Lou Williams is the latest Clipper to leave the bubble, according to a league source. The veteran guard joins teammates Montrezl Harrell and Patrick Beverley as having departed with an excused absence.
The Clippers, who are considered among the title favorites in Orlando, Florida, also continue to await the arrival of guard Landry Shamet and center Ivica Zubac, who have yet to be seen on the NBA campus, where the league is slated to restart its suspended season July 30.
Williams played well in the first NBA action in four months during the Clippers’ opening scrimmage game Wednesday, when he led all scorers with 22 points in 17 minutes off the bench.
After the game, the Clippers guard expressed his support for Harrell and Beverley and spoke of the “interesting” experience of playing without fans. The team also posted a short video of Williams sauntering down the hallway, pleased after the exhibition victory: “Undefeated in Orlando. Keep goin’. Twenty-six more to go.”
Before the league convened in Orlando, Florida, the NBA and its players agreed on rules permitting players to leave campus for certain circumstances, such as the birth of a child, a death in the family or other medical or personal emergencies, according to ESPN.
If his absence lasts seven days or fewer, Williams – like Beverley and Harrell – reportedly will quarantine for four days upon returning to the NBA bubble if he has a negative test each day he’s outside the bubble, per ESPN.
Although Coach Doc Rivers declines to comment on the specifics of his players’ whereabouts if they’re apart from the team, he acknowledged after practice Friday that it’s a challenge without his full roster on site.
“It’s different, there’s no doubt about that,” Rivers said. “I do think it always hurts your team when you don’t have all your guys. Today we have a practice, a lot of our guys aren’t there. That’s never healthy for your team, especially a team that really hasn’t been together. We’re a new team.”
This season, the Clippers (44-20 and seeded second in the Western Conference) are incorporating superstars Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, both of whom were limited to start the season. George also missed the first 11 games as he finished rehabbing his shoulders following offseason surgery.
Those two are healthy for the restart, but the Clippers now have huge holes elsewhere – including, now, the absence the three-time Sixth Man of the Year, who’s a leading voice in the locker room and who this season was averaging 18.7 points per game.
“This year so far, we really have not caught a great break as far as being able to work together,” Rivers said. “I got to say this team so far, they keep impressing – me as, well – with their ability to figure out a way of playing together even though we don’t have a lot of minutes on the floor playing together.”
Rivers also addressed the unique challenges created by the protocols put in place to finish the season on a closed campus during the coronavirus pandemic.
“I think we all knew that we could start the league,” Rivers said. “The key is can we finish? I think that will be the big thing.
“I think what the league has learned that teams have already known, it’s more than basketball that comes up. Guys have life going on. Whether it be a family problem, a kid problem, a wife problem, anything, there’s issues that come in these guys’ life.
“We give guys days off all the time because of it. No one really notices it. Now when you’re in the bubble and you leave, it really targets it. I think in a good way in this, the public actually sees that the NBA players actually are human and they do have regular life issues going on.
“The problem is usually with the life issues you can come back to the team and play the next day. Now with the life issue, you have to quarantine for 48 hours or four days. That’s very tough.
“But we have to do that to make sure everybody stays healthy. It’s a tough one. It’s a tough blow for teams now when a family issue does happen because you don’t just get them back, you lose them for about a week. That’s different. But we’re all under the same thing.”
Down so many players, the Clippers might have a reinforcement on the way.
On Thursday, the G League’s Twitter account posted a photo of Clippers’ forward-center Jonathan Motley with the note: “paint beast Jonathan Motley is headed to Orlando with the @laclippers.”
Rivers wouldn’t say what plans the Clippers might have for the two-way standout, who recently was named to the 2019-20 All-NBA G League Second Team after he averaged 24 points, 7.9 rebounds, 2.9 assists and 1 block in 33 minutes per game in his second season splitting time with the Agua Caliente Clippers of Ontario.
“We just stay away from guys who aren’t here,” Rivers said.
— LA Clippers (@LAClippers) July 23, 2020
One down. pic.twitter.com/PpE2aVt5qr
— LA Clippers (@LAClippers) July 23, 2020
Source: Orange County Register