PLAYA VISTA, Calif. — Months after being eliminated by the Phoenix Suns with a shorthanded roster, the Los Angeles Clippers are healthy and ready to initiate the new 2023-24 season.
The team marked another Media Day in the books on Monday as players, coaches and staff hosted reporters at the Honey Training Center.
Clippers head coach Ty Lue started the day by assuring the crowd his team is not only prepared, but also fully healthy for this year.
“Just being excited to be together,” answered head coach Ty Lue on his team’s first priority this season. “Having the chance to start a new season. Coming back, having a full roster, everyone’s healthy … Just excited to get together and start the process.”
Here are three of the biggest takeaways from Monday:
Kawhi Leonard responds to NBA’s new Player Participation Policy
Nearly three weeks ago, the NBA board of governors unanimously voted to approve harsher penalties for teams who sit out their star players (including national TV and in-season tournament games). The new rules also state teams can no longer rest more than one star player at a time and can not shut players down without getting an apparent injury approved.
During the Clippers media day, Leonard at first said he was not aware of what the league’s new policies were. After getting a brief explanation from a reporter, the two-time NBA champ did not hold back in his thoughts on load management claims.
“When I was with the Raptors, it was different. I was coming off an injury,” stated Leonard. “If the NBA is trying to mock that, then they should stop. Other than that, if I’m able to play, I’ll play basketball.”
Leonard missed the final three games in his team’s last postseason bout due to a torn meniscus. Before that he missed 30 regular season games as well as the entire 2021-22 regular season, this time due to a torn ACL.
Prior to his time with the Clippers, Leonard had a supposed falling out with the San Antonio Spurs related to his health and playing time. He has yet to play more than 60 games in a regular season since 2016.
Russell Westbrook prepares for first Clippers training camp
In July Russell Westbrook resigned with the Clippers on a two-year deal worth almost $8 million (the first year is capped at $3.8 million), according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.
Westbrook bounced back with the Clippers late last season after a considerably tough year-and-a-half with the Los Angeles Lakers. He was traded from the purple-and-gold, bought out by the Utah Jazz and ultimately went on to help the Clippers reach the first round of playoffs. The Clippers ended the season just 12-14 in 26 total games with Westbrook in the lineup.
Despite his recent comeback, this most recent re-signing has forced Westbrook to take the largest pay cut in NBA history. In 2022, the former MVP and nine-time All-Star made $47 million in salary and will now make a steep difference of $43 million.
When asked about his massive pay cut during Monday’s Media Day, Westbrook made it clear that money is the least of his concerns heading into this new season.
“Money is not ever a driver for me in any aspect,” Westbrook told reporters. “Being at a place that’s welcoming with open arms, an organization that’s welcomed both me and my family with open arms… Can’t get too much better than that.”
Westbrook is entering his 16th year as a professional and will soon turn 35 in November. He went on to assure the media Monday that he still has some longevity.
Nicolas Batum addresses retirement rumors
During the offseason, Nicolas Batum’s wife, Lily Batum, suggested that the 15-year NBA veteran may be retiring after the upcoming season.
When asked about his retirement plans Monday, Batum shared that he is undecided on his future with the league after this season.
“This is the last year of my contract after 16 years. We’ll see what happens after… Maybe I’ll stay in the league, maybe I won’t,” Batum said.
While his status as a starter this season still has yet to be decided, Batum has played an imperative role for the Clippers. Last season, the 34-year-old Clippers forward played about 21 minutes a night for the team while averaging 6.1 points and 3.8 rebounds a game.
Batum remains under contract with the Clippers for $117 million this upcoming season, but we will have to wait on his decision to continue on the court.
The conclusion of Monday’s media day marks the next stepping stone for the Clippers – training camp. The team will travel to Hawaii for their preseason training camp which kicks off Oct. 3 before their first preseason game against the Utah Jazz on Oct. 8.