In late February this year inside the visiting locker room of Denver’s Pepsi Center and Los Angeles Clippers reserve in Los Angeles, Sindarius Thornwell listened carefully to Starting guard Patrick Beverley who was discussing a favorite topic on how to stay valued in the NBA.
The 30-year-old Beverley seems a wise uncle for many young Clippers like Thornwell who is a second-year guard looking for a foothold in the league. Beverley has got a lot of stories and advice during his winding way of becoming an NBA veteran as we know he was drafted in the second round by the Los Angeles Lakers in 2009, later on, he was traded to Miami. He was waived by the Heat and played in Ukraine, Greece, and Russia before earning another chance with Houston in 2013. Beverley listened to a crucial piece of advice passed down to him, and that is why he stayed in the NBA since that time as a young player.
Beverley was implored by Will Bynum, a fellow Chicago native, and a guard who played eight NBA seasons. Beverley shared that with Thornwell. Only months earlier, Beverley had to remind himself of the very same lesson. Clippers coach Doc Rivers said early in the year they struggled with Pat because he was fighting buying in another player.
Beverley drove Rivers by freelancing on defense, fueled by his reputation as one of the NBA’s most irritating defenders he veered away from his team’s game plan. He and Rivers wanted the same thing ‘wins.’ But each had his ideas about Beverley’s role and how he could best help. It took a November benching and a sit-down chat for Beverley to get back to heeding the advice he’s shared with so many. His value has become overwhelmingly clear.
Before coming to the Clippers in 2017 in the Chris Paul trade, Beverley had become used to a level of offensive and defensive freedom allowed by Houston coach Mike D’Antoni. Ideally, they would have reached an understanding on Beverley’s role right away, but he injured his right knee only weeks into the 2017-18 season. Last summer, Rivers brought in a new defensive coordinator in assistant Rex Kalamian. When training camp opened in September, Beverley had regained his health and confidence but questioned how he fits on offense and defense.
Two weeks later, as soon as Bradley returned, Beverley was benched. A conversation between Rivers and Beverley, a pair of strong-willed guards from Chicago, followed.
“It’s not like an argument or anything, just every vet has his way, and we have our way. You’ve just got to tell them, ‘This is the way we’re doing it.’”
Rivers told Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, and Paul Pierce something similar when they formed the Boston Celtics’ championship core in 2008 and the experience helped assuage Beverley’s fears a decade later.
During a phone call with Rivers shortly after being traded, Beverley recalls feeling “excited about the opportunity.” Rivers remembers an edge. “Pat takes everything personally,”
“The fact that (Houston) wanted Chris Paul and not Pat pissed Pat off.” Beverley channeled that edge into his play after his conversation with Rivers last fall, declaring to coaches he “was never going back to the bench again.”
From the time he returned to the starting lineup Jan. 20 until March 31, when he began a three-game absence with a hip injury, Beverley shot 43% from the field, averaging 9.1 points, 6.4 rebounds, and 4.5 assists. The Clippers won 23 games in that span, third most in the NBA. In his return from injury Wednesday, during the team’s victory in its regular-season finale, Beverley made four three-pointers, grabbed six rebounds and dished six assists in 21 minutes.
Assistant Sam Cassell calls Beverley “our voice.” When coaches want to spur the locker room but not come across as heavy-handed, they ask Beverley to spread the message. A young Clippers staffer eating alone during a recent road trip was stunned to hear Beverley call over to him, inviting him to join his table. Clark said that Pat was all about the team. He was going to be inclusive and try to bring everybody into that team concept. And if he was outside that circle, he was the enemy. Beverley’s words always resonated with teammates because he had scrapped and clawed to keep an NBA job, but the example of embracing his place on the team last fall has lend the guard even more credibility.