The LA Clippers assembled one of the deepest rosters in the NBA, and coach Doc Rivers believes it is built for the bubble after having already been tested by the unpredictability of the NBA's restart during the coronavirus pandemic.
The Clippers were without five of their top 10 players last week after Patrick Beverley, Montrezl Harrell and Lou Williams each left the Orlando, Florida, campus in the span of seven days for excused family emergencies. Ivica Zubac and Landry Shamet didn't arrive at the Walt Disney World Resort until last Saturday after both tested positive for COVID-19 and quarantined at home.
The Clippers open the restart against the Los Angeles Lakers on Thursday and will be without Williams, who is in quarantine, and Harrell, who is still not with the team. Both players are listed as out for the game, with Beverley listed as questionable.
"Well, a deep roster is built for that," Rivers said. "And we've done that. Now, when you have five and six guys out at one time, that's asking too much on any roster. By the time the [seeding] games start, we won't have that many out, but we'll have maybe two to three key guys out, and that's asking a lot.
"Having said that, that doesn't stop us from believing we're going to win every game. We have great confidence."
Williams returned to the bubble Saturday, but the NBA ruled the Sixth Man of the Year had to quarantine for 10 days after he visited an Atlanta strip club to eat dinner while he was out of the bubble. The Clippers will be without Williams for at least two games.
Harrell will have to quarantine for at least four days when he returns. ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reported that Beverley returned to the team on Sunday, and Rivers said his starting point guard is a possibility to play Thursday, emphasizing the word "maybe."
Without Harrell and Williams, leading candidates for this year's Sixth Man award, the Clippers will have to rely on their depth against the Lakers and possibly on Saturday against New Orleans.
"I knew that we had a pretty deep squad," Kawhi Leonard said of the Clippers, who had their full roster available for only 11 games this season due to injuries. "I knew how talented we could be. It's about executing now."
Rivers has said the NBA knew it could get the season started again in Orlando. The question is the ability to finish the season given the surge in coronavirus cases around the country and in Florida, and other situations that could lead players to leave the bubble.
Clippers president Lawrence Frank and general manager Michael Winger built a deep roster highlighted by last summer's blockbuster additions of Leonard and Paul George. Frank and Winger traded for Marcus Morris at the deadline and signed Reggie Jackson after the point guard worked a buyout with the Detroit Pistons. Both veterans sacrificed potentially bigger roles elsewhere.
Frank also signed Joakim Noah, a former Defensive Player of the Year. When Zubac was still in quarantine and JaMychal Green and Morris both arrived late to Orlando due to family reasons, Noah started the Clippers' first scrimmage at center. Jackson started scrimmages in Beverley's absence.
"I do think it's built for the bubble," Winger said of the Clippers' roster. "But the bubble is just an extension of uncertainty, unpredictability and the potential loss of player capabilities, whether short term or long term."
Rivers has said that all teams have always dealt with players having to miss a practice or game for personal reasons. But now with teams inside the NBA bubble, any player exiting due to family issues puts a team in a bind because of the quarantine process upon return.
"Guys have the virus, guys have family stuff, and so you have all of this what I call clutter in your lives, and it's part of life," Rivers said. "So we've had to deal with that.
"But adversity is not all bad. You're going to go through hard stuff, and if it's at the beginning, then let's do it now."