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Doc Rivers’ message to Clippers to begin NBA’s restart

Doc Rivers, Paul George, Kawhi Leonard, Clippers

LOS ANGELES – For the LA Clippers, Day 3 inside the NBA’s Orlando bubble marked the beginning of training camp. The team started group workouts without Kawhi Leonard, Landry Shamet, JaMychal Green, and Ivica Zubac, who stayed back in Los Angeles for various reasons.

While the Orlando bubble may be the safest place for players, coaches, training staff, and whoever else was part of the traveling party, the reality is the coronavirus could still find its way inside. Shamet already tested positive, but that was back in Los Angeles and is expected to re-join the team soon.

On top of that, the murders of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and countless other African Americans at the hands of police have continued to spark outrage around the United States. Players will be donning jerseys with messages on the back in support of Black Lives Matter, education, freedom, and more.

Head coach Doc Rivers, however, only had one message for his Clippers in their meeting following their arrival to Orlando.

“We did it when we arrived here to the hotel,” Rivers told members of the media on Friday. “Before we got off the bus, I walked on the back and I talked to each guy and the team as a group about why we were here.

“The message is: We’re on a mission. We’ve been deployed. Nothing is going to distract us. We’re not going to complain about anything. Right now, personally, I think it’s been impressive. When you watch what the NBA has done to try to pull this off, it’s really impressive.”

Doc Rivers, Patrick Beverley, Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, Montrezl Harrell, Clippers

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Rivers echoed a similar mindset last week, when the team began mandatory workouts in their practice facility. That only lasted a day before the team received two positive coronavirus tests, one belonging to Shamet.

“I love using a lot of military things to try to correlate what we’re doing,” Rivers said on July 1st. “Obviously far less important than the military, we know that, but use the Navy Seals as an example. Like they get deployed, right, and they don’t know the situation, they don’t know when exactly they’re going, but they keep preparing, but when they’re called upon — and when they’re called upon they still don’t know, and it’s very similar to that is the way I’m looking at it with our players. It’s to feel like that, feel like we’re going to be deployed for a mission in Orlando, and we have to have great mental toughness to finish it.”

While basketball is set to resume if all goes according to plan, bringing awareness to inequality and police brutality against African Americans remains atop the list of priorities for the Clippers and teams around the league. It’ll be a tough balancing act to start out, but should make for a beneficial movement.

“You pretty much put them in compartments. Before practice, we talk about it. After practice, we’ll talk about it. We’ll also make sure that our guys stay aware of what’s going on. Whatever they’re trying to get out there, whatever message they’re trying to get out there, I think that’s important as well. It will not stop, I can guarantee you. At least not from us.

“Once we’re on the floor, we do our jobs. That’s going to take some time, as well. This is not a normal way of starting back. Usually going into training camp, guys have been scrimmaging for three and four weeks, they’ve been playing, shooting on hoops. That’s not happening. This is a group, some of the guys have not touched a basketball or seen a gym until two weeks ago. We got a lot of work to do on both ends.”

The mission to secure an NBA Championship will be a long and difficult one, deserving of a gold star even. If the Clippers reach the NBA Finals, it’ll mean staying in the bubble until October.

“We love it, we’re here, that’s it,” Rivers added. “That’s our message. This is a business trip for us.”