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Clippers have summer vision for Jason Preston, whose surgery sharpened his shooting eye

Los Angeles Clippers guard Jason Preston (0) dribbles the basketball.
In theory, eye surgery should improve the shooting eye of Clippers guard Jason Preston. He will get a chance to prove that during summer league in Las Vegas.
(Ashley Landis/Associated Press)
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For all of his life in basketball, Jason Preston wore glasses away from the basketball court yet never tried contacts during games. Leading into the 2021 NBA draft, the Clippers pegged Preston as seeing the floor better than almost any other passer, and yet the court could look a little blurry.

Since the Clippers’ season ended in April, Preston underwent laser eye surgery. Now when attempting three-pointers “the rim, you know, looks a little bigger,” he said Wednesday.

“Now it’s nice to have 20/20 vision when I’m playing,” he added.

Still slightly unclear? His future.

What do the Clippers have in Preston? By pushing back the date when next season’s salary will become guaranteed until July 18 — after he plays in the Las Vegas Summer League for the third time of his career — the Clippers indicated they still don’t know, either.

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A foot injury sidelined him his rookie season and he spent the bulk of his second year in the G League. Preston said Wednesday he’d received feedback from the team that revolved around becoming a better leader, as well as ballhandler and shooter.

“I just want to play basketball, win as many games as possible,” he said, when asked whether he felt he needed to show the Clippers anything more, “and just have as much fun in Vegas while we’re there.”

Veteran center Mason Plumlee, acquired by the Clippers at February’s trade deadline, agreed to return to the team on a one-year contract for $5 million.

July 3, 2023

Scouts often have wanted to see whether Preston can quicken his first step to get by a defender. Preston as a point guard is a known quantity. How he can expand his game is the outstanding question.

“I want him to be on the ball, but also I want to be off the ball,” said Dahntay Jones, the Clippers assistant who is the head coach of the summer roster. “Getting the paint, push the pace, just show how versatile of a basketball player that he really is.”

Preston said he was ready to play off the ball as coaches wish. In the G League, Preston averaged 16.7 points, 6.7 assists, 5.2 rebounds and 1.8 turnovers while shooting 56% inside the arc and 37% beyond it.

Fellow point guard Xavier Moon has seen Preston become more “comfortable.” And Jones credited Preston and second-year forward Moussa Diabate with having “taken some bounds” forward in their developments. That is true, but this can be, as well: The Clippers still are trying to project where the development can take Preston, and whether that development merits further investment.

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It’s one of several story lines to watch during the Clippers’ five summer league games.


There is a reason the Clippers believe wing Terance Mann is a big part of their future, even as trade discussions for Philadelphia’s James Harden continue.

As new general manager Trent Redden said in June, “Having good, young players is always critical; I think even more so as we enter this new CBA and with some of the restrictions of the second apron that it’s going to be very, very important to get good players on good contracts.”

The NBA released the Las Vegas Summer League schedule Friday. The Lakers open play July 7 vs. the Warriors; the Clippers open July 8 vs. the Jazz.

June 23, 2023

Mann played his way into the rotation in his second season by being an indispensable, high-energy jack-of-all-trades. Finding the next Mann — a trustworthy player who, by virtue of his rookie contract, also can be inexpensive for several seasons — is an ongoing search that continues this summer.

Recent history does not suggest rookies Kobe Brown, the 30th overall pick, or Jordan Miller, selected at No. 48, will become fixtures of Tyronn Lue’s top nine or 10 players next season. The last Clippers rookie to earn consistent rotation minutes was Shai Gilgeous-Alexander in 2019.

To even have a chance, the rookies — as well as their more-established teammates who also make up the cohort of younger Clippers, including Preston, Diabate and Brandon Boston Jr. — must prove they can contribute and complement established players, Jones said.

“They have to be able to play without the basketball in their hands,” Jones said. “And that is a unique skill that I think this unit of players can showcase.”

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Free agent point guard Russell Westbrook is returning to the Clippers after agreeing to a two-year contract. The team also traded for forward K.J. Martin.

July 1, 2023

Both are said to be suited to the task. Miller was selected in part because he is an excellent cutter. Plays were rarely called for him at Miami, yet the Clippers valued that he still produced points. In a recent summer scrimmage, Miller impressed by scoring on multiple put-backs.

One factor to watch with Brown is his shooting accuracy. His three-point shooting spiked last season at Missouri to 45% after three seasons around 25%. Last season with the Tigers, coaches entrusted Brown to run the offense through him at times because they respected the passing of the power forward, who doesn’t have to shoot to contribute.


The Clippers still are working to decide what their forward rotation will look like next season. With three veterans at the position on expiring contracts, change is coming this summer or at the trade deadline in February.

Where Diabate fits into that future is compelling. He quickly found a home in the locker room last season by being the loudest, often funniest Clipper willing to wade into debates with older teammates. Could this transition into competing with them for their minutes?

The Clippers traded for Houston forward K.J. Martin because the team needed an injection of athleticism and youth. Diabate, a second-round pick in 2022 who earned third-team all G League honors, checks those boxes. The Clippers also believe in his ability to add to his established skillset of rebounding and defense.

Last year in the G League, coach Paul Hewitt said the team was encouraged by how he expanded his role by bringing the ball upcourt and shooting three-pointers. . The point was to build confidence through repetition. The summer is an ideal showcase to see how much that confidence has grown after his first professional season.

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