February 25, 2024

Back in the city where he grew famous for his excitable, full-decibel addresses to Microsoft employees, Steve Ballmer grabbed a microphone before tipoff Tuesday inside an arena at Seattle’s center and asked for help.

Ballmer, the Seattleite and Clippers owner, wanted fans to give his team a warm welcome. “All night long,” he roared, “we better be loud enough in this building to hear us all the way back in New York, if you get me,” a reference to the NBA league office that in coming years could decide whether to give this city an expansion team to replace its long-gone SuperSonics.

That is a work in progress. For that matter, so is this iteration of the Clippers, who beat the Utah Jazz, 103-98, to even their preseason record at 1-1 with two more exhibitions left.

The Clippers’ biggest concern isn’t shooting, although they followed their 39% shooting, including 26% on three-pointers, in Sunday’s preseason-opening loss to Utah in Hawaii with 38% shooting in Tuesday’s rematch. This time they made 27% of their three-pointers.

When they will regain their accuracy is less important than when they will return to full health. After starting training camp that way last week, Marcus Morris Sr. (strained left groin), Norman Powell (strained left groin), Ivica Zubac (back spasms) and Brandon Boston Jr. (knee contusion) have been added to the injury list since Saturday.

Most importantly for a team whose last three seasons ended with either Kawhi Leonard or Paul George injured, both stars have looked physically ready for the season.

Leonard scored a team-high 16 points on 12 shots, of which 10 were three-pointers, a far higher share than is typical. George scored three points white making one of nine shots but had five assists and four rebounds.

The Clippers pulled Leonard, George and starting point guard Russell Westbrook at halftime, but a young lineup grew their lead to 19 before the Jazz erased it over the final eight minutes of the third quarter. Westbrook added five rebounds, three assists, three turnovers and two steals but didn’t score, taking only one shot.

Coach Tyronn Lue started Robert Covington and the veteran forward, who never started last season and averaged just 16.2 minutes, the fewest of his career since his rookie season, produced a strong case for more minutes. Covington had 11 points and showcased his active hands with four blocks, three rebounds and two steals in 22 minutes.

Amir Coffey scored 15 points off the bench for the Clippers.

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