The rivalry between the NBA’s two Los Angeles-based juggernauts, the Lakers and the Clippers, took an unexpected turn when the league announced plans to restart the season at Disney World. Both teams, expected to face off in the Western Conference Finals, suddenly found themselves in danger of losing one of their top guards before the season resumed.
Lakers guard Avery Bradley did indeed decide to opt-out at Disney World, depriving the purple and gold of a key defender and shooter. The Clippers faced a similar risk for Lou Williams, who recently said that he was “50-50” on playing in the resumed season. But on a Zoom call with media Wednesday, Clippers head coach Doc Rivers revealed that he expects Williams to play in Orlando after all.
“As far as Lou, all indications [are] that yes, he is [playing],” Rivers said. “Obviously, up until we get on the plane, anything can happen. But I do expect Lou to be with us. I would be very surprised if he’s not.”
Williams is the reigning NBA Sixth Man of the Year, and his numbers from this season have been nearly as strong. Again coming off of the bench, Williams is averaging 18.7 points per game on fairly efficient shooting numbers. Along with Montrezl Harrell, he forms one of the most dangerous pick-and-roll combinations in basketball. While that duo has taken a backseat to Kawhi Leonard and Paul George this season, losing Williams would have deprived the Clippers of their most reliable shot-creator beyond the All-Stars.
If Williams does indeed play, the Clippers will arrive at Disney in full strength. They have no players injured or currently planning to sit out, While anointing a favorite makes little sense in light of the variables that make this season unrecognizable compared to those that have passed, the Clippers having their entire roster available gives them a big leg up on their Western Conference competition. The Lakers have already lost Bradley. The Utah Jazz lost Bojan Bogdanovic to injury during the shutdown, and the Denver Nuggets are dealing with a coronavirus outbreak at their practice facility. Availability will be a key determinant for this year’s champion, and the Clippers have all of their key pieces ready at the moment.