The LA Clippers have their minds set on winning the franchise’s first NBA championship trophy and are prepared to begin the long journey to reach that goal.
As preseason basketball cranks up, the LA Clippers know they are officially on everybody’s radar. This will be another great opportunity for coach Doc Rivers to assess progression as we move closer to the beginning of the regular season. He understands it will be a teaching ground for things that may pay off big when it matters most.
One serious topic of debate is the perfect starting lineup to be a championship-caliber team. The Clippers have so many rotation options at their disposal, I’d be surprised if they weren’t already playing with what works and what doesn’t. How units perform during live game action should make most of those tough decisions.
On paper, plugging Paul George in at the power forward position and Kawhi Leonard at small forward sounds great. Unfortunately, that would force George to fight for rebounds and defend the paint against bigger stronger players. All this while returning from shoulder surgery to both arms.
The best unit for LA will be the one that comes together organically. Few believed Draymond Green would excel as a point-forward and late-game center until he got the chance to prove it. Doc Rivers won’t make this harder than it needs to be and knows a good thing when he sees it.
If you plan on being a champion you have to prepare like a champion. Young players need to absorb all the knowledge possible from veterans with deep playoff experience and use it to their advantage. Maintaining good eating habits and giving the body necessary recovery time are tips all young athletes could benefit from.
Championship expectations don’t leave much room for consolation prizes in the NBA, so the focus here is solely on winning the big trophy at the end for the Clippers. Although, finishing the season in 1st place in the Western Conference would be nice, making sure the team is mentally prepared and physically healthy for playoff basketball is far more important. The best version of what LA has to offer may take until after the trade deadline anyway, with potential enhancements being shopped before it’s too late.
One thing that already fuels the Clippers organization is a hunger to compete. Practice sessions will certainly bring out the best in teammates who respect each other and want to challenge each other at the same time. The game can come easy to you at times when you’re pushed harder in your locker room.
Defense can and will be a defining point for the Clippers in the 2019-20 season. Teams that don’t have a solid third or fourth scoring option in their lineup will have nightmares thinking about this squad. Limiting opposing teams’ attempts at uncontested 3-pointers will frustrate any high scoring offense all game long.
Turning rookies into game-ready contributors can only help matters for the Clippers in the long run. If Terance Mann and Mfiondu Kabengele prove to be reliable options, team versatility goes up significantly. Mann showed flashes of playmaking ability to go with tenacious perimeter defense and Kabengele stuffed the stat sheets as a perimeter shooting rim protector in Summer League play.
Focusing on the task at hand is important but easier said than done. There is plenty of time between now and the first round of the NBA playoffs but that won’t stop fans and critics from expecting LA to perform like the Harlem Globetrotters right out of the gate. Blocking out all outside chatter makes a big difference when setting out to accomplish your goals in life and on the basketball court.
Trust in your teammates is key when big moments present themselves in big games. Whether it’s hanging out after practice, spending time with each other’s families or staying connected on social media, common respect and understanding between teammates can build trust that’s necessary later in the season. This is a bonus for the Clippers, due to the friendships displayed by the players up to this point already, in a very young season.
Trust also determines who has the ball when the game is on the line and the supporting cast they step onto the court with. LA can go in many different directions for a last-minute shot, but Leonard proved to be a star among stars last year who should have the ball in his hands. Teammates who space the floor and give Leonard the working room needed to carve through defenses will see extended minutes in clutch situations.
The best way for the Clippers to approach this NBA season is by focusing on the 82 game grind and remaining as fresh as possible for the playoffs. Nothing is wrong with enjoying some of the attention that comes with success, but premature celebrations never look good when another team takes home the trophy. Trust in each other and a laser-sharp focus on the task at hand will have the NBA community celebrating the 2019-20 LA Clippers for many years to come.