Every player reacts differently to being traded. Patrick Beverley, it turns out, is extremely motivated, optimistic and confident after being dealt by the Houston Rockets to the Los Angeles Clippers.
“My confidence is at an all-time high; it’s sky high,” Beverley told HoopsHype. “Confidence is one of the most important things in the NBA, and I’m just at a different level mentally now. I’m setting really high goals for myself. I definitely want to come in and get All-Defensive First Team again. This year, I want to get that Most Improved Player award too.”
But anyone who has spent any time around Beverley knows he’s a team-first guy, so his lofty goals aren’t strictly individual. He knows a lot of people are writing off the Clippers after the departure of Chris Paul, but he believes the organization can remain in contention after last year’s 51-win campaign.
“At the same time, it’s all about winning,” Beverley continued. “We have goals that we’ve set for this year, trying to be a Top 4 or Top 5 team in the league. If we can make the playoffs and do that, I’ll be thrilled.
“I really feel like I’m part of something special here. Every four or five years, you get the chance to be on a team that can break through and do something really special. I think that’s where this team is headed.”
Before getting deeper into the upcoming season, let’s revisit Beverley’s past year. It certainly helps explains his confidence and why believes he’s poised for a breakout year.
Last season, he bought into head coach Mike D’Antoni‘s experiment and ceded point guard duties to James Harden. This allowed him to play off the ball, which he prefers, and focus more on wreaking havoc on defense, which he loves. He averaged 9.5 points, 5.9 rebounds, 4.2 assists and 1.5 steals while shooting 38.2 percent from three-point range.
Then, in Houston’s 11 playoff games, Beverley contributed 11.1 points, 5.5 rebounds, 3 assists and 1.5 steals while shooting 40.4 percent from three-point range. After the season, he received his first selection to the NBA’s All-Defensive 1st Team.
The trade to Los Angeles, which occurred in late June, was a surprise to just about everyone. But while some players respond negatively to being dealt, Beverley views this as an excellent opportunity to showcase his skill set and he seems ecstatic about the players around him. During a recent 10-minute conversation, he rattled off the names of his talented teammates on three different occasions – reiterating just how well-rounded and deep the squad can be if they reach their full potential.
“[A Top 4 or Top 5 finish] is definitely possible,” Beverley said. “Look at our team! We added Danilo Gallinari. We still have Blake Griffin. We still have DeAndre Jordan. We’re going to have playmakers all over the court, which makes the game a lot easier. I’m super excited. I think the whole team is excited. I just can’t wait to get this thing started. We have the pieces. We also got Lou Will! We got Sam Dekker! We got Wesley Johnson! We got Montrezl Harrell, who’s a dog! We’ve got Willie Reed, who’s a clean-up man and a dog! We had a phenomenal summer!”
Beverley just turned 29 years old and he’s determined to duplicate his 2016-17 success in Los Angeles. In recent years, he’s been described as the heart and soul of the Rockets – refusing to take plays off, sacrificing his body to make hustle plays, pushing his teammates to match his intensity on defense and backing down from nobody even though he was matched up against a star on most nights in today’s point-guard-centric league. He’s one of those players who’s commonly referred to as a pest, or described as someone you love when he’s on your team but hate when he’s the opposition.
Now, he’ll bring that same attitude and toughness to the Clippers.
Beverley says he has put in a ton of work this summer to transform his body. The veteran point guard insists that he’s never been in better shape.
“I’m down to 184 lbs. and five percent body fat,” Beverley said. “Two years ago, I was at 217 lbs. and last year I was at 195 lbs. I’m just continuing to change my body each year and I’m super excited. I’m steadily trimming down and trimming down so I can be as light as possible, while also staying as strong as possible. I feel like I’m in the best shape of my life. I’ve never been in this great of shape. Ever. I think this is a great opportunity for me to go out there and prove some people wrong and have fun doing it. The same goes for our team. We’ve all really been pushing ourselves conditioning-wise because we all want to take our game to another level.
“Our biggest focus as a team is entering the season in extremely good condition. We’ve been doing our conditioning tests for the last three or four weeks – over and over and over – and our conditioning is on another level. The best-conditioned team wins and [we think that will be us]. If we play extremely hard, jump over guys and control the game from there, everything else will take care of itself. That’s been our focus.”
After shooting so well last season and thriving off-ball, he believes he can produce even better this year since he expects to play a similar role (although he’ll likely have the ball in his hands slightly more).
“I feel blessed that I’m in a position where I’ll be able showcase my talent; the game is coming so easy to me and I can make all the plays,” Beverley said. “It helps that I have a great head coach in Doc Rivers and a great coaching with Mike Woodson, Sam Cassell, Brendan O’Connor and so many others. It’s perfect, man. It just feels right.
“I’m fortunate that I’m not having to step in and try to be Chris Paul for this team. I can still be myself. I’m fortunate that I can still play off the ball when I’m alongside Milos [Teodosic] or Austin [Rivers]. I’m not being asked to be someone I’m not. I’m just going to continue being Pat. And I got 6-foot-11 DeAndre Jordan behind me, 6-foot-10 Blake Griffin behind me and 6-foot-10 Danilo Gallinari behind me, which is nice! I do think I’ll have more opportunities with the ball, but I love playing off the ball. I think I’ll have opportunities to be the Pat I was when I was playing alongside James and also be the Pat I was when I was leading the second unit in Houston.”
(Side note on Teodosic, who was Beverley’s teammate on the Greek club Olympiakos years ago. Beverley believes the 30-year-old Serbian is one of the best passers in the world. He also believes Teodosic will be a perfect fit to the NBA since he won’t face double-teams nearly as often and because he’ll have tremendous athletes like Griffin and Jordan on the receiving end of his dimes. After a recent pick-up game, Beverley and Lou Williams were marveling at Milos’ game: “Lou and I were just talking about how there are certain passes that only Milos can make. There are plays nobody else could possibly make because they don’t see the court like Milos or pass like Milos. He’s special.” Beverley has been driving the Teodosic bandwagon for years and can’t wait for NBA fans to jump on).
Beverley’s clear head is another reason he believes he’s ready to play his best basketball. Being in Los Angeles certainly hasn’t hurt.
“I’m in a real chill place,” he said. “I’m right here on the beach right now! L.A. is calmer than a lot of places, of course. Honestly, the ‘adjustment period’ has been so much fun, especially with the way that the Clippers organization welcomed me and my family. This is a top-notch organization, for sure.”
But it hasn’t been all beach days for Beverley. The Clippers have been training and playing pick-up together as a team for much of the summer, which is where a lot of Beverley’s optimism stems from.
“We’ve been working out together for the last month and a half,” Beverley said. “We’ve been playing at the Clippers’ facility, but we’ve also been playing all together at UCLA [in the pick-up games that are loaded with stars]. Also, DJ has his boxing thing and we’ve done that. Blake is coming off of his injury; we started working out together last month. I actually just finished up today’s workout with him before you called.”
In addition to their on-court work, the team has spent a lot of time bonding.
“We’ve been together a ton over the last month and a half too,” Beverley said. “A few weeks ago, the whole team took a trip to San Diego together. We’re constantly going to dinners together and hanging out together. We just had a game night last weekend. We’ve gotten super, super, super, duper close. That’s half the battle right there.”
As far as Beverley’s individual offseason training goes, he’s been working to expand several aspects of his game that will allow him to thrive in Coach Rivers’ system.
“I’ve been working a lot on being more comfortable with the ball [in my hands], being able to finish in the paint and shooting off of the dribble,” he said. “I’ve been working with Sam Cassell a lot. Of course, I’ve been working my with my trainer Jeff Pagliocca in Chicago at Evolution Athletic a lot; I’ve been working with him over the last three or four years of my career. Most of my improvement has come from my work with him. I know I’ll be on the ball more, so I’m adding things to my game like the mid-range shot and the step-back. Houston didn’t like a lot of mid-range shots or step-back shots, but the Clippers allow me to take them, so I’m getting more comfortable with those.”
Beverley knows that there will be critics who don’t share his optimism about this group. Some pundits are expecting a significant drop-off from last year’s 51 wins. He couldn’t care less. In fact, he prefers to fly under the radar entering the 2017-18 campaign. With so many changes, this new-look Clippers team is one of the toughest to project (and prepare against). That could play into Los Angeles’ favor early in the schedule.
“I think the best way to enter a season is as the underdog,” Beverley said. “That’s how people are looking at us, and we’re fine with that. We’re not really focused on what other people are saying.
“I will say this: We have so many guys who have a chip on their shoulder and want to prove themselves,” Beverley said, his voice suddenly serious. “Mix all of us together and you have a force to be reckoned with.”
Interview, Top, Austin Rivers, Blake Griffin, Danilo Gallinari, DeAndre Jordan, James Harden, Lou Williams, Milos Teodosic, Montrezl Harrell, Patrick Beverley, Sam Cassell, Sam Dekker, Wesley Johnson, Willie Reed, Houston Rockets, Los Angeles Clippers