ORLANDO – By this point at Summer League, players are starting to get antsy to see another team.
But there’s still plenty of work to be done, plays to learn and rotations to figure out, as the Clippers wrapped up their lone practice of the day Friday in advance of Saturday’s start to Summer League competition.
Head coach Brendan O’Connor huddled the team up at 11 a.m., and after stretching and running through plays and drills, the scrimmages began between Team Black – led by the Clippers’ three draft picks, C.J. Wilcox and forward Royce O’Neale – and Team White, headlined by Branden Dawson.
Team Black got the best of Team White early in practice, but after getting some water and going through spot shots and free throws, it was all Team White with the answer later in the day.
Vince Hunter started the scoring and was answered by Diamond Stone on the other end before Team White broke away on a 12-0 run, with Andrew Andrews, Branden Dawson, Julian Washburn and Hunter all adding to that lead. The scrimmages included referees calling fouls during the live action, but there were still teachable moments for O’Connor, including when Stone tried to stop a fast break and was issued a clear-path foul.
“Every year, it’s going to be a little bit different in terms of how quick guys pick things up, and this group has been great,” said O’Connor, who has experience in this forum as he was also the Clippers’ Summer League head coach in Orlando last year. “The great part is the experience, because there’s so many things Doc (Rivers) handles that you have no idea about and then you’re like, ‘Wow, how does he do that every day? How does he get through it all?’ So, you just try to learn that and figure it out.’”
That’s also what the rookies are doing, getting their first glimpse at the jump in talent and the work it takes at the next level. First-round pick Brice Johnson said the adjustment to the two-a-days is tough, but things slowed down Friday with just one practice.
“I am ready to play, though,” Johnson said. “I’d rather play against somebody else other than my own teammates, but I’m enjoying it.”
Wilcox helped Team Black inch closer with five quick points, but Team White always seemed to respond, this time with another bucket from Dawson.
After a brief break, Johnson put Team Black back on the board, but every bucket was followed by a few more from Team White. The scoring was spread out, with Wilcox, Andrews, Dawson, Hunter, Stone, Washburn and Greg Stiemsma each hitting multiple buckets.
In the end, Team White got its redemption, 33-19. O’Connor said the amazing part of Summer League practices so far is how every player on the roster has stood out at one point or another.
“All our young guys we’re super excited about, C.J.’s played really well, Branden had his best practice by far today,” O’Connor said. “But, then you’ve got guys like Greg Stiemsma who just comes in here and does what he does; TaShawn Thomas – I asked our guys how many years he’s been out (of college), because he looks like he’s been playing pro ball for five years. We’ve got Washburn, who’s just a heck of a defender; Andrews. Every single guy has done something.”
The word “excitement” comes up a lot this year at Summer League.
Unlike years past, there’s plenty of reason for it, with all three draft picks present in addition to Wilcox and Dawson, the two Clippers participating in Summer League who were on the team last year.
“Last year we had C.J. and Branden, but Branden was hurt a little bit and the year before we didn’t have C.J. because he was hurt,” O’Connor said. “This year with five guys that are Clippers guys – obviously, you add three draft picks that we’re excited about – but it’s just exciting we’ve got guys we’re working with that have either done it or are going to be doing it with us in September, so it definitely adds excitement. That’s the exact word we’ve been using.”
- Wilcox sat out most of the end of the scrimmage with a calf issue, but he returned for the final portion of practice after getting stretched out by head athletic trainer Jasen Powell.
- Both David Michineau and Hamilton got to the line after attacking the paint.
- Washburn’s known for his defense, but he added scoring in a variety of ways, including an and-one that he finished and a 3-pointer among his eight points for Team White.
- The Clippers begin Orlando Summer League play Saturday at 5 p.m. ET/2 p.m. PT against the Heat.