Clippers’ early exit doesn’t dampen optimism for future – Press Telegram

LOS ANGELES – It should be a hollow time, and to some extent, I’m sure it was. The Clippers were a quarter of an appointment away in Phoenix on Sunday night. They put together another of the comebacks for which they made themselves known, and they had New Orleans against the ropes … and then, as was the case in their first shot in the playoffs on Tuesday night in Minnesota, they let it slip.

However, the mood between coach Ty Lue and the players taken to the interview room late on Friday night was one of optimism, albeit moderate.

The Clippers defeat 105-101 at the end of the season it happened without seven-time All-Star Paul George, without sniper Luke Kennard, and obviously without NBA Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard. Instead of regretting what they did not have, they appreciated what they could accomplish with their undoing and adherence to activity. And they contemplated what might be possible within a year.

“We’ve got our principals back. I mean, we can be dangerous,” Lue said.

“I think when you get Kawhi and PG healthy back, Norm (Powell for) a full season … this team can be pretty special. But it’s all about health. Our guys (Terance Mann, Amir Coffey, Kennard, Ivica Zubac ), all of these guys had (had) the opportunity to develop and play meaningful games. They played great for us. .

“We have to go back, go back to the board. But I’m very excited about this group, the guys are coming back.”

It seems strange, a team that does not reach the playoffs of what is talked about championship caliber. But these are unusual circumstances.

The Clippers haven’t had Leonard all season, of course, but his surgically repaired knee should be totally healthy on the training ground. George missed 43 games with a ruptured ulnar collateral ligament and was unavailable for the most important game of his season due to COVID-19.

Only those two make this team a potential force. But their absences could be a blessing in disguise, because the rest had to act in more important roles and discovered that not only could they hang, but they could also do amazing things.

How to win back a 35-point disadvantage, two 25-point disadvantages and a 24-point disadvantage this season. Or moving forward in a culture that was built on moxie, and picking up everything they throw at them and coming back for more.

There was a lot. Nicolas Batum has been in the league for 14 seasons and has almost never had a season like this.

“COVID, injuries, comebacks, everything,” he said. “However, it was fun. It was fun. We went through everything. Changes, missing players. I mean, we had everything. We are still in the top eight in the West without our best player, without our two best players technically because PG played 30 games, something like that.

“I love it here. That coach, those guys. I mean, it’s hard today, but next year will be fun.”

Batum made a noise when asked if he would exercise his choice of player this summer, but you can probably guess which side he is leaning towards.

Assuming the stars stay healthy, and there are never any guarantees, the others should be much better off for the responsibility they’ve taken on this season, which means this should be a deep, deep team. Veterans Jackson, Morris and Batum set the example – and before they were changed, so did players like Eric Bledsoe, Serge Ibaka and Justise Winslow – and youngsters like Mann and Coffey, and behind them, even younger players like Brandon Boston Jr. and Xavier Moon. , beneficiary.

“Just (the veterans) coming in every day, I think it was huge for this team and for our guys to see how they got to work every day, the message they were conveying,” Lue said. “Just teach these guys how to work, what it takes to be a professional. Every day they brought that in. So that’s all you can ask your veterans and your group of veterans. They did that. The guys came .As I said, they matured. They had to mature very quickly given the circumstances.

“We are building the right culture, going in the right direction. Our next step is to stay healthy at some point.

Therefore, there was not much anguish over the unfair play-in tournament even though they had finished six games ahead of the Pelicans in the regular season standings. Those were the rules, and these tight games in a playoff environment — yes, I know, the NBA doesn’t consider them part of the playoffs, but they’re equally loaded with pressure — will end up being positive.

Clippers’ early exit doesn’t dampen optimism for future – Press Telegram Source link Clippers’ early exit doesn’t dampen optimism for future – Press Telegram

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