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Doc Rivers’ perfect response to 2019-20 NBA championship having an asterisk

Doc Rivers, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Kawhi Leonard, LeBron James, Gold star

LOS ANGELES – Any asterisk talk for this season’s NBA Championship is being cast aside. LA Clippers coach Doc Rivers believes whoever wins this year’s title is deserving of a gold-star, not an asterisk.

“I was talking to Commissioner [Adam Silver] last week, and he made a comment, which I agree,” Rivers told members of the media on Wednesday. “He said, ‘the team that wins this will deserve a gold star, not an asterisk.'”

Whichever team is able to make their way to the NBA Finals will be spending around 90-100 days in the Orlando bubble, potentially without seeing their families, significant others, and other loved ones. If anyone does opt to leave the Orlando bubble for any reason, they’ll be forced into a 14-day quarantine period before they can return to the court.

All things considered, the 2020 NBA Champions are going to be one of the most disciplined teams in the NBA history.

“If you think about the mental toughness it’s going to take to [win] — whoever comes out of this, it’s going to come down to that,” Rivers added. “It’s going to come down to talent. It’s going to come down to teams trying to get back together and play together. But there’s going to be so many things that are thrown at us that we don’t even know yet that it’s really going to be a mental toughness challenge.”

The Clippers began mandatory practice in their facility on Wednesday, July 1st, where guys like Lou Williams, Reggie Jackson, Joakim Noah, and Landry Shamet were putting in work both on and off the court. Up until then, players were limited to 45 minute workouts with an individual coach with no more than three or four players in the facility at the same time. Most of the team’s work was done during Zoom conference calls, where players engaged in workouts with coaches.

“Lawrence Frank and our entire staff really got out ahead of this early,” Doc Rivers explained. “We didn’t know how long — like no one knew how long we would be in this pandemic when it started. We just knew that conditioning would be a major part played into this. So fortunately for us we got that one right, and it’s been great. Our guys have been very involved in it.

“The one thing I would say from our players, early on we started doing these Zoom workouts, and they were all in. And so I think if there’s appreciation, that would be it. The appreciation more is from me to them instead of the other way around because you can send the equipment — listen, I’ve got a ton of equipment at my house, but it also has towels and underwear and other things laying on it. I haven’t used it in years. So it’s not just about the equipment, it’s about the will.”

RELATED: Lou Williams expected to travel with Clippers, play in Orlando

With all signs pointing to a drastically different environment in Orlando than what NBA players have been used to, mental toughness has become one of the focal points for the Clippers.

“Yeah, we do talk about it. I love using a lot of military things to try to correlate what we’re doing. 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.”

Clippers guard Landry Shamet, who always carries himself in a laser-focused, serious manner when it comes to basketball, says mental toughness is everything, regardless of the circumstances.

“Mental toughness is everything, regardless if there’s fans or not,” Shamet said. “I mean, some of the most competitive basketball has just been pickup, just show up to a gym, pick up, everybody is talking to each other. There’s environments like that that still foster really, really competitive play, and this is the NBA, so it’s the best athletes in the world playing against each other, and just because there’s not going to be a few fans is no reason to believe that it’s not going to be competitive basketball.

“You know, it’ll still be competitive. It’ll still be a lot of fun, and yeah, mental toughness is always huge and key in any sport, any high-level sport, so it’ll be just as key and important.”

The Clippers are scheduled to practice together for the next week in LA before traveling to Orlando on July 8th for the NBA’s multi-week training camp.

The road to the NBA Championship will be the most difficult path imaginable. And even if everything is done right, a positive coronavirus test could change an entire team’s season. The champions will be putting an asterisk next to their title, but only to represent the increasingly difficult road they had to face to win it all.

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