Rivers says Leonard will benefit from the unexpected in-season break to train his body, something he couldn’t really do in the summertime while recovering from injuries and a title run with the Toronto Raptors.
Doc adds that his squad was, at last, “turning into the Clippers” before the coronavirus global pandemic brought everything to a grinding halt.
“I know Kawhi’s overworking. I can guarantee you that,” Rivers said with a laugh Wednesday on a video call with reporters. “And the difference is, during the summer, Kawhi couldn’t work, you know, so now he’s got this break and he’s able to train.
“The Kawhi we’ll see will be in phenomenal shape. PG [Paul George] is another guy that’s gonna be in phenomenal shape.”
When the season was suspended on March 11, after the Utah Jazz’s Rudy Gobert tested positive for COVID-19, the Clippers (44-20) had won seven of their previous eight games.
“We’re really good,” Rivers said of what he knows about his team after studying the season. “What I know for real was the last 10 games, we were turning into the Clippers. You could literally feel it. … We started understanding each other. … We were playing seamlessly through Kawhi and PG. It wasn’t forced anymore. Guys weren’t trying to stay out of each other’s way. You could feel the rhythm. Even the Lakers loss [on March 8], where we, in my opinion, played horrendous in that game, and that was one of our step-back games … we still had a chance, and it was our D-game, you know?
“I really thought we were about to make a crazy run down the stretch. And unfortunately, bam, it stopped. … I love where we were at. And seeing the way we play and how we were coming together, this team’s good. I think we could beat anybody.”