There was an air of confidence exuding from the players at Clippers Media Day 2019. It was not cocky or chauvinistic, but rather an unspoken confidence the whole team shared knowing they were among the elite rosters in the NBA. The days of the scrappy, underdog Clippers from last year are over. Patrick Beverley summed it up best when he explained that he knew this team was not going to sneak up and surprise anyone this year. They will have a target on their backs all season, which is what happens when you land two superstars like Paul George and Kawhi Leonard. This team seemed more than ready for the challenge.
Defense. That was the most talked about attribute of this team, a sentiment that was echoed by almost every player who took the stage. Paul George took a second and thought about the talent they have when it comes to defense.
“It’s going to be scary,” said George.
He even singled out Patrick Beverley and said it will be energizing for the team watching him hound players the full-length of the court. George is an elite defender in his own right as well and Kawhi’s defensive talents are no secret, as he is a two-time Defensive Player of the Year. This Clippers teams’ perimeter defense is the stuff of nightmares. It is still to be seen how their interior defense and rim protecting holds up.
A recurring topic of discussion at Media Day was the ways in which this new look Clippers team bonded in the offseason. The two incoming superstars have been in a texting group chat with their new teammates since they signed with the Clippers back in July.
“That relationship was established early. We came into the facility and it was like I knew them, like I’d been around these guys,” Paul George explained.
There were two summer bonding events that players kept referring to: the fishing trip and the paintball outing. The fishing trip was touched on by several players, a fun deep sea fishing outing that turned competitive as players strived to catch the biggest fish. The paintball outing was highlighted by a shirtless Patrick Beverley, who, according to Ivica Zubac, shot players both on the opposing paintball team as well as his own.
“Classic Pat,” Zubac chuckled. This type of bonding is great to see for a team that is welcoming in several new faces.
All in all, this Clippers team seems like they have all meshed in a relatively short amount of time, which will be important as the Western Conference is as crowded as ever. Every game will be important when it comes to fighting for the top seed in the West and there will be very little time to go through growing pains. Let’s hope this comradery shows up on the court when the Clippers face hometown rivals the Los Angeles Lakers on opening night October 22.
Personal Notes from Media Day
- Paul George told ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne that he would miss the entire preseason and beginning of the regular season as he rehabs from multiple offseason shoulder surgeries. Said he was targeting a “November-ish” return.
- Both Kawhi Leonard and Paul George said they would be open to playing for the 2020 Olympic team but that the Clippers and staying healthy came first.
- Ivica Zubac appeared noticeably slimmer, says he lost body fat and gained muscle this offseason in an attempt to better his endurance. His secret: cutting out his beloved sweets. Zubac appeared much older as well, sporting a chin strap beard. No more baby face Zubac.
- Landry Shamet looks JACKED. Said he wants to prove he can do more than shoot, will put the ball on the ground if teams overplay him behind the arc. Pat Bev added that Shamet took his shooting ability to a new level this offseason, barely ever missed in open gyms.
- When Pat Bev and Shamet were asked to describe Kawhi: “Hilarious” and “Really funny dude.” The legend of the Fun Guy continues.
- Jamychal Green spoke on how tough it was to get traded midseason from the Grizzlies to the Clippers. He had to leave his pregnant girlfriend and family back in Memphis. Said the team made him feel at home. He made it a point to work on his 3-ball all offseason, wants to expand on the 41.3% he shot from 3-point range last year in 24 games for the Clippers.
- Multiple people, notably Paul George and Doc Rivers, spoke on Patrick Beverley’s defensive prowess and how it would come in handy against the elite point-guards in the Western Conference.
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