Justise Winslow went on paternity leave on November 14. Since then, he’s played out of garbage time, or a late-quarter defensive possession, once. In the meantime, Amir Coffey, Serge Ibaka, Luke Kennard and Terance Mann have made starts from the spot and Brandon Boston Jr. has entered the rotation, but Winslow has remained glued to the bench.
To be fair, Winslow’s game hadn’t done much to guarantee extra minutes. He has failed to make a shot to save his life (14 of 32 in two and 1 of 8 in three entering Saturday’s game) and his reluctance to gum shoot the rest of the offense. For a team already struggling to score, it’s hard to justify adding another non-spacer to the mix.
Ty Lue spoke about the challenges of getting Winslow into the rotation before Wednesday’s game against Boston, while acknowledging that the freshman Clipper hasn’t been given a full opportunity to show what he’s capable of.
“He has done everything right, he works every day, he is in the gym, even on days off, on blackout days, he is in the gym, he is involved in target practice, what coverage, so he is going to take advantage of his opportunity, ”Lue said. “There is nothing I have done wrong. It’s like the composition of our team right now, what we need on the court and space the court with shots and things like that. He has been great, a true professional and we have to try to find a way to take him to the court at some point. “
That opportunity came earlier than expected for Winslow. Paul George and Nicolas Batum were out on Saturday, and instead of turning to the other forwards who have been ahead of Winslow in the rotation, Lue said he wanted to go with the former Blue Devil to reward him for his hard work and give him a shot. .
Winslow didn’t have an immediate impact, but the extended minutes allowed him to finally find a rhythm. What really helped Winslow get going was securing defensive rebounds (or stealing the ball) and leading the Clippers break; That element of grip and gait helped turn the tide of the game as the Clippers topped 26-14 in the second quarter. and it was more than 9 in the eight minutes of Winslow.
“I thought he was able to bounce the ball and push it in transition, attack, make some easy shots,” Lue said after the game. “He had a cut once, but Isaiah threw it a little hard, but he was able to go downhill, once he hit a layup and missed a layup, and made a great 3 for us when they tied the game. So it’s good to see him there and I’m happy for him. “
What Winslow did is what the Clippers do: When one man goes down, he’s next and they know how to do their job. Whether Coffey defended all positions against the Mavericks or Ibaka spacing the court down the stretch against the Lakers or Boston placing the team’s fourth highest scoring team of the season against the Celtics, every Clipper is capable of stepping up. . Winslow capitalized on his strengths by being active on defense and crystal and pressing the pace, and when it came time to take shots in the midfield, his work paid off.
“We’ve been in those situations where guys are named after them, and especially when this guy here made some big plays for us and played hard in the minutes that he had,” Luke Kennard said of Winslow. “So that’s what we’re hoping for and he’s been working out and in the gym early every day. So you know, he deserved it. “
Winslow hasn’t just been fighting for his spot with the Clippers – it’s been nearly two years since he was able to regularly contribute to an NBA team, and that was two teams ago, after injuries marred his time with the Memphis Grizzlies. Now in Los Angeles, he still faces an uphill battle to get back on the court.
But all you can do is push yourself and be ready for when the opportunity comes. For one day at least, it had to be satisfying showing the Clippers, and the league, what Justise Winslow can do.
“It felt good to make all the winning plays that I made tonight, to just go out there and impact the game,” Winslow said. “I know the player that I am capable of being and becoming, just staying with the routine, staying with it. But for me it’s just about impacting the game, filling out the stat sheet as much as I can, but there is definitely a place to thrive on this list. “