“Would everyone agree with that? This is a good moment? It’s not our finest moment, that’s coming.” – Clippers head coach Doc Rivers
Back on July 24th, the Clippers held a very extraordinary press conference at the Green Meadows Recreation Center. The conference was centered around talking about and introducing the two newest additions to the Clippers in Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. It’ll be marked as one of the greatest moments in Clippers history, but as Doc Rivers alluded to, it won’t be their finest moment. Let’s take a look at this press conference, and what it means for the Clippers and their history.
It was a full house at the recreation center, with the likes of media and children that were off their regular schedules in attendance. Even the infamous Clipper Darrell was in attendance, making himself known as always. The Clippers head brass all came up to talk about topics such as how such acquisitions were possible, as well as thanking Steve Ballmer for changing the course of history for this new and improved Clippers team. Jerry West was also acknowledged for using his incredibly talented mind to make this kind of success happen for the Clippers.
Doc Rivers was there to talk more in terms of what the team was going to do, and where they wanted to be as a team, such as talking about working hard and getting right to practicing after all was said and done. Typical stuff from such a hard-working and incredibly hungry coach, such as Doc.
Of course, everyone was great, but the ever electric Steve Ballmer stole the show, even making Kawhi and Paul smirk at his outlandish gestures. He was obviously enthralled in what the management team around him was doing, and he talked of the accomplishments of last year’s Cinderella story Clippers team.
Ballmer was very proud of that team, but when it came to being anywhere below the number one spot in the West, he stated, “We’re only here for one reason. We want to win it all. There’s only one reason.”
Ballmer also talked a bit about how much it meant to the team what the world around them was like, and how they wanted to work hard to give back to the LA community, including Green Meadows, that they’ve proudly called their own since 1984. But what was up next was the big show. Kawhi and Paul getting in their speeches.
When Paul George came up to speak first, he put great emphasis on thanking the Thunder organization for all that they had done for his career, as well as talking about the great partnership he had with the owner, Clay Bennett, as well as the GM, Sam Presti.
The most insightful part of George’s speech was certainly his thoughts on what it was like to have almost grown as a player with Leonard in Indiana. He wished that he could have competed with Kawhi on what was a talented core for that Pacers team, but looking to the present, he ended off with a little bit of superstitious talk. “[We’re] both here in LA, and it just seems like this is destiny, like we were supposed to play together.”
Seemingly, when the crowd’s roar for Paul George died down, the room erupted in applause again for Kawhi Leonard. The ever quiet Kawhi spoke a little bit more than usual, as he felt it was important to appreciate Toronto for all that they had done for him. Whether it be the Canadian hospitality of giving him tons of great food and inspiration during his tenure there or the staff of doctors helping the birth to his second child in March, he was incredibly thankful for all that the city had done for him.
Leonard ended off his gratitude for Toronto by also thanking his former teammates and the coaching staff. But after that, he moved right on into talking about his newest teammate, Paul George.
Leonard also reflected on how the future could have been if they had stayed together in Indiana, although he didn’t reflect too long before moving on to how proud he was to be back in Southern California, where he started it all off by proving his merits against Mater Dei back in High School.
In his conclusion, Kawhi looked to the future and talked a little about how excited he is to play for the Clippers, as well as why he wanted to join the team. “We got something special. We could make history here. And we got the right team to do it, with Steve, Lawrence, and Doc, [who’s] a championship head coach. And I’m excited.”
The conference wrapped up with some questions from the media, including a fantastic answer from Kawhi Leonard in response to a reporter asking about the Clippers and Lakers rivalry over the years, in which he said that he wasn’t too worried about it due to the Clippers having a better run than the Lakers since Ballmer took over. Paul George, who was himself a big Clippers fan growing up, was seen sporting an enormous smile on his face while clapping after that answer was given.
In the end, the Clippers also unveiled a painted mural for Kawhi and Paul as a gift for coming back to California, and the press conference was over. The wall itself is much more symbolic than a simple thank you, however. It’s a testament to the growth of the Clippers brand, as well as the team itself. It’ll be a long-standing reminder of how far a team can come with great building and even greater priorities. It really is a story of Ballmer taking nothing and turning it into something.
Just a little over a decade ago, Clippers fans were hoping to survive the season without being dead last in the West, Now that Ballmer has taken the reins, we as fans all share the same aspiration that he stated during his speech.
“[There are] only a few games that we need to [win], we need to win the last game played during the NBA season. That’s the game we [have to] win.”
Pictures courtesy: NBA, Tom Azarly on Twitter, and Sporting News. Quotes courtesy: Clippers and Fox Sports West.