By Beth Harris, Associated Press
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Kawhi Leonard and Paul George have already passed the chemistry test with the Los Angeles Clippers.
The two superstars have been quick to integrate themselves with their new team and the result is an easy, teasing camaraderie. Whether it’s enough to advance the once beleaguered franchise past the second round of the playoffs for the first time — let alone win an NBA championship — remains to be seen.
But clearly these guys are already having fun.
There was a fishing trip and a paintball outing — yep, Patrick Beverley was so competitive he splattered his own teammates — that made early impressions in a season the Clippers hope will be their most memorable yet.
“If we maintain that, we’re going to get through anything,” George said Sunday (Monday, PHL time) at the team’s media day.
Leonard and George may be the biggest fish on the roster, but neither caught the largest when several of the Clippers took to the water. That honor belonged to a woman on the boat.
And what happened to their fish shown off on social media?
“Like anybody else would do,” Leonard replied. “Have someone else fillet it, cook it, and eat it.”
But he and George don’t expect to do all the heavy lifting this season.
“Everybody on the same page,” George said of the collective mindset, “and we go out as one.”
Leonard led Toronto to its first NBA title last season, and he ticked off the characteristics of a championship team: high character, sacrifice and will to win.
“Go out there as one unit trying to accomplish that one goal,” he said. “It’s about enjoying the journey and not getting ahead of yourself. You also have to stay healthy as well.”
The upcoming season already feels different to Leonard. He’s past the right quad injury from 2017-18 that hastened his departure from San Antonio and subsequent trade to the Raptors.
“This year I’m feeling way better than I was at the start of last season,” he said, adding there’s no plan yet for his load management.
It’s possible the Clippers will be without George for their season opener Oct. 22 (Oct. 23, PHL time) against LeBron James and the Lakers. He’s still rehabbing from offseason shoulder surgery that followed an injury-plagued ending to his time in Oklahoma City. George will be with the team at training camp in Hawaii starting Monday, but won’t participate in contact.
Coach Doc Rivers was at the team’s practice facility Sunday (Monday, PHL time), but he didn’t speak to the media.
Other things to know about the Clippers:
Led by Beverley, the Clippers brought a ferocious attitude on defense last season.
His prediction with Leonard and George on the floor?
“That scrappiness attitude, but on steroids,” Beverley said.
That being said, Beverley is making it a goal to cut down on his technical fouls.
Count Lou Williams as a skeptic.
“I don’t know if there’s a way to tell Pat Beverley to chill out,” he said.
Leonard and George are both glad to be back home. Leonard is from Riverside and George is from the high desert city of Palmdale, located north of Los Angeles.
“The fact that I’m unpacking instead of packing at this time is a surreal moment,” George said.
Leonard has already reached out to local schools with a large-scale donation of backpacks. Despite his low-key reputation, Leonard wants to be visible in the community and “for them to see me, for them to shake my hand.”
THE YOUNG GUYS
Leonard and George have been generous in sharing their knowledge with the younger Clippers, including Landry Shamet and Jerome Robinson.
Even with George sidelined early, he’s still an influence.
“Sometimes guys don’t have to do anything,” Rodney McGruder said. “It’s just their presence.”