often Preston watches from the sideline next season. Summer League is typically a proving ground for rookies such as second-round pick Moussa Diabate and used for polishing by those with a season or more of NBA experience.

The Clippers and Portland Trail Blazers will play a preseason game Oct. 3 in Seattle, reuniting friends and coaches Tyronn Lue and Chauncey Billups.

June 29, 2022

Yet for Preston and wing Brandon Boston Jr., the 2021 second-round pick who appeared in 51 games as a Clippers rookie, it will represent a low-pressure opportunity to gauge how much they can be trusted next season when the stakes are raised considerably during the Clippers’ pursuit of a championship.

The Clippers have built what is on paper one of the NBA’s deepest rosters, with multiple ballhandlers and wings ahead of Preston and Boston on the depth chart.

“On the defensive end, they put in the work of our schemes and how we’re gonna play and the physicality of it, so for them to get on the court next season, that’s gonna be the focus for them,” said Clippers assistant Shaun Fein, who is coaching the Summer League team. “We know they’re talented on the offensive end, but can they do it on the defensive end and be consistent with it? And this, in the Summer League, hopefully we’ll see that.”

They are not alone in trying to prove they belong.

Guard Jay Scrubb, a 2020 second-round pick who spent the last two seasons on two-way deals while earning spot NBA minutes, and point guard Xavier Moon, who moonlighted with the Clippers on 10-day deals last winter before earning a two-way contract, are both playing with the Clippers after neither received qualifying offers from the team that would have made them restricted free agents. As unrestricted free agents, both are hoping to impress NBA teams that just might be their next employer — though a return to the Clippers, who have one two-way contract still available, isn’t out of the question.


Boston and Preston, with their standard NBA contracts, might have a leg up on their summer peers attempting to find any foothold in the league they can, though their goals are not dissimilar as they attempt to crack the rotation of a title-contending team.

Like Preston, Boston remade his body as a rookie, adding more than 10 pounds to weigh 198 while cutting dairy and red meats out of his diet. His ability to score was never questioned; his efficiency doing so and his value when the ball wasn’t in his hands was.

“I’ve been hitting the weight room a lot, been eating a lot cleaner, sharpening my mental,” Boston said. “Also my decision-making on the court. I can score. Everyone knows that. But making the right plays at the right time.”

Said Fein: “We’ve worked on a lot of decision-making with him. Again, a talented offensive player, but can we put it together on the defensive side of the floor as well and be a complete player? That’s what we’re gonna look for in Summer League.”

The Clippers agreed to contract terms with five-time All-Star point guard John Wall as a free agent last week in part because of his speed and the effect it could have on an offense that team decision-makers believe needed more of a downhill threat — similar to the role Eric Bledsoe provided last season but with the potential for more damage. Preston’s own first-step quickness is a question mark that will be watched this week as he plays against live defense in front of an audience for only the second time in his young career, following his debut in last year’s Summer League.

Out of the public’s eye, Preston has impressed the Clippers.

“Just how he works,” Boston said. “He is in here, the first one in here, almost the last one to leave. That is all I can ask from a player — somebody who is disciplined and willing to work.”


And now Preston will work on his game on the court once again. He spent his entire rookie season asking questions. Now, his play will offer answers.

“I’m really excited,” Preston said, “for this second go-round.”