It’s 75 degrees and sunny on a mid-November Friday in L.A., but the Clippers are leaving town.
Facing 6,029 miles of travel, including three games in four days, the team is bound for New York City, buried under five inches of snow.
This the fourth of 17 road trips the team will make this season, and while the treks tend to blur over the course of a six-month grind, each one is unique. Climates change, opponents vary, and travel logistics force tough decisions for a basketball operations staff attempting to create a home-away-from-home at every stop along the way.
In partnership with OGIO, our supplier of high-performance travel gear, we’re giving an inside look at life on the road with the Clippers.
For Jerome Robinson, every day starts with rookie duties, and this trip is no exception. Wearing only a T-shirt for the last time until the team returns home for Thanksgiving, he arrives for the charter flight carrying sweet tea — "We’ve got a lot of southern people on our team” – and Chick-fil-A. His style, like many in a league at the forefront of the athleisure trend, could best be described as “cozy.” “I gotta have the UGGs on, but they come off as soon as I get on the plane. And the sweatpants, for sure.”
The first-year guard from Boston College takes every opportunity to pick Avery Bradley’s brain about NBA life, on and off the court. In this instance, Robinson is probing the nine-year veteran about his use of free time. “He said he’s a homebody, so I was trying to figure out what other activities he likes to do with his kids.”
One of the unsung heroes of the Clippers’ travel operation is Equipment Manager Max Reza (second from left). “On a longer east coast trip like this, we’ll travel with anywhere between 130-140 total bags,” he says. “That includes personal luggage, equipment, and medical equipment/supplies. We’ll take 2 buses and an equipment truck from the airport to the team hotel. Once we arrive, our goal is to get all of our bags sorted and delivered as quickly and efficiently as possible. Our primary goal is for all of our players and coaches to have their bags within 20 minutes of our arrival so that they can relax and focus on our upcoming game. It’s a real team effort. Our equipment staff, team security, athletic trainers, and strength & conditioning coaches all work together to make sure all of our bags are properly tagged and delivered in a quick and timely manner.”
NBA teams are constantly on the move, and each member of the traveling party has a list of duties to keep them busy around the clock. Here, Boban Marjanovic, Team Chef Priscilla Martinez and Deputy Director of Team Security Hector “The Protector” Ramirez find a rare moment of calm before the storm a few hours before tipoff in Brooklyn.
Maintaining a routine on the road is paramount for the Clippers training staff, so just minutes after checking into the hotel in Atlanta, about a third of the team headed to Georgia State University to “get it in,” says Head Strength and Conditioning Coach Daniel Shapiro (pictured here working with Marjanovic). “We aren’t a team that always needs to seek out the nicest gyms on the road… we can get creative enough with what’s in the hotel, because we want to maximize recovery and rest.”
Turner Studios, the home of NBA TV and NBA on TNT, is located in midtown Atlanta so it’s become a rite of passage of sorts for players to be invited on THE broadcast when they come to town. Naturally, Marjanovic got the call, as the owner of the NBA’s third-highest player efficiency rating and the co-star of the hit digital series “The Bobi + Tobi Show.” Before appearing on NBA TV’s GameTime, the budding media star stopped by the makeup room.
Mike Scott spent his first five seasons in the league as a member of the Hawks, and while his career has skyrocketed in the past two years (shooting over 40 percent from three-point range with the Wizards and Clippers), he said he always enjoys returning to Atlanta. Before the game, he was particularly happy to see this group of guys, whom he befriended while working out with the same trainer. Later that night, Scott would pour in a season-high 18 points, going 6 for 12 from downtown.
“Gilgeous-Alexander” is currently the longest last name on a jersey in the NBA. At latest count, staffers at the Team LA Store in Staples Center had destroyed 13 jerseys attempting to stitch it properly. Assistant Equipment Manager Rohde makes sure to give credit where credit is due: “Our embroidery company has done an incredible job with the challenge of getting his name on the back.”
The trip concludes in Washington, and now it’s time to head home for Thanksgiving. “Clean or dirty,” Rohde says, “we always precisely fold our jerseys and shorts before packing to avoid wrinkles.”