Los Angeles Clippers enter 2022-23 season – Year 4 of Kohi Leonard–Paul George Era – with tremendous expectations. They have a two-way star binary. They probably have the deepest roster in the league. They are loaded with veteran experience and interchangeable players at almost every position. And they have expert coach tactician Tyronn Lue to make it all work.
They have strengthened the point guard position, which was previously considered an area they could improve, by adding the All-Star five times. John Wall.
But the most important thing when it comes to the Clippers is that they are in good health, and they hope this will continue into June.
“Very excited for what’s coming this year,” George said. “Since I’ve been here, I think we’ll still have to deliver a full healthy season with everyone in uniform. There is a lot of optimism about what we can achieve when we’re all at full strength.
“I think this year is definitely a great opportunity to win – and win big. And I think everyone can feel that.”
There’s a reason owner Steve Palmer, known for tearing his shirt off while cheering on the Clippers’ less talented teams, is ready to blast this season. The Clippers currently have the second shortest odds of winning the West, behind defending champion Golden State Warriors, according to Caesars Sportsbook.
Here are the top five questions facing the Clippers in entering this all-important season:
1. Can Kawhi Leonard regain his dominant form?
It’s been a long time since Leonard played a meaningful game. When he tore the ACL right in Game 4 of the second-round series against the Utah Jazz on June 14, 2021, Leonard had the most dominant basketball play over Clipper – averaging 30.4 points, 7.7 rebounds, 4.4 assists, 2.1 steals, and shooting 57.3% off the field in the playoffs.
With a full season to recover, Leonard looked bloated after spending 14 months in the gym.
“It looks sharp and explosive and fast,” George told ESPN. “He’s gotten bigger and stronger. It’s scary – he’s put on more muscle. It’s a scary rivalry.”
Clippers will be very attentive, though, with Leonard’s health and minutes. The Los Angeles schedule is preloaded, with the Clippers playing 61 games before the All-Star break. They have 11 of 15 players in a row before February, so it’s certainly possible that Leonard won’t play a full game early.
Coming back from a torn ACL is tough, especially for a player like Leonard, who plays with such strength and power. But he knows what it means to come out of a major leg injury that required a vacation and win the championship. In 2018-19, Leonard returned and led Toronto to the title after playing in just nine games the previous season due to a quadriceps injury with the San Antonio Spurs.
Leonard played 60 regular season games during his only season in Toronto before leading the Raptors to the championship.
“I don’t play 5v5 in the summer,” Leonard said Monday after scoring 11 points and four rebounds in 16 minutes in the first half in the pre-season rematch against Portland. “I don’t play mini basketball, I don’t play 2v2. I never did. I probably wouldn’t. So it all seemed normal to me. [in his return].
“The last time I went out with a knee injury, I didn’t play pickup. My first time to play [5-on-5] It was against my teammates in 2018-19.”
The Clippers and Leonard goal is to move him past the season in good health and back in shape by April. And then the two-time Finalist’s best player can do what he does best in the playoffs.
2. Is this the year that Leonard and Paul George finally made what they went for in Los Angeles?
While this is their fourth season together, Leonard and George have only played 104 regular season and postseason games together – going 72-32 – due to health.
Furthermore, they haven’t played together in a game since June 14, 2021. It will take some time for the two to get back on the same page again, but they have been trying to keep in touch.
George helped organize two campy trips in San Diego and Santa Barbara and paid for some of his younger teammates. Last season, when Leonard wasn’t playing and George was out for three months with an elbow injury, the two traveled with the team on occasion and together they analyzed what the Clippers were doing.
When Leonard went into the playoffs in 2021, George upped his game and carried the Clippers, leading them to the Western Conference Finals for the first time ever. He continued to play high-level basketball until he injured his elbow on a shot last December. George averaged 24.3 points, 6.9 rebounds and 5.7 assists in 31 games last season, but he contracted the COVID-19 virus and missed the team’s second and final game.
George may have to take the burden off the team early on with Leonard back. But once Leonard is back in shape, the two will share the burden of taking the franchise to a place never seen before. That was the goal when the two decided to return to their Southern California roots and join the Clippers.
They never imagined that their first three seasons would be interrupted by a pandemic and injuries.
“I think both of us were kind of an inner promise,” George said. “I know I did for myself, to bring a championship here. Then when you look at how close we were two years ago, the year my ankle got hurt, and how close we were, I didn’t want to leave anything on the table that I could have done more.”
This is why George felt this casual was so important and says he was “more focused” than ever to work on his game, his body, and his camaraderie with his teammates. George hopes that he and Leonard will help him get to where they were planning to go when they decided to join forces in the summer of 2019.
3. Could John Wall Be The Final Piece Of The Clippers Machine?
While Reggie Jackson He went up and provided scoring and some shots, the Clippers needed a real passing point guard who could facilitate and help get Leonard and George’s shots easier when defenses narrowed. The wall gives them the most talented and decorated Ranger point they’ve had since Chris Paul.
The All-Star Five has averaged 9.1 assists in his career. But Wall came after he didn’t play last season as the Houston Rockets opted to rebuild. He has played 40 games in the past three seasons and underwent surgery on his Achilles tendon in 2019.
While the Clippers say Wall looked great in all of the off-season training, the veteran still has to show if he has the elite pace that once made him the fastest goalkeeper in the game. There were no actual chances for Wall to run on his pre-season debut on Monday, but he did have five points and three assists, showing his ability to create easy chances for his huge man and press defenses at the edge.
“I could brag [the speed] “Half the field,” Wall said. But I was just trying to run the combos and get used to being in the moment with some guys but just trying to push the pace and keep the pace as much as possible.
“Everything will come to me, everything is easy, I also know I still have the things I need, but for now I think for us she is just trying to figure out different formations.”
Wall is vying with Jackson for the sole place in the starting lineup. He starts the Clippers’ next preliminary game on Sunday. While Jackson could eventually retain the starting job, Lue hopes Wall will up the team’s tempo after finishing 19th in pace last season.
The Clippers expect Wall to give them another player who can switch defensively in multiple positions and get open shots for his teammates. According to Second Spectrum data, the Clippers have ranked first in the league in the past two seasons on catch-and-shoot 3-point throws, something that could improve with Wall’s passing.
Lue says he thinks Wall will bring in an intangible key, too.
“The players don’t want to hear from the coach all the time,” he told me of team leadership. “John, he’s an outspoken leader. He talks and engages a lot of guys.”
Lue added why Wall could become captain of the Clippers “…I think when he came into our locker room, it was instant respect.” “The guys respect him for what he did and how he plays. It was so easy for him.”
4. How will Ty Lue manage the deepest team in the NBA?
It’s a good bet that Lue has spent several nights late this season preparing various squads to recruit the deepest roster in the NBA.
He has long envisioned a squad of five interchangeable wings that can score, switch and defend any position. Lue now has players to do just that in theory. With the likes of Leonard, George, Marcus Morris Sr.. , Nick Patom And the Robert CovingtonLue can throw an assortment of wingspans that are 6 feet 7 and longer on the ground.
“We can switch everything up,” George said. “That’s the beauty and the scariest part of our squad now. We can switch everything and still not give up a basket.”
George added: “It’s going to cause some coaches – it might really overtake the league to where the game might go to five wards on the floor. We could be the kind of team teams are trying to emulate because of success, we hope to do that.”
Lu said he plans to start George, Leonard, Morris and Ivica Zubak Then it was decided between Jackson and Wall at the guard post. But he manipulated the team’s second pre-season game with several of his key players on the ground, even using a squad that included Wall and Jackson in the backcourt together. Lue says Bi-Directional Versatile Norman Powell He can play some reserve point guards, while George can also see handling missions in some formations.
The tricky part about having such a loaded roster that can be 11 deep is that veterans who used to play bigger roles might not play as much.
But the Clippers have many players with attractive contracts that are easy to manage and could be in a position to swoop in if any attractive players become available on a deadline to trade could be very active with several teams likely vying for the expected first place Victor Wimpanyama in the draft. .
5. Will the Clippers improve tournament chemistry?
Kawhi Leonard is already looking in mid-season shape, firing his superb shot at the Clippers’ baseline.
The Clippers have superstars, coach, veteran experience and unparalleled depth. So it is very likely that their hopes for the title will come down to the intangible.
Health is clearly the most important thing, led by Leonard and George Wall. But the connection with this will be the harmony of the team.
How would the Clippers’ chemistry be affected if they had to monitor Leonard Wall’s minutes to make sure they’re both at their peak post-season? Will the Clippers have enough time with all their players on the ground together to enter the playoffs so that they don’t learn each other and get tangled up at the most important time of the season?
Powell and Covington will be in their first full season with the Clippers after their transfer in a deal last season. Wall must learn about his new teammates as he tries to recover from his long absence.
This is why George and Leonard got the players together off-season and why Lue set up training camp for the team in Las Vegas and Seattle. There was plenty of time for the team to bond, which the Clippers hope will pay off in April, May and possibly June.