As teams try to stay prepared during this unprecedented period, with the season interrupted due to the global coronavirus pandemic, the LA Clippers’ All-Star was able to do something it could not do. last summer as his body recovered from injuries and a long title with Toronto, according to Rivers.
“I know about Kawhi’s overwork. I can guarantee you that, “Rivers laughed Wednesday during a video call with reporters. “And the difference is that during the summer, Kawhi couldn’t work, you know, so now he has this break and he is able to train.
“The Kawhi we will see will be in phenomenal shape. PG [Paul George] is another guy who is going to be in phenomenal shape. ”
When the season was suspended on March 11, after Utah Jazz Rudy Gobert tested positive for COVID-19, the Clippers (44-20) had won seven of their previous eight games.
After reviewing all the wins and losses during this break, Rivers says he thinks his team is about to make a big run because they are finally in good health and developing chemistry.
“We are really good,” said Rivers of what he knows about his team after studying the season again. “What I really know is the last 10 games, we became the Clippers. You could literally feel it. … We started to understand each other. … We played transparently via Kawhi and PG. It wasn’t. The guys weren’t trying to stay away from each other. You could feel the rhythm. Even the loss of the Lakers [on March 8], where we, I think, played horribly in this game, and it was one of our recoil games … we still had a chance, and it was our D game, you know?
“I really thought we were on the verge of a crazy race on the stretch. And unfortunately, bam, it stopped. … I love where we were. And given the way we play and how we get together, this team is good. I think we could beat anyone. “
Rivers assigned all of his assistants potential playoff opponents to spot and prepare for, the Clippers being second in the Western Conference when play was suspended. The coach said he is wondering about the possibilities and scenarios for an NBA post-season, including whether it might require something as unique as an “NCAA tournament style” or a best- of-three.
“If that means we can play and continue our quest for the goal we want, I feel like Dr. Seuss:” I will play anywhere. I will play in a house. I’ll play with a mouse, “said Rivers. . “I think that’s what our team is feeling. We don’t care where, when, why, what. We just want to reach our goal. I’m talking about it myself. “
The Clippers have tried to keep their players in the best shape possible by providing them with personal training equipment to build home gyms if necessary. Having Steve Ballmer, the owner with the deepest pockets in the NBA, benefited the Clippers during this period of uncertainty.
“Our performance and medical team did a great job of probably seeing what lies ahead and said that we will probably have to bring each of our players back to the home gyms,” said Lawrence Frank, president of basketball operations . “And being one step ahead of these guys made it happen, because once the NBA shut down facilities, when all the teams called for supplies, there was such a race because you are not only dealing with the NBA but with all the athletes, and literally, people were out of equipment. “
The team held training sessions for players via Zoom, with nine participants in video training sessions at certain times. Frank said that very few Clippers have been able to shoot a basketball.
“Some guys have an outside hoop right next to them,” said Frank. “We had a guy who tried to drive all around L.A. to find an outer hoop, but all the rims were taken apart. “
Rivers does his best to keep his team ready. He calls three to four of his players every day and uses Zoom to hold meetings with his coaches two to three times a week.
“If it starts, you can say that our players are invested in the season,” said Rivers. “And they don’t want this season to go away. And they work like it’s not going away. “
Rivers spoke with former Celtics player Kevin Garnett after Garnett was named to the 2020 Hall of Fame class on Saturday. The fiery former MVP told his former coach that it could be the best playoffs ever if the NBA could continue this season because every team should be in good health.
“In the typical KG way … he just said, ‘I don’t want to hear a motherly apology!’ Said Rivers. “… If we can come back to it and the guys can get their rhythm over time, that will be the key. It may be the best played playoffs in history because of that. “