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    Clippers could use a power-forward-by-committee approach
    • October 18, 2023

    LOS ANGELES — The Clippers played their third preseason game on Tuesday night with a third different starting power forward, a move that could determine an everyday starter. Or not.

    Coach Tyronn Lue said switching Terance Mann, Robert Covington and Nicolas Batum could be something the Clippers do all season. Sort of a power-forward-by-committee approach.

    “I kind of thought about it both ways,” Lue said. “I think it’s going to be one of those positions where we can just kind of sub a guy in and out depending on who we play.”

    On Tuesday, it was Nicolas Batum’s turn to start alongside Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, Ivica Zubac and Russell Westbrook as the Clippers took on the defending champion Denver Nuggets, who sat their stars for the exhibition game at Arena.

    Previously, Mann had started in that forward spot in the team’s first game against the Utah Jazz in Hawaii, then Covington started against the Jazz in Seattle last week.

    “All three guys bring something different to the table when we talk about defense,” Lue said. “T-Mann can start, he can guard the point guard tonight and guard the four tomorrow. Nico can guard the point guard in the four tonight and RoCo is more of an off-the-ball deflection, steals, weak-side defender type guy. So, they do some different things.

    “And so, it could be by committee … every night could be something different.”

    Lue sees the bevy of available talent at the No. 4 spot as a good problem to have this season. He likened it to Team USA, on which he served as an assistant coach during the summer.

    “You have a lot of guys who deserve to play but you can’t play all those guys,” he said. “For me, just having the constant dialogue with the players and communicating and just letting them know that this is what I’m looking at, this is the sample size of games that I’m looking at and you just got to be ready.

    Batum, a 16-year veteran, isn’t getting caught up in the who-starts-when conversation. He has started his share of games throughout his career; not starting every game isn’t going to tarnish his resume.

    “I mean, the starting stuff is a coaching decision, but I want to show that I can bring something to the team,” Batum said.

    What Batum brings is versatility. He can guard one through four, rebound and score. In his three seasons with the Clippers, he has averaged 7.5 points, 4.2 rebounds and added 0.6 blocked shots per game.

    He played the first 8-plus minutes Tuesday and pulled down three rebounds and collected one assist. He missed his only field goal attempt, a 3-pointer, before being replaced by Covington at that spot.

    “I want to be the glue guy on offense and defense, like a connection between guys,” Batum said. “RoCo and I pretty much do the same things.

    The starters took a seat after the first 8-plus minutes of the first quarter. George had 10 of his 23 first-half points before going to the bench, while Zubac added eight points and two rebounds, and Westbrook had five points, two rebounds and two assists.

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    Zubac returned to the court to start the second quarter and was followed by Leonard, George and Westbrook three minutes later. Covington stayed in the game, getting his chance to play with the known starters.

    Batum also returned minutes later and played the final 7:47 of the first half, burying a 3-point shot that caught the attention of Covington, who gave him a “three-fingers up” sign.

    “It’s not a competition, but what I want to do is show that I can guard one through five, and on offense, I can create stuff. Ty is just trying to find the right combinations and if it’s me, good. If it’s RoCo or T-Mann that’s good, too.”

    Batum said the number of minutes each of the power forwards played each night shouldn’t matter in the long run. Winning games is the end goal.

    “I don’t care if I start or not,” he said. “Whatever they ask me to do, I will do it. I mean, I’m at a part in my career where I’ll be like I don’t have to start. Whatever you want me to do coach, I will do.”

    More to come on this story.

    ​ Orange County Register