Clippers wrap preseason with healthy stars but will approach season with caution
In an attempt at self-deprecation before tipoff Wednesday inside Toyota Arena, Clippers coach Tyronn Lue said that although his own playing career left him unable to empathize with reaching the same heights as Kawhi Leonard and John Wall, he certainly knew what they felt like at the low points.
It took months after knee surgery, Lue said, for him to regain the confidence to quell his internal questions.
“You still have that inner thought about you know, am I ready, can I do this?” Lue said.
The topic has been on his mind this preseason as the Clippers have worked Leonard, the two-time Finals most valuable player who missed last season with a knee injury, and Wall, the former No. 1 overall pick who has battled injuries and a season away from the NBA in 2022 on his road back to the court, into the rotation.
Kawhi Leonard, a two-time NBA champion, has been a quiet leader by nature, but since returning from injury the Clippers have seen a more vocal teammate.
Leonard, who did not play against Denver, ended his preseason after 33 minutes over two games, seven-of-16 shooting, zero turnovers and no outward concern about his health after missing last season because of knee surgery.
Wall earned the loudest ovation of any Clipper when he came off the bench to substitute midway through the first quarter, then proceeded to assist Ivica Zubac for a thunderous right-handed dunk, work his defender off the dribble for a midrange jumper and blow past Nuggets big man Zeke Nnaji for a layup, displaying the speed the Clippers feel has been a missing element in recent seasons from the point guard position.
Still, expect Lue and the Clippers to be cautious as the season begins next week as they attempt to preach to Wall, in particular, after he entered training camp healthy and eager to play after so much time away, to “understand it’s going to take some time.”
Leonard is “healthy, he feels good, that’s most important,” Lue said. “It’s going to take some time though. We know he’s a great player and he expects excellence right away just like John but it takes time and so we’re going to be patient with the process and not going to overthink it, not going to overdo it and so our biggest thing is just make sure those guys are healthy.
“And they feel good right now, so that’s pretty exciting.”
John Wall is no longer a self-proclaimed “Batman” in the NBA and is adjusting to a supporting role with the Clippers. “For me, it’s push the pace,” he said.
One year after sitting during the preseason finale in Ontario, Paul George didn’t record a point for his first 15 minutes but meanwhile did nearly everything else, poking away four steals, with four assists and four rebounds as the ball found Marcus Morris Sr., who scored eight first-quarter points, and Norman Powell, who matched Morris with eight.
Though this was the last of the team’s four preseason games the team will hold two intrasquad scrimmages before the regular season begins Oct. 20 against the Lakers.
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