LOS ANGELES — Two games and a handful of practices isn’t enough for Coach Tyronn Lue to make much of an assessment of this year’s Clippers team. There still are plays to install, spacing to figure out and the melding of veterans and new players.
But what he does know, even this early, is this: with the return of Kawhi Leonard and a healthy Paul George, plus the addition of All-Star guard John Wall, expectations are high this season.
“We’re very excited about this year, and so if we stay healthy, we do all the right things, I think we got a great chance,” Lue said Thursday afternoon before giving fans a glimpse of the team at an open practice at USC’s Galen Center.
Lue said he welcomed the lofty expectations because “that means you have a chance to win and so, I’ll take those expectations every year.
“We have a good team, but we have to put the work in, and we have to sacrifice and do a lot of other things to achieve our goal. We have the right pieces in this room, so I’m just excited to get started.”
The Clippers play Minnesota on Sunday night at Crypto.com Arena and Denver in their preseason finale next Wednesday in Ontario.
Monday’s preseason game against Portland gave Lue a good look at what the team needs to work on before the regular-season opener against the Lakers on Oct. 20.
“Spacing, picking angles and getting to the next action. Those are three things we really got to get better at,” Lue said, singling out Ivica Zubac for his play under the basket.
Lue said the 7-foot center needs to better on screening angles when opponents are trying to switch one through five “and we have to do a better job, too, of when they’re switching point guards onto our bigs. We have to be able to take advantage of that.
“It’s early and we got to get used to playing that style again. We played different last year, and so with Kawhi and PG back it’s a little different feel. Just all the things we’ve got to get better at.”
With seven sets of back-to-back games before New Year’s Day, Lue said he and his staff need to be mindful of the players’ minutes.
“The most important thing is our players’ health, and so with John and Kawhi having not played – John, I think (hasn’t played) in like two years and Kawhi a year and three months – we need to make sure we’re smart. Even if those guys want to play, we gotta make sure we’re making the right decisions, make sure our medical is on board, and kind of go from there.”
PLAYERS SIGNED, WAIVED
The Clippers re-signed forward Malik Fitts and guard Nate Darling on Wednesday, a move that gives them “an opportunity to see what they can do,” Lue said.
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Both Fitts and Darling have both played for the Clippers’ G League team before. Fitts spent time with the Ontario-based squad in 2020-21 after going undrafted out of Saint Mary’s and averaged 11.1 points over 14 games.
Darling was undrafted out of Delaware in 2020 and spent his rookie year on a two-way contract with Charlotte. He averaged 17.1 points, 4.3 rebounds and 3.4 assists in 31 games for the Clippers’ developmental team last season.
The Clippers also waived three players – forward Juwan Morgan, guard Lucas Williamson and guard Michael Devoe – all training camp signees.
“That’s the toughest part of this game, making the cuts,” said Lu, who praised their effort during training camp. “I wish them well. They should be picked up somewhere because they are good players.”
Several Clippers players will be distributing food to 1,000 families on Saturday at a drive-through event at the Kia Forum in Inglewood. Players expected to participate are Brandon Boston, Robert Covington, Moussa Diabate, Terance Mann, Norman Powell, Jason Preston and John Wall.