From Lob City to Clamp City: Clippers seeking new identity
LOS ANGELES — The Big Three have cleared out and Lob City is no more.
For the first time in 10 years, the Los Angeles Clippers will soon begin a season without DeAndre Jordan, Blake Griffin or Chris Paul on the roster.
So just who is this team?
Well, coach Doc Rivers isn’t sure yet.
But Patrick Beverley offers a bold take: Clamp City.
“You got two of the best on-ball defenders in the league,” he said, referring to himself and Avery Bradley. “We can be a defensive juggernaut.”
Despite coming off a season in which the team missed the playoffs for the first time in his five-year tenure and LeBron James joining the Lakers, Rivers feels good about the Clippers’ future.
“This is the healthiest this franchise has been,” the coach said Monday. “We never had flexibility and now we have flexibility. We have an owner who is willing to do whatever it takes.”
Heck, even All-Star Jimmy Butler of Minnesota is saying he’d like to be a Clipper.
And Luc Mbah a Moute decided to return as a free agent, impressed with the roster changes.
Quite a difference from the dark days of 1994 when Ron Harper said being a Clipper was akin to doing time in jail.
“We don’t have nobody on this team that thinks they’re bigger than the program,” said Montrezl Harrell, who re-signed in July and figures to have a larger role since Jordan left for Dallas this summer.
Injuries plagued the team last season, with 11 players missing a total of 265 games. Rivers was forced to use a league-high 37 different starting lineups in one of his best coaching jobs. The Clippers’ playoff hopes were kept alive until the final week of the regular season.
“For us to have a successful campaign, we have to be healthy,” Rivers said. “We got a group of guys we can win with on the roster.”
The roster features a glut of guards — “a thousand,” Rivers joked — including Beverley and Bradley, both of whom had their first season in LA derailed by injuries.
Also at the position are rookies Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Jerome Robinson, who could end up playing for the Clippers’ G League entry in nearby Ontario simply to get minutes.
“We’ll do whatever,” Robinson said.
He already has.
Robinson gave up his No. 13 jersey after a conversation with veteran Marcin Gortat, who has worn the number throughout his career. Robinson will don No. 10.
Besides working Gilgeous-Alexander and Robinson into the flow, new additions Gortat, Mike Scott and Mbah a Moute will need time to get acclimated starting Tuesday when training camp opens in Hawaii.
Along with Beverley and Bradley, Danilo Gallinari missed a chunk of last season with hand and glute injuries. The trio already forged an off-court friendship with all their downtime last season, and finally got to play together this summer in pickup games.
“We know how good we are,” Gallinari said, “and we’re going to show it.”
Tobias Harris, acquired along with Bradley in a mid-season trade from Detroit for Griffin, averaged 19.3 points in his 25 games. He will be a candidate to join Beverley and Bradley in a closeout role late in games.
The Clippers added free-agent forward Desi Rodriguez on Monday, bringing the camp roster to 20 players.
Rodriguez played four seasons at Seton Hall, averaging 12.8 points and 4.9 rebounds. He wasn’t drafted in June.
“We have a very talented group here,” said Lou Williams, last year’s Sixth Man of the Year. “I definitely expect us to be in the playoffs.”
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