476 days. It has been 476 days since Kawhi Leonard has touched a basketball court. But man, it sure is great to see him out there. The Clippers played their second preseason game of the year against the Portland Trailblazers in Climate Pledge Arena. Before I even talk about the game, I want to give a huge shoutout to the city of Seattle. There is no city that deserves a team more and the energy in the stadium was a testament to that. All broadcast long, you could clearly here the crowd chanting, “SUPERSONICS, SUPERSONICS!” The energy was unparalleled.
Anyways, going back to the Clippers, despite the extremely small sample size, I have a significant amount of takeaways from the game. The first one being that Kawhi looks amazing. He didn’t post his most efficient performance, finishing the game with 11 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists, and 2 steals on 3-8 shooting, but the way he was moving was easily the most encouraging and exciting factor about his performance. He was aggressive and purposeful with his cuts and was an absolute menacing presence on defense. In the post-game press conference, Kawhi revealed that PG asked him if he had any “bubbles” before the game. Kawhi shook his head, but did admit there “may have been a wing in there.” Overall, extremely encouraging return to action for Kawhi.
My next takeaway is that this team is DEEP. Almost TOO deep as in it might be a genuine problem. I would not want to be in Ty Lue’s position right now and have to make the decision to play guys like RoCo, Terance Mann, Marcus Morris, Luke Kennard, Amir Coffey, and Norman Powell only 15-18 minutes a night. These are guys who make a serious impact on the game and we don’t have enough spots on the court to allow all of them to flourish on the floor. Obviously, this is a great problem to have, but Ty Lue is going to have to do some serious experimentation in order to find what group is the most effective and how to optimize the extremely talented core that the Clippers possess.
The next thing I want to talk about is the backup center position. Yikes. Easily one of the most obvious problems to this Clippers team, Moses Brown isn’t going to cut it. Zubac is extremely underrated and his presence defensively is a great anchor to have. Obviously, Ty Lue loves to stretch the floor and go small ball to close games, but with that being said, the minutes when Zubac is out, there’s a steep drop off. Enter Moussa Diabate. The rookie the Clips drafted stood out as a bright spot throughout NBA summer league and has continued to impress with his high energy motor in the preseason so far. By all means, he hasn’t completely polished his game, but I would not mind the possibility of him earning the backup center spot over Brown. It’s all in Ty Lue’s hands.
My final takeaway from the game was that it’s great to see John Wall on the court. While the casual fan might say he’s washed and that he’s not going to be the same John Wall that was on the Wizards, they need to understand one important thing: We don’t need him to be THAT guy. All we need is for him to be ready to hit some catch and shoot 3’s and attack the rim, drawing in the defense, and kicking out to our shooters. It’s really that simple at the end of the day. While he turned it over a couple of times in the game, it was clear to see that his aggressive presence and hunger to create a deep paint touch will help the Clips go a long way this season.
Overall, Clippers basketball is back. It’s so back and I couldn’t be more excited. All we need is one year of good injury luck and we have no excuse to not battle it out with the best of the squads in the league.
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