Yogi Ferrell has played only one game for the Los Angeles Clippers, but already he is making the case for being a fan favorite.
Signed Monday to a 10-day contract, the (relatively) diminutive point guard, who has a history of exceeding expectations, did so again Wednesday night as he and a severely depleted L.A. roster managed to come back from an 18-point deficit to defeat the Memphis Grizzlies, 117-105.
@benmaller. INSTANT LEGEND? Yogi Ferrell 6 ft PG McDonald’s high school All-American, started at Indiana U. But couldn’t make it on 3 pro teams, but had to play tonight for Clippers at PG as Jackson and Rondo were out—and went Bob Cousy in 4th period!
— Lew Riley (@LewRileyWriter) April 22, 2021
The victory was the Clippers 10th in 11 games and further signaled that they will be a force to be reckoned with come the playoffs, especially given that all but one starter was on the shelf against Memphis.
But for Ferrell, who last played NBA minutes in January for the sorrowful Cleveland Cavaliers — before being shuttled to the G League — it was a chance to show that he once again belongs on a big-league roster and isn’t as far behind the curve as one might imagine.
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“I played in the G League bubble in Orlando, so after that just went home and continued to grind, continued to work out,” Ferrell told reporters after the game. “I knew my name was out there and opportunity was going to come, so I just wanted to make sure I was ready. In the NBA a lot of the guys have the same schemes, a lot of the same playbook, so it’s just a matter of learning chemistry with these guys and just learning different terminology.”
It seems he’s a quick learner.
Ferrell registered eight points and seven assists against Memphis, including a crucial strip of Brandon Clarke late in the third quarter that led to a spectacular Terance Mann alley-oop dunk. But it was perhaps more what Ferrell didn’t do that proved most valuable and surprising.
Yogi Ferrell pokes it away and lobs for Terance Mann cutting to the rim!
From 18 down, the @LAClippers lead heading into the 4th on NBA TV.
— NBA (@NBA) April 22, 2021
Yogi Has Been Around the Block
In 20 minutes, Ferrell didn’t commit a single turnover, which is notable given that Memphis is third in the NBA at forcing them, and especially surprising since he was admittedly feeling the butterflies in the first half.
“I had a little bit of nerves, but you know I calmed myself down in the second half and just got back to what I’ve been doing,” said Ferrell, who went 0-for-3 in seven minutes of first-half action but played the entire fourth quarter. Not exactly typical for someone on a 10-day contract.
“If a guy’s playing well, they deserve to stay on the floor to end the game,” said head coach Ty Lue. “[Yogi] did a great job, so he earned it.” While that’s certainly true, it’s also possible that Lue, who was an undersized point guard in the league himself, could be a little biased when it comes to the lightning-quick Ferrell.
“Ohh, I love it. I love speed,” Lue said with a chuckle when asked if there’s maybe a special place in his heart for the Clippers’ new guy. “Yogi’s able to turn the corner and get into the paint […] his capabilities of getting down the floor, attacking early, running pick-and-roll, getting downhill, it was great for us in that second half.”
Ferrell’s readiness was surprising but not completely out of left field. Undrafted out of Indiana University in 2016, Ferrell caught fire while on a 10-day contract with the Dallas Mavericks at the beginning of 2017 and became a permanent fixture on their roster through the end of the 2017-18 season. He was even named NBA Rookie of the Month for February of 2017.
In his two seasons with the then-woeful Mavericks, the 6-foot Ferrell averaged 10.6 points and 3.0 assists while shooting 42.1% from the field. Not eye-popping numbers, but they were good enough for the Sacramento Kings to sign him to a two-year, $6.1 million deal before the start of the 2018-19 campaign.
‘I Just Want to Win’
Ferrell didn’t make much of an impression in Sacramento though, averaging just 5.3 points and 1.7 assists in 121 games, and the Kings opted not to resign him in 2020. But those Mavericks and Kings teams were not necessarily contenders and not necessarily without their issues, and Ferrell already sees a big difference with the Clippers.
“Man, the culture of this team is great,” Ferrell said Wednesday. “Everybody’s positive, nobody gets down, they want you to shoot the shot if you’re open. They’re not pointing fingers.”
That probably has a lot to do with the fine mix of veterans and youngsters filling the Clippers roster these days, but it also has something to do with Lue, who gave Ferrell some simple but sage advice before the Memphis game.
“What he told me basically is just be aggressive,” said Ferrell. “He told me to play my game, don’t try to fit in with the team. Just go out there, play free and have fun.”
It remains to be seen what role if any Ferrell will play in the postseason, but for the time being he has already found fans with the Clipper faithful. Asked in the postgame if he has anything to tell the public about himself, personal or otherwise, Ferrell didn’t go deep but did reiterate his enthusiasm.
“They gonna see me play hard any time I step on the court. I just want to win. I’ve always tried to be a winner growing up, and I’m around such a great culture, so it just makes it easier,” Ferrell said.