Before the threat of COVID-19 stopped the 2019-2020 NBA season, the Los Angeles Clippers were ranked second in the Western Conference. They are ready to battle for an NBA title as they travel this week to Florida for the season restart set to tip off on July 30.
No Clippers players opted out of the restart including their newest addition Joakhim Noah; the two-time NBA All-Star signed a deal with the Clippers on June 28.
Last Thursday, the Clippers closed their facilities after a positive coronavirus test surfaced. On Saturday, news broke that guard Landry Shamet had tested positive for COVID-19. Shamet still plans to travel to the NBA bubble, but will have to go through a 14-day quarantine and have two negative tests one day apart to reunite with the team.
“I want to go play. It’s just a matter of just coming to terms with that’s what’s going on,” Shamet said on Wednesday. “This is a boot camp, and just go and make the best of it. Be locked in, be in the right headspace and just go make the best of it.”
The quarantine was not like an offseason for the Clippers players, the franchise sent them equipment to work out and hosted exercise sessions via Zoom. The entire coaching staff has weekly virtual meetings, according to Rivers.
“We’ve done it through Zoom, on exercise bikes, on treadmills, through our vehicles with our strength and conditioning staff,” he said. “I think the challenge will be for every team — until you’re together, you will find out what your rhythm is, how quickly you can get it back.”
During the quarantine, Shamet took time to evaluate his playing style and observing the contending teams of past seasons.
“I think we’ve just had time to think and break down our own games, watch film of other people,” Shamet said. “That’s what I’ve been doing, trying to watch teams in the past who have had championship expectations and tried to see where I fit in those teams and how those guys were utilized.”
In the wake of George Floyd’s murder, the Clippers players created plans to show their disdain towards racism. Clippers owner Steve Ballmer was also heavily involved in their talks and planning. This caused the team and Rivers to have deep conversations and get to know each other outside of basketball.
Rivers noted that the police is in need of reform and urges people to watch the video of George Floyd’s death in its entirety.
“We’ve been calling for police reform … you can go back and look at sitcoms with Fred Sanford in it and he’s talking about police reform,” Rivers said. “When you look back that far, you know that there’s an issue, and we have to solve it.”
After reaching Orlando, Rivers wants to focus on the continuity, rhythm, and conditioning of the team. During their workouts, the players look well individually, but they will have to get a gauge of their cohesion in Florida. Rivers is grateful for the eight games each team gets before the playoffs.
“Thank God for the eight games. Early on I honestly didn’t want to play the eight games; I wanted to go straight to the Playoffs,” Rivers said. “But in retrospect, the league got this one right. I think we do need these games to kind of get right so when we get to the Playoffs, everybody is in full stride.”