The dog days of summer are finally over and it’s back to work for the Los Angeles Clippers.
After a long yet progressive summer for many of the team’s key players as well as the new roster additions, the Clippers enter the 2016-17 season fully healthy, focused and ready to contend for a championship. However, before the hunt for the franchise’s first championship gets underway, it all starts with training camp.
“I think we had a good summer,” Head Coach Doc Rivers said. “That sounds great, but now we have to work on the floor and get all the different pieces together and make them work together. I’m excited about the talent we have on the team and I think we’re at a good place mentally, physically, we’re healthy.”
With the return of stars Blake Griffin and Chris Paul from injuries, both stars not only hope to help lead Los Angeles on the court together, but to stay on the court and remain healthy throughout the season.
“Every year after you lose in the playoffs, it just adds fuel to the fire,” Griffin said. “We have the talent, leadership, coaches and now we just have to put it all together.”
“There are so many factors that we need to put together: staying healthy and enjoying the process,” Paul said. “These are so important if we want to reach the ultimate goal.
For the third member of the Clippers’ Big 3, DeAndre Jordan, who took big strides over the summer as an elite defensive center, shared about his experiences representing Team USA in the 2016 Rio Games.
“To go out, represent your country and win something, is awesome,” the first-time gold medalist said. “Just an opportunity to learn from people, not only other players, but coaches, has helped me get ready for the season.”
Although Griffin, Jordan and Paul all had the media spotlight shined on them, eighteen-year veteran Paul Pierce stole the spotlight after officially announcing he will retire following the 2016-17 season hours before media day began. Pierce’s his announcement comes a few days after former teammate Kevin Garnett hung up his jersey after 21 years in the league. For Pierce, it holds a lot of significance for him to retire in the city he grew up in while enjoying one final ride into the sunset with his family and friends watching.
“Getting to retire here where I grew up where I get a chance to be in front of family and friends, it’s pretty amazing to have my mom, my brothers, my cousins come check out my last games,” Pierce said. “It is big to be able to say I can finish it out here in front of family and friends, down the street where it all started for people who have watched me since I was a little kid.
Of course, the spotlight was also directed towards the hottest topic of discussion over the past few weeks: San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s protest and the social issues that have been surrounding the nation. For the Clippers, they have talked about the issue at hand and hope to keep the conversation going when the season begins.
“We’re going to talk about it as a team, but whatever we do, we’ll do it together,” Griffin said. “It’s not an individual statement and we’ll make a statement as a team and that’s always the best thing about making a statement.”
Chris Paul also chimed in on the situation, saying it is an ongoing conversation and will likely happen in unity.
“We’re a team here and the biggest thing we can do is communicate with one another and whatever we do, it will be a team thing.”
Although a majority of the team’s core players have been together for more than three seasons, the newcomers have already felt the difference since coming to Los Angeles. Throughout the summer, the team spent time practicing together and going out to team dinners to build up the team’s chemistry with one another. Austin Rivers, who has been with the franchise for the past two seasons, spoke about how close the team is.
“I think being fun builds up team camaraderie,” Rivers said. “We’ve already done more this season and the season hasn’t even started than we have last year. We’re really starting to bond and get one another and that will carry over onto the floor.”
For the new Clippers, they shared their reasons for coming to Los Angeles including Marreese Speights and Dorell Wright who have previous connections with the city and the organization.
“I have a good relationship with Doc Rivers after playing against him and competing against him in so many playoff series,” Marreese Speights said. “After coming from the [Golden State] Warriors, the Clippers gave me an opportunity to compete for a championship and a chance to go to the Finals.”
“I think I can show my versatility with this roster,” Los Angeles native Dorell Wright said. “I think I can also be more of a stretch four and guard different positions, so the main thing for me coming here is to play hard, knock down shots and be known as a lockdown defender.”
For rookie Brice Johnson, he hopes to contribute off the bench by being versatile and play strong defense.
“I think I’ll have to be a great defender to show how versatile I am and that I can guard multiple positions,” the North Carolina product said. “We have a lot of guys who can score the ball so I don’t think they really need another guy to score.”
Raymond Felton also talked about playing as a versatile combo-guard and expressed his excitement to share a backcourt with Jamal Crawford, Austin Rivers and Chris Paul:
“To me, it seems like a lot of fun,” the eleven-year journeyman said. “I’m just here to do whatever Doc needs me to do. Whatever role he needs me to do for this team, I will do.”
For the Clippers, there is a lot of promise for the team this season as they hope to bring Los Angeles back to its championship level.
With the talent, leadership, versatility and depth already there for this Clippers team, the team will need to luck to be on their side to stay healthy, but in order to reach the ultimate goal, the pieces need to connect together and play as a team instead of relying on talent alone.
Spark Sports Editor
Follow me at @arthurpuu