Los Angeles • Among the scrum, the media dubbed Thursday’s game the “Injury Bowl.”
The injury report itself almost looked like a starting lineup: The Los Angeles Clippers were without Blake Griffin, Milos Teodosic and Danilo Gallinari, and Patrick Beverley was already called out for the season. In addition to the long-term injuries of Rudy Gobert, Joe Johnson and Dante Exum, the Jazz ruled out Rodney Hood (ankle) and Raul Neto (hamstring) after shootaround that morning.
When asked if he had ever seen two teams so injury-riddled facing off so early in the season, Clippers coach Doc Rivers replied: “I’m sure I have. But I don’t remember it.”
The Clippers might have the worst of it: Of their starting lineup from the season opener, only DeAndre Jordan remains. Rivers said he’s been hoping that the healthy players will continue to show him something that will pleasantly surprise him: L.A. entered Thursday night’s game against the Jazz with three straight wins after a nine-game losing streak fueled by injury.
“There’s always a silver lining,” he said. “I don’t know what the hell it is, but there always is one. Always.”
The Jazz have been through a similarly painful growing process, dropping seven in an eight-game stretch before winning four of their last five. When asked if he’s seen two teams this injured, coach Quin Snyder joked that it was the Jazz-Clippers playoff series this spring when both teams saw stars forced to leave the floor.
Snyder disagreed with Rivers that there’s “always” a silver lining, but said he still hopes for one to emerge.
“You just compete — that’s all you can do,” he said. “Hopefully on some level, your team is going to improve in some way that maybe you don’t anticipate.”
Jazz rookie Donovan Mitchell was particularly excited to hear about one Clippers starter on Tuesday night: Montrezl Harrell, a fellow Louisville product who once hosted him on a recruiting visit.
“He works his butt off,” he said. “To see hard work paying off like that, I’m real proud of him. I know everybody at the Louisville program is.”
Mitchell and Harrell are a part of a small fraternity of Cardinals currently in the NBA, and they remain close. Both Mitchell and Harrell said before Thursday’s game that they had recently texted Terry Rozier, who has thrived in a role for the Boston Celtics.
Harrell said he’s followed Mitchell for the last few years since he was present for his college commitment. He views Utah as a good landing spot for the rookie.
“He’s in a great situation for him to go there and just be an open and free player,” he said. “There’s not a lot of restrictions on him. Sort of a green light here and there. But he’s an explosive young guy.”