Of course, there is nothing good about what’s been happening across the country in the past month. As COVID-19 has spread and led to thousands of deaths, all major sports leagues—beginning with the NBA—have been shut down until further notice. There is not yet an end in sight for a resumption of action, either.
If there is a sliver of a silver lining among the many dark clouds, though, it could be player health. By mid-March, when the league suspended the 2019-20 year, players around the league were undergoing their typical bumps, bruises and worse. If the league can somehow resuscitate the season to cobble together some kind of playoffs, it stands to reason that players will come back rested and past their previous injuries.
For a veteran team like the Clippers, health could prove to be a major advantage, especially in what will necessarily be a crammed few weeks of an NBA postseason. Months of rest have helped teams get fully healthy and L.A. had been especially beaten up this year.
Star forward Kawhi Leonard, who has sat through several games as the team took on the Raptors’ controversial approach of strategically resting him, will have load managed multiple months.
Coach Doc Rivers told reporters last week that Leonard is, “overworking. I can guarantee you that.”
“The Kawhi we’ll see will be in phenomenal shape,” Rivers said, according to ESPN.
Health Will Help Paul George, Clippers Signees
Some promising health news extends beyond Leonard. Paul George, the Clippers’ other primary star, has had a persistent hamstring injury that caused him to miss 11 games since the start of January. Point guard Patrick Beverley has dealt with a groin injury since before the All-Star break.
Reggie Jackson, signed as a free agent after he was bought out by Detroit, has played only 23 games because of a back injury.
George, Rivers said, “is another guy that’s going to be in phenomenal shape. Reggie [Jackson], who was injured when we got him, will now be healthy.”
Rivers also expressed optimism about the health of center Joakim Noah, signed to a 10-day contract in March. Noah had an Achilles tendon injury in the fall but has worked his way back from it.
“It’s been great for him,” Rivers said, according to the L.A. Times. “There are certain individuals who this rest period, or whatever this is called, has been a benefit, and Jo is one of them for sure because he’s got a chance now to get healthy, and to get in shape and that will be a factor for him. He will be a guy that will be able to help us.”
Clippers Ready Anytime, Anywhere
One thing that was clear was that Rivers was eager to get back to action. Before the season suspension, the Clippers had won seven of eight games and had done so convincingly—their average margin was 14.6 points and they won three of those games by 20-plus points.
“I really thought we were about to make a crazy run down the stretch,” Rivers said. “And unfortunately, bam, it stopped. … I love where we were at. And seeing the way we play and how we were coming together, this team’s good. I think we could beat anybody.”
Knowing that has Rivers ready to take his team into the postseason—no matter the venue or situation that the NBA deems appropriate.
“If it means we get to play and continue our pursuit for the goal that we want, I feel like Dr. Seuss: ‘I will play anywhere. I will play in a house. I will play in a mouse,'” Rivers said. “I think that’s how our team feels. We don’t care where, when, why, what. We just want to go after our goal. I’m speaking by myself on that.”