PLAYA VISTA >> Hey, howzit, Clippers?
Training camp opens Tuesday at the University of Hawaii and if their responses Monday were any indication, the Clippers were already feeling the aloha spirit. Blake Griffin’s surgically repaired foot is good to go. Austin Rivers is over an illness. Danilo Gallinari’s thumb has healed.
So, the Clippers packed their bags and their jump shots for their first training camp in Hawaii, following a well-established route set by the rival Lakers and other West Coast teams. It’s as good a place as any to bond and create a new future with a new cast of characters.
Nine new players joined the team through trades, free agency and the draft since the Clippers were eliminated by the Utah Jazz in the first round of the playoffs last spring. Griffin, Rivers, Wesley Johnson and DeAndre Jordan are the four remaining regulars from last season.
Chris Paul’s departure resulted in a dramatic roster makeover, and one unavoidable question.
Whose team is it, anyway?
“It’s my team,” Jordan joked Monday during media day at the Clippers’ training facility.
“No, it’s all of us,” he added after the laughter died. “It’s going to be a collective effort.”
Clippers coach Doc Rivers said there would be plenty of teaching over the next few days in Hawaii, with a new offense predicated on movement set to be implemented and a gym filled with eager learners on hand. So, it’s important to have everyone healthy and on the court.
“I feel great,” said Griffin, who underwent surgery May 1 to repair the damaged plantar plate under his right big toe. “I’ve pretty much done everything over the last month or month and a half or so. I expect to go tomorrow and not have any setbacks.”
Austin Rivers and Gallinari each said they should be 100 percent for the first day of practice, too. Gallinari was injured punching an opponent while playing for his native Italy in an exhibition game during the summer against the Netherlands.
Doc Rivers, who likes to remind everyone that Doc is just a nickname, expressed caution.
“It’s not the exact way you want to go into camp,” he said, “but we’ve got make sure we get through this period before the first game and keep them healthy. They’re all cleared to play, so that’s a good thing. We just have to monitor them and get them ready for the first game.”
The Clippers play exhibitions against the Toronto Raptors on Oct. 1 and 3 in Hawaii.
Their regular-season opener is Oct. 19 against the Lakers.
Ballmer states case
Clippers owner Steve Ballmer took to Twitter on Sunday to express his support for athletes protesting racism and respond to President Trump’s comments Friday that those who kneel during the national anthem are unpatriotic and should be “fired” by team owners.
Wrote Ballmer in a succinct message that got 1,300 re-tweets and 4,400 likes from among his more than 20,000 followers: “Let’s stop vilifying athletes who stand up for issues they deem important. Let’s encourage citizen participation.”
Griffin agreed with Ballmer, saying Monday, “It’s important for guys to speak their mind. I think everyone has an opinion. The biggest thing is to respect people’s opinions. You don’t have to agree with it, but you do have to respect it.”
Rivers said he would support his players if they protest in some form this season.
“It’s not just up to athletes, and I don’t think this is a black issue, either,” he said. “Or a woman’s issue. This is a human rights issue. Everyone needs to get involved. It shouldn’t be one group. It shouldn’t be just the players. It shouldn’t be just the owners.
“It should be everyone. If anyone thinks the place they live in should be better, then they should get involved. There’s a lot of ways to get involved. I think voting should be the No. 1 way to get involved. That’s what we should all do, really.”
The Clippers made one move before departing for Honolulu, trading guard DeAndre Liggins to the Atlanta Hawks for draft considerations. The deal reportedly also gives the Clippers a year in which to use a $1.67 million trade exception.
Liggins came to the Clippers from the Houston Rockets in the Paul trade last summer. The well-traveled Liggins, 29, has played with Orlando, Oklahoma City, Miami, Cleveland and Dallas in a four-season career spanning 119 NBA games.
Atlanta released Liggins, who had a non-guaranteed contract, just hours after acquiring him. He is now an unrestricted free agent.