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Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Clippers, Magic tip off NBA restarts with scrimmage

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In the first NBA game played in over four months, Los Angeles Clippers guard Lou Williams sat down on Wednesday in the team’s socially spaced bench area and noticed the new atmosphere around him.

The 2019-20 season has started again, as Clippers and Orlando Magicgot resume the season with the first of four scenes at the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida.

Williams, the sixth ruler of the year, heard the familiar voice of the Clippers ‘public address presenter, Eric Smith, after each basket and the in-game music played at Clippers’ domestic games, including the song “DE-FENSE”. He also saw the Clippers’ digital signage, like the one that said “LA Our Way” and the similarities of the players on all the large LED boards that surrounded the field to give it a more intimate look.

But then there was the strange sight of an NBA game in the fan void “The Arena”.

“I listened to the ‘defense’ songs, but once I was actually on the floor, I didn’t hear it, I didn’t hear it, I didn’t see it. I was stuck in the game,” Williams said. “I don’t know who [in-game] the experience is because there are no fans in the arena, but it certainly went well “.

Also, there was the unusual sound of this NBA scrimmage.

“It was really quiet, so you have to bring your energy,” said Orlando’s Aaron Gordon. “You can hear everything being said on the floor … It has a sort of summer championship vibe, and you really have to bring your energy.”

Welcome to the new normal in the NBA, at least for the next four months.

The Clippers – playing without Patrick Beverley, Montrezl Harrell, Landry Shamet and Ivica Zubac – beat the Magic 99-90. But the final score was insignificant. The scrimmage was about the first round of a basketball game on the NBA campus.

Doc Rivers, Doc Rivers, had three assistants seated next to him, although they were socially spaced. Rivers and Orlando coach Steve Clifford had three rows of socially distant assistants and staff members wearing masks sitting behind them, and the nearby marker table had a large shield between the table and the field.

Rivers didn’t take long to realize that without the fans, he didn’t need to stand up and raise his voice to call shows or talk to the referees as he usually does.

“Maybe I’ll have a better voice by the end of this,” he said. “Who knows?”

Coach Luke Walton, whose Kings played in the final scrum Wednesday night, said the noise – or lack thereof – will be something to get used to.

“I think the difference is offensive and defensive,” said Walton. “Defensively, we want to talk, we want to be strong with all of this. Offensively, I think you look at the veterinary guards throughout the league – guys like Chris Paul – and I think with some of those habits that they built where they are alone, when they know I play they are running, they approach every teammate and the kind of whisper in the ear, I think little things like that will be really valuable here. Because some noise, you can definitely hear it. So offensively, you will definitely want to be more peaceful. Defensively, you’ll want to be loud and call cover and call the other team’s game if you can hear it. “

For months after the coronavirus pandemic stopped the sports world, many wondered what an NBA game would look like in the midst of a pandemic. So far, the current plan is working. Two days after the NBA and the National Basketball Players Association announced that there were no positive coronavirus tests on 346 players tested since July 13, the NBA had its first day of action, with four scrimmages.

“I thought it was much more comfortable than I thought,” said Clifford, who spoke with Rivers before the game about things like playing more zone defense in this scrimmage to help each team prepare for the next restart. “I think teams that can adapt to the game in a unique type of different environment without all the fans, whoever has the right mindset so they can only focus on the game, will have a big advantage.

“But the NBA has done an incredible job in the way it has organized everything and set it up to be as comfortable as possible for the players.”

The Clippers and Magic started, and the game was initially sloppy. The players tried to recover their basketball wind after months of running on local treadmills and tracks.

“Lou was saying, ‘Dude, I screwed up for two months, but it’s nothing like the game,'” said Williams Rivers, who led all the 22-point markers. “You could see the first three or four minutes, everyone was pulling. They were a little tired. The wind will quickly reach. I think the pace will come.”

Orlando’s Nikola Vucevic took some time to get used to playing in a non-NBA arena without fans.

“It was a little strange, but overall, the NBA did a great job,” said Vucevic, who had 18 points and 10 rebounds. “They put a bunch of screens in the arena, making the arena dark around us so that it doesn’t feel empty, so there is something going on. It was good enough for a first game but not too bad overall. “

Vucevic noted that the players’ bench area is made up of three rows of socially spaced seats for players who are not on the floor, unlike the normal single bench field. Kawhi Leonard and other Clippers players had designated places with their names.

“Obviously it’s different because depending on where you’re sitting, it’s a bit difficult to get involved in what happens as usual [are] when you’re sitting there on the pitch, “said Vucevic.” So it’s a little different, but with everything going on, the NBA wants to make sure that it takes precautions and gives the rest of the world an example that if we can do it here, we can do it anywhere. “

The guard of the kings Buddy Hield was also complementary to the league.

“We would like to be more together [on the bench], but I understand the protocols of the NBA and what they are doing. They are enforcing social distances. So, I respect that, “he said.” But I think the NBA has done a great job of creating the background and everything else. I mean, it looks really cool. There is a magnificent scenario, and when the guys go inside it’s like, “Yo, this is a really nice setup.” It almost feels like a FIBA ​​basketball tournament when you’re out there and just playing. Here’s what it looks like. All the logos and everything, the “Black Lives Matter” was drugged on the field and on the screens. I think the NBA did a really good job. Shoutout to them. “

Once the game started, Williams and Rivers said the atmosphere had fallen in the background and looked like a basketball game.

“Once you get between the lines, you can create a case that’s probably as comfortable as the players will ever be, as normal as everything will be,” Rivers said. “You could see it. You could see rust and everything else. For them, they had returned to their natural habitat.”

Some players, including Williams, were concerned that restarting the NBA would distract or stifle the fight for social justice and protests against police brutality, with basketball serving as entertainment. But the players played on a field with “Black Lives Matter” written above the central field’s NBA logo.

“I am excited to be part of a company that is together with many players who are strongly convinced of their beliefs,” said Williams, who was “50-50” about coming to Orlando to play until the Clippers players voted for all games as a team. “It is extremely important that Black Lives Matter be on the floor. I’m just proud to be part of it.

“I hope people understand the message we are trying to convey: we are fighting for equality. We will continue to build, but I was extremely proud to see it.”

ESPN’s Tim Bontemps and Dave McMenamin contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2020 ESPN Internet Ventures. All rights reserved.

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