IRVINE — Not that there was any desperation or anything, but the 45 players in uniform Saturday morning at Irvine Valley College played as though their professional lives depended on it.
This is how important it was: They paid, at $175 a pop for those who signed up in advance, to exhibit their skills at a tryout camp. The goal was to find players for the Agua Caliente Clippers of Ontario, the minor league affiliate of the L.A. Clippers in what used to be the D-League, for development, and henceforth will be known as the G-League, for the sponsorship of a particular sports drink.
(As an aside: Yes, we know the team is named after and sponsored by the casino located in Rancho Mirage. But can we call them Team Hot Water? And if a player gets in trouble, can we say he’s in muy agua caliente?
(No? OK. Never mind.)
Bottom line: Those 45 hopefuls Saturday, and another group that will try out this coming Saturday at the Clippers’ training facility at Playa Vista, will be competing for a maximum of five spots at the Agua Calientes’ training camp. And there may not be that many spots available.
“We’re looking for guys who fit our culture with the L.A. Clippers,” said Dee Brown, the former NBA slam dunk champ who will be the general manager in Ontario. “We want to find guys who can play the game, obviously, at the level we can develop. And the other thing we’re looking for is guys who are great culture guys, who have off-court goals and visions and aspirations.
“If we can find one or two of those guys in the tryouts, we’ve done our job. But it’s tough. A lot of guys out here can play. There’s a lot of decisions to be made.”
The Ontario club is the Clippers’ first foray into owning and operating their minor league affiliate, as 21 of the NBA’s 30 clubs now do (and as all eventually will, per the league’s intent).
Creating the roster will be an interesting process. The Clips-In-Waiting selected the G-League rights to 11 players in an expansion draft in August, and subsequently traded two (both of whom had signed to play in Europe).
The Big Clips’ draft night haul, small forward Sindarius Thornwell from South Carolina (acquired from Milwaukee) and point guard Juwan Evans of Oklahoma State (their own pick), could see time in Ontario. The regular G-League draft is Oct. 21, at which time Ontario will add at least four and as many as six additional players.
The maximum on a roster is 10 players under G-League contracts. Add NBA…