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    Clippers’ Bones Hyland embraces defensive challenge
    • October 13, 2023

    PLAYA VISTA — If the Clippers are going to advance further than the first round of the playoffs this season, the defense needs to improve. It’s part of the mindset Coach Tyronn Lue is aiming to change during training camp.

    Bones Hyland, for one, has taken that challenge personally. He added 11 pounds of muscle to his 6-foot-3 frame and has turned his attention and effort to the less glamorous side of the game.

    “I feel like I’m not like a weak link no more on the defensive side,” Hyland said Friday. “Giving multiple efforts and just trying to improve in the lower areas on the defensive end (is where) I feel like I improved.”

    Hyland, who joined the Clippers at last season’s trade deadline, already has shown he can be a scoring threat for the Clippers, posting 18 points on 7-of-14 shooting in the Clippers’ preseason opener. He averaged 10.8 points in 14 games last season.

    This season, though, it’s about accepting the defensive challenge that he and Norman Powell are expected to face as the backcourt on the second unit. To get there, he has been watching the work put in by Kawhi Leonard and Russell Westbrook.

    “It helped a lot just to see the angles that they take on the defensive end, how they’re always in position even when they’re late sometimes or they don’t even feel like they’re late on rotations at all or pin down actions,” Hyland said. “They get caught in low man, but they get out so easily to [follow] that guy coming off the screen, they do so easily.

    “So, it’s good to have those guys to set that tone on the defensive end.”

    Nicolas Batum is an admirer of the young guard. Talent is one thing, but his speed keeps Batum watching. Last season, Hyland was a whirling blur of skinny arms and legs as he raced down the court to get inside the paint. Sometimes, he ended up missing the layup or just losing the ball because he was out of control.

    That has changed, Batum said.

    “He’s a great basketball player but I think maybe last year he was rushing a little bit too much,” Batum said. “Now he seems even if he’s still fast, he’s more under control, makes better decisions.

    “He worked on that. You can see, he watched film. He tries to get better decision-making and he’s doing a good job so far, like one of the best players in camp right now. I love watching him. He’s going to have a great season for us.”

    Leonard routinely mentions Hyland when he talks about point guards not named Russell. Leonard said Hyland can be a stabilizing force on offense.

    “It’s just dope man, honestly to see Kawhi,” Hyland said. “He always backing my play like that and just having his confidence and him trusting me as well (is huge.) Just to share the same floor with him, go to war with him, go to battle with him, it’s very dope.

    “Obviously, I always got Kawhi’s back and just want to always let him know he can count on me just like I know I can count on him. So that’s a teammates’ thing and the trust just goes a long way and as you see just the connection there with me and Kawhi.”

    Hyland hasn’t just drawn praise from in-house admirers. During the summer, he played in the Rumph Classic, a pro-am tournament in Philadelphia, where he dropped 56 points as retired All-Star Allen Iverson watched from the stands.

    Hyland said Iverson called him “a killer” on the court.

    “He said just keep going, (you got) star potential. Just keep being myself and wherever I’m doing and everything else will fall in line for me,” Hyland said.

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    Hyland also caught the eye of Dallas Mavericks star Kyrie Irving in August when they created highlight videos at the More Than a Run pick-up event in New Jersey. Hyland said the experience was “dope.”

    “When I went to play with Kyrie it was just big, just to go play in his event and just see his footwork and everything,” Hyland said of the eight-time All-Star. “Just being there, being on his team and him killing them, (I’m) on the side of him, killing right with him.

    “We’re in the league now (and) we play against each other all the time. But to share the team and share the same backcourt, it was dope man. Just him preaching stuff and just talking, just how he carries himself … he’s a great human being and even better basketball player.”


    Forward Marcus Morris Sr. (groin), center Ivica Zubac (back) and Powell (groin) did some on-court work on Friday but are still limited in practice, per the team. Guard Brandon Boston Jr. (knee) is continuing his rehab and did not take part in practice. … The Clippers will hold their annual Open Practice on Saturday at 11 a.m. at Pechanga Casino in Temecula. The team previously held the event at USC’s Galen Center.

    ​ Orange County Register