After a tenacious season, the Los Angeles Clippers now look like the team to beat with the additions of reigning NBA champ Kawhi Leonard and All-Star forward Paul George. The Clippers also boosted their roster by adding veterans with years of playoff experience.
Over the summer, the Clippers signed former Portland Trailblazer Maurice Harkless and Oklahoma City Thunder forward Patrick Patterson. Harkless helped the Trailblazers to four postseason appearances alongside All-Star guard Damian Lillard.
Harkless shot at 47.7 percent from the field making 4.9 rebounds and 8.4 points per game during the Playoffs last season, helping the Blazers reach the Western Conference Finals.
In the process, Portland ousted Patterson’s former team out of playoff contention in the first round. However, Patterson gained a wealth of postseason experience playing with the Toronto Raptors from 2013-17.
Leonard disrupted the two most recent three-peat attempts in NBA history when he won a championship with the San Antonio Spurs in 2014 and with the Raptors last season. The Los Angeles native won Finals MVP on both occasions, shooting at 49.5 percent in field goals in his career. He called the Clippers “a confident unit.”
“If somebody was doing great that night, they fed him,” Leonard said. “Coach Doc (Rivers) did a great job of getting that group ready and pushing them to the Playoffs.”
George only missed one season of Playoffs competition in his NBA career when he suffered a leg injury in 2014. In his career, George contributed 19.8 points per game and 20.1 points per game during the Playoffs.
George will be out until November as he recovers from surgeries on both shoulders. He will be involved in training camp but cannot do full contact drills.
“I’m used to being in this rehab stage, knowing what it takes to get my body prepared,” Paul said. “I’m just in a good place, I know what I need to do.”
Last season, the Clippers had a 48-34 overall record and battled ferociously against the Golden State Warriors in round one of the NBA Playoffs. Guards Patrick Beverley, Lou Williams, and Landry Shamet along with Center Montrezl Harrell played a key part of their success last year.
“What [Harrell] and I did last year was very special, but we look forward to building with this new group of guys and seeing what we can do,” Williams said.
The Clippers are working to build a bond, they recently went on a fishing trip and having been practicing at their training facility.
“We want to get as close together as we possibly can, that family environment that we had last year and see where that takes us,” Beverley said.
The players ensured that building chemistry has been going on throughout the offseason, their preseason trip to Hawaii will also help to connect.
“We probably came in right after Memorial Day weekend and we’ve been playing pick up and guys have been lifting weights and getting extra cardio in,” Harrell said. “We’re a lot farther along than people think.”