PLAYA VISTA — The Clippers’ three new players arrived at the team’s practice facility on Monday all having traveled different paths to get to the same spot.
Center Mason Plumlee comes to the Clippers from Charlotte with a trove of experience, having played with six teams in his 10-year career. At his last stop, he started for the Hornets and averaged 12.2 points and 9.7 rebounds. He said his career steps have given him better insight on adjusting to different players, lineups and game plans.
“I think if you can understand how your teammate thinks about the game, it makes you better at setting them up,” said Plumlee, who was sporting a black eye he received in one of his final games with the Hornets.
“For example, when I played with (Hornets guard) Terry Rozier, if he came off a couple DHOs (dribble handoffs) or pin downs and guys were aggressive to deny him, I knew the next time he was back cutting. Things like that can help.”
With the Clippers, he will back up starter Ivica Zubac, who had been carrying heavy minutes as the team’s only true center. Plumlee said that from afar he has watched the Croatian get better every year.
“I remember playing him I think when he was a rookie and he’s just improved,” Plumlee said of Zubac. “I haven’t seen a ton of (his) games this year, but you look, and you see like the 30-rebound game and that’s a heck of a thing. So, he’s obviously held it down and done a great job and to be able to come in and help him is something I want to do.”
Guard Bones Hyland comes in with the wide-eyed enthusiasm of someone less than two years removed from college and the savviness of having played on a championship-caliber team. He came off the bench in Denver, playing alongside two-time MVP Nicolai Jokic. He believes that experience, plus his guard skills, will complement Kawhi Leonard and Paul George.
Hyland said he can play either guard spot, but looks forward to showing his skills as a true point guard, a position the Clippers don’t currently employ. Terance Mann starts in a non-traditional point guard role, with George bringing the ball down the court.
“I feel like I never had that opportunity to showcase my playmaking ability and (here I will) be able to play that point guard role a lot and show that I’m more than just a scorer,” Hyland said. “I’m actually a point guard, you know? And I offer that at a high level and if you put me in that position, I’m going to thrive in that position as well. So, that’s something that I’m looking forward to.”
Hyland will be vying for minutes backcourt minutes with Norman Powell, Jason Preston, Brandon Boston Jr. and veteran Eric Gordon, whose NBA travels have brought him back to where he started his career.
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Gordon, 34, was selected by the Clippers with the seventh overall pick of the 2008 NBA Draft but traded three years later to New Orleans. He spent five seasons in New Orleans and the past six-plus years with Houston, which is in a rebuilding phase.
He said coming to a playoff contender is a situation he’s wanted for years. He said the Clippers are playing at a high level right now and are a championship-caliber team.
“We got a lot of talented guys and I think I kind of fit the mold of how they play and how they do things, and it’s great to be back,” Gordon said.
“You got a lot of talent on this team and whenever you have a good team like this, things can come a lot easier than when you’re on teams that are trying to figure out ways to win before.”