February 25, 2024

An NBA guard for 11 years who has coached LeBron James, Paul George and Kawhi Leonard, Tyronn Lue knows how veteran players think. In particular, he knows how they feel about the preseason.

“Veteran players, they always try to ease into it,” Lue said Sunday, before the Clippers’ first preseason game at Stan Sheriff Center. “And I wanted to try to change that mind-set of just establishing who we are from Day One.”

It has become the Clippers’ theme of training camp, that no matter the setting, the Clippers say they expect an urgency they lacked at times last season.

“I know it doesn’t count, but we still can establish … offensively a pushing the pace, attacking the basket, having great spacing defensively and being physical one through five, just bringing our physicality,” Lue said.

The Clippers did not unveil a full preview of who they could be against the Utah Jazz on Sunday, losing their first game of the preseason at the University of Hawaii 101-96. Starting point guard Russell Westbrook and forward Nicolas Batum didn’t play, the team citing rest. Backup point guard Bones Hyland took Westbrook’s place and Terance Mann joined him in the starting lineup.

Forward Marcus Morris Sr. didn’t play after injuring his left groin in practice Saturday and will miss Tuesday’s next preseason game in Seattle, also against Utah, as well.

As expected, the Clippers were imperfect, the starters at times making dangerous passes — a major sticking point from last season — and their physicality rebuffed in moments, such as Ivica Zubac’s opening post-up easily swatted by Utah’s Walker Kessler.

Yet there were flashes that the themes of the season’s first week of practices had taken hold, led by veterans including Leonard and Paul George, who did not ease into their fifth season as Clippers during just more than one quarter of work apiece.

George finished with eight points, five rebounds, three steals and two assists in 15 minutes, using a behind-the-back dribble to free himself for one three-pointer and a spin for another. Leonard didn’t leisurely dribble upcourt after misses, but pushed for shots. He also hounded Talen Horton-Tucker near the midcourt logo to tip away his dribble. He finished with 11 points, with two rebounds and two steals.

Hyland scored a game-high 18 points for the Clippers.

There was even what Lue wanted to see most — a show of fight. Trailing by 12 with six minutes left in the fourth quarter, a lineup featuring some of the youngest Clippers, including rookies Kobe Brown and Jordan Miller, tied the score within four minutes. Teammates leapt off the bench to celebrate Amir Coffey’s score-tying three-pointer with two minutes to play. It was not enough in this opener. They hope it might build into something in the coming weeks.

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