It’s been 10 weeks since the Clippers took the floor in a meaningful NBA game, a win over the Warriors. That was the team’s seventh win in its previous eight games, a sign the Clips were hitting their stride after an injury-pocked first two-thirds of the season.
Of course, the one game the Clippers did not win in that stretch is the one that stands out most among L.A.’s post-All-Star surge: the March 8 national TV game against the Lakers that saw the Clippers get pushed around in the third quarter in what would be a 9-point loss. The Clippers beat the Lakers in their first two matchups.
For many, this was a preview of the Western Conference finals, as the Clippers are No. 2 in the West and the Lakers sit at No. 1. It was also a Battle of Los Angeles as the Clippers, long second-class citizens in the city, try to make up ground on one of the NBA’s glamor franchises.
Clippers coach Doc Rivers does not see it that way, though.
“I look at it like, they’re in our way,” Rivers told The Athletic this month. “I don’t look at it as the Battle of L.A., because we don’t get a trophy if we beat the Lakers. We need to go through the Lakers to get to the trophy, to have a chance to play for the trophy. That’s what it is for me. They’re in our way. For us to get to where we want to get to, we have to go through them, and probably the same way for them – they have to go through us. As a group, we’re good with that, and I think they’re good with that. And I think that sets up for a pretty good battle.”
Rivers Hoping Clippers can ‘Win the Wait’
That is, of course, whether there is a battle at all. The immediate future of the league is still up in the air going back to the season suspension imposed by commissioner Adam Silver on March 11 following the positive coronavirus test from Jazz center Rudy Gobert.
The Clippers re-opened their practice facility on a limited basis this week. But Rivers said he and his team have been stressing preparedness in the weeks since they last played, knowing there will be a fast turnaround and a grueling schedule if the league does come back.
If the league is to come back to action in the coming weeks, Rivers figures the teams that take most advantage of this time off will be the ones who are best equipped to step into the remainder of the year with some momentum.
“We have this saying right now with our team called ‘Win The Wait,’ and so we’re trying to win the wait meaning we believe there’s going to be a season, we really do,” Rivers said in an online interview with Turner Sports. “And if there is we cannot let this disruption be the reason that we don’t win. We want to be fully ready if and when we get the start button.”
Doc Rivers has Kept Clippers Engaged
Rivers said that during the NBA’s hiatus, he has tried to keep his players engaged on a day-to-day basis. And more than that, he has tried to keep them inspired to be ready should the league finish the season.
This has been tough for everybody, let’s make that clear,” Rivers said. “For me in this period, my job has been two-fold. One has been to communicate with my players so I try to talk with them as much as I can. I try to have my staff talk to them as much as they can. We’re doing Zoom calls, we’re doing Zoom workouts now where every day our strength coach and our trainers get on with our players; we do groups of five, so three times a day, where they’re working out. They got their heart monitors on the screen. We’re checking their weight.
And then the second part, I’ve become the vision of, like, hope. I have to give our guys hope because we’re not like every other team. There’s five or six teams that started this year, maybe more, with the dream of winning a title. So this has been interrupted.