LAS VEGAS – On Friday, July 5, a 6.9 earthquake in Ridgecrest, California shook the NBA Summer League's Thomas & Mack and Cox Halls, forcing the game to be canceled the rest of the evening. . This is the second amazing thing that happens in the world of basketball that night. A few hours later, it was announced that the LA Clippers were trading against superstar Paul George and receiving a free agent contract from double MVP Kawhi Leonard.
We are now more than 36 hours away from the 5th day of Kawhi and the buzz around the second day of the Summer League can be summed up by the three most listened lines in the two arenas:
"How on earth did the Clippers do that ?!"
"I thought Kawhi, but I did not even see the news of Paul George coming!"
"Yeah well, f ** k the Clippers!"
I'm sure you can find out who said this last line.
As you can imagine, the atmosphere around the Clippers and their fans is amazing right now. They had a surprisingly good audience for the win in their first game of the Summer League against the LA Lakers, 93-87. The Clippers' fans saw their 27th overall pick, Mfiondu Kabengele, lead the race with a 21 point performance and 10 rebounds in 25 minutes of action. Despite his solid game, this was not the subject of his post-match interview. The big question everyone wanted to know was what it was like to know that he would team up with Leonard and George in just a few months.
"I feel good," said Kabengele, who was then unable to restrain himself with a big smile on that face. "He is in my team. I feel very good! And we have Paul George ?! It's awesome. The front desk did a great job in dealing with it. I'm just lucky to have these guys on the team, and wherever I can help, I'll be more than happy to do it. "
The Clippers arrived in Las Vegas on July 4th. The next day, they had to train and relax for their opening match on July 6th. Aside from the earthquake, the day was calm until everyone received the message. Chris Haynes-Bomb at 22:53 local hour. Two minutes later, at 22:55 local time, ESPN messages Adrian Wojnarowski has dropped his signature "Woj bomb". From nowhere, Wojnarowski informed the basketball world that Paul George had also been traded to the Clippers.
"It's shocking!" Kabengele added, trying to gather words to describe his feelings. "You wait for the bomb, then Twitter listens and you see it. And everyone was writing text messages, so it was a little crazy, that's for sure. "
Brian Adams, coach of the Clippers and G-League Summer League, shared a slightly different feeling when he told his party to hear the new Friday night.
"Oh, that was great! said Adams. "I was joking with everyone when the news fell on Friday night, and I thought," Why is everyone bothering me the night before my first match in the Summer League ?! "
"But no, obviously, the spirit is really good. At the same time for me, I was kind enough to [focused on] Summer league. I'm happy to train these guys and this group we're building to. "
Before taking a seat at the edge of the field, Clippers head coach Doc Rivers was his usual enthusiast, talking to everyone who praised him. The team's consultant, Jerry West, who surely had a huge impact on Leonard and George, was also smiling. We even saw Rivers and West share some laughter with the Lakers star, LeBron James, less than a day after the announcement of the changes.
Although the focus remains on the Summer League, he is now looking at how Kabengele, on whom the Clippers were high placed before the NBA draft, can integrate and complete the George duo. -Leonard. One of the traits that Kabengele continues to work on is his three-point shot. He is already a workaholic in painting, but being able to provide space as a backup or small-ball striker alongside George and Leonard or Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell will be key, as has showed JaMychal Green in the playoffs.
Not known as a three-point shooter, Green (averaging 0.5 to three points on just 35% of his first four years in the league) earned a two-point average at three points per game vs. 52.2 % of Golden State Warriors. Most of those minutes were contested alongside Williams and Harrell, but Rivers was eventually forced to install him in the starting formation, where he continued to flourish as a floor spacer. .
If Kabengele, who turns 22 when his rookie season takes off, can develop the same traits that made Green so effective, it just gives the Clippers another big advantage.
"With these guys, you want to install good screens and give them the space to use them, but also to create opportunities for you, whether by breaking the glass or escaping. Here at the Summer League, I recruit more representatives. When we have a real training camp and I will have more continuity with these guys, I will find my places. "
It's just the offensive side of the ball, though. Kabengele averaged 1.5 blocks per game in just 21.6 minutes on the Florida State bench last year. As nephew of Dikembe Mutombo, NBA legend, he discovered some tips on timing and defense techniques in situ. Even if it does not happen in his rookie year, Kabengele's defense will play an important role in his ability to win playing time.
"It's great, but I have to follow." Kabengele told ClutchPoints, questioned about the defensive potential of these new Clippers. "They have their defensive system with Kawhi and PG, they have their own defense skills. So, as a recruit, my job is to catch up and contribute. The defense comes first. If you do not play defense, you do not play. So, my job, my role, my goal all this year is to be one of the best advocates. "
The acquisition of Leonard and George, however, was not without losses. In addition to seven caps sent to Oklahoma City, the Clippers have also had to give up valuable guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and veteran Danilo Gallinari.
"For Shai and the commercial situation as a whole … It's unfortunate, but it's part of the business. I understand that it is difficult and I wish him the best. I hope he kills him there at OKC. It will be a little different for sure.
It was only the first day of the Summer League for the Clippers, who will be back in action Sunday night against the Grizzlies. Here are the highlights of Kabengele's game against the Lakers.