The L.A. Clippers made an investment in development when they officially joined the G League last season. As injuries struck the big club, Agua Caliente delivered reinforcements like Tyrone Wallace, C.J. Williams, and Jamil Wilson—all of whom made important contributions to a team that battled its way to 42 wins.
In total, two-way players and players on 10-day contracts played in a combined 86 games -- starting 46 of them -- for a combined 1,839 minutes.
This year, they are doubling down, showing the commitment to developing talent extends to the bench.
On August 1st, the team announced several promotions to their coaching staff that signify an investment paying off.
Casey Hill, who served as Head Coach in the Agua Caliente Clippers’ inaugural season, has earned a spot on Doc Rivers’ bench. Natalie Nakase, as assistant for AC, will now serve on the Clippers’ player development staff. Brian Adams, who was a coaching associate with the Clippers, will now take the head coaching reigns, replacing Coach Hill. Elevating all three coaches to their new respective positions will provide each opportunities to grow their careers.
“I am very happy for Brian, Casey and Natalie,” said head coach Doc Rivers. “Those three work very hard and have been crucial to our development at the NBA and G League levels. Their persistence in getting better every day has improved our organization each day and we look forward to having them in their well-deserved new positions.”
The moves come as the franchise continues to build its foundation under the leadership of Lawrence Frank, who took over as President of Basketball Operations last summer, and NBA legend Jerry West, who joined the team following an incredibly successful stint in a similar position with the Golden State Warriors.
"Promoting Brian, Casey, and Natalie to new positions on staff is a reflection of our investment in building a best-in-class organization deeply committed to the development of each and every person that joins the club," said Frank. "I have seen the hard work and dedication of these three coaches and I am proud to see their growth be recognized with these opportunities."
Over the last year, the Clippers have shown an organizational commitment to develop the young players on their roster. Jawun Evans (39th pick) and Sindarius Thornwell (48th pick) made strides as rookies, as they were pushed into significant playing time due to injuries. Wallace (60th pick in 2016) and C.J. Williams (undrafted in 2012) showed they were ready to contribute when their numbers were called.
Wallace finished fourth in the G League in points at 22.6 per game to go along with 6.3 rebounds, 5.5 assists, 1.5 steals, and 0.9 blocks per game on 51 percent shooting from the field. In 30 NBA appearances, Wallace was able to compete with the best, averaging 9.7 points, 3.5 rebounds, 2.4 assists, and 0.9 steals on 44.5 percent shooting in 28.4 minutes of action.
Williams averaged 16.5 points, 3.9 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 1.3 steals, 0.8 blocks, and 2.8 three-pointers per game on 42 percent shooting with Agua Caliente. In 38 appearances with the LA Clippers, Williams averaged 5.5 points, 1.5 rebounds, and 1.1 assists per game in 18.6 minutes.
"We found the G League to be crucial to our team’s success last season, and Casey’s promotion to Doc’s staff is a direct reflection of his effectiveness as Agua Caliente’s head coach," said Frank. "The decision to move Brian Adams into that role going forward is further indicative of our goal to continue building our G League affiliate as an extension of the NBA club. Brian’s five years of experience working in LA have him well prepared to augment and expand the systems and processes we began to implement in Ontario last season."
Casey Hill comes from a coaching family, as he is the son of 13-year NBA coach Bob Hill. After one season as an assistant with the Santa Cruz Warriors, Golden State's G League team, he became the team's head coach in 2013 and won the D-League championship in 2015. He headed the program for four years until 2017 when he became head coach of the Agua Caliente Clippers in their inaugural season.
"Casey did a tremendous job launching our G League affiliate and establishing a culture and system in Agua Caliente that mirrors that of our NBA club,” said Frank. “Eight players on our roster in LA spent time either practicing, rehabbing or playing games with Agua Caliente, and we were thrilled to see the strides made by our two-way players, assignment and affiliates made under Casey’s care. In that short time, Casey’s humility, professionalism, leadership and personability have stood out to our organization’s leadership and are thrilled to have him with the team.”
Natalie Nakase joined the Clippers on an internship as a video intern in 2012, quickly working her way up to an assistant coach role during the 2014 NBA Summer League, and just recently completed her first season as assistant coach for the Agua Caliente Clippers. Now, her new position will be shifting her focus to the player development staff alongside former NBA player Dee Brown and coach J.P. Clark.
"Natalie has been working closely with our players throughout her six-plus years with the organization," said Frank of coach Nakase. "Her diverse basketball background of domestic and international experience, along with her understanding of the game, has well-equipped her to continue building the strong relationships that will drive her success."
Together, Agua Caliente coaches Hill and Nakase were critical in the development of both Wallace, who played well in 30 games for the Clippers including 19 starts this past season, as well as Williams, who played 38 games including 17 starts. This is another stepping stone for the well-respected Nakase, whose dreams include one day becoming an NBA coach.
"Natalie was an integral component of the Agua Caliente Clippers’ inaugural season in the G League, helping to develop each player on the roster, as well as the time she spent in LA, working with our players during training camp and summer league. We are excited to have her continue her coaching journey in LA this season."
Coach Brian Adams has four seasons of experience as video coordinator with the Boston Celtics from 2006-2010 and was the Coaching Associate with the LA Clippers for the last three years. Despite his wealth of experience, Adams has been thrust into a new role as the head coach for Agua Caliente.
"Brian has an impressive passion for basketball and teaching," said Frank. "He is a tireless worker, effective at communicating with our players, and genuinely cares about their growth and development. Brian’s work on the court, along with his time spent with our video team, have been important to our coaching staff and our team's performance. I am excited to see Brian’s own continued growth and development as Head Coach and leader of the Agua Caliente Clippers this season."
Coaches Casey Hill, Natalie Nakase, and Brian Adams define the professionalism and the commitment to excellence that the Clippers are striving for as an organization that hasn’t always been seen favorably in the public eye. These moves clearly show that the best is yet to come for the LA Clippers.