For the Los Angeles Clippers, this season hasn’t been a story of two superstars carrying the team to the finish line. Instead, it’s been one of a team effort where different players night in and night out have picked up the slack when one of their star players has been down.
For head coach Tyronn Lue, his coaching staff and himself have been pleased with how the team has stuck together despite playing without their all-star players at times.
“Our guys have stepped up all year with all of the injuries that we’ve had and it’s just good to see,” Lue said. “They are getting the experience they need moving forward so if anything like this happens guys have had a chance to play all season so they will be ready for the playoffs. Our coaching staff is just staying poised, our team staying together not fragmenting, not going crazy in the huddles and just staying together, just trying to weather the storm and continuing to build good habits.”
With superstars Paul George and Kawhi Leonard missing a total of 32 games combined throughout this pandemic shortened season, role players such as Terance Mann have stepped up and filled the void in their absence. For Mann, his journey to the NBA was not one of a highly regarded first round draft pick or of a highly touted prospect going into college.
Being drafted by the Clippers in the second round and 48th overall in the 2019 draft out of Florida State University, Mann has had to work his way into the rotation, earning the minutes and trust that coach Lue has given him as the season has progressed.
After appearing in 41 of the team’s 66 games last season where he averaged a little over eight minutes a game, Mann’s production and total minutes this season have more than doubled (19.3 minutes). Now averaging over 18 minutes a game, Mann has been a vital part of coach Lue’s bench rotation.
Mann has seen himself develop into a crucial part of the rotation off the bench as the season has progressed, including becoming a bigger part of the offense when the team traded away longtime fan favorite and veteran Lou Williams. For Mann, the key to his success is simply being himself in order to contribute to the team.
“I’m just playing my game and bringing what I bring to the team, whether that’s offensively, defensively, whatever it is I’m just doing what I got to do to try to win,” Mann said. “Scoring the ball, not scoring the ball, rebounds, whatever it is I’m just trying to go out there and win.”
When the team traded away Williams, they did acquire a championship veteran presence in Rajon Rondo, something that Mann feels has helped him get even better since the moment the two-time world champion joined the team.
“It’s been pretty cool. Not going to lie, it’s been pretty cool,” Mann said. “He knows the game so well. Every time I come back to the bench, he’s letting me know something that he saw or asking me a question or something like that. So, it’s cool to see a vet like that with so much experience, just so humble and ready to learn.”
Despite having moments throughout the season where he has seen little to no game time during a certain matchup, Mann has prided on keeping himself ready at all times. By doing so, Mann knows that when his number is called upon, he will be ready to go.
In a game in late March against one of the best teams in the east, the Philadelphia 76ers, Mann scored a season-high 23 points in what was one of his best outings of the season. On the night, Mann went 10-12 from the field and helped the Clippers to victory against their former head coach Doc Rivers.
After the win, Mann provided some detail as to how he’s been able to develop as a young player in the league.
“Just watching more film, figuring stuff out. Getting more experience at the positions,” Mann said. “Just, over time, seeing things in a different way. The vets help me out a lot. Just giving me little pointers and stuff like that. That’s just how it goes, man. Over time, you just see things different. You see the game different. It grows on you. Stuff slows down and that’s how you develop.”
Mann’s increased development is paying off for Lue and the Clippers at the right time. On April 21 against the Memphis Grizzlies, Mann poured in 19 points and became the playmaker with seven assists. In a 120-103 defeat to the New Orleans Pelicans, Mann led the Clippers in scoring with 17 points. Lue said he continues to see the confidence in Mann grow game after game, and it is all due to his effort.
“He’s been great for us, but Terance each game, is getting better and better,” Lue said. “His confidence is through the roof right now. He brings that energy and effort. When he’s making shots and attacking the basket, we’re a totally different team.”
Teammates inside the locker room have also seen the development from year one to year two, including Leonard.
“Just being aggressive. You know he’s coming out, getting downhill, attacking the paint, making plays for himself and others,” Leonard said. “With him it started with his defense, coming out, bringing energy, getting in passing lanes, rebounding. You know, he’s just giving us a spark off that bench.”
As Mann continues his development, his role will only continue to expand as the coaching staff and his teammates earn his trust when he’s on the court. Until then, the young Florida State product knows he must continue to work hard where it matters most, in the gym when no one else is watching.
Featured Image: Los Angeles Clippers forward Terance Mann (14) slams the ball through the hoop against the Atlanta Hawks. Photo credit: Mark Hammond/News4usonline