Clippers play centers Serge Ibaka, Isaiah Hartenstein together – LA Daily News

LOS ANGELES — It was a small but not insignificant 11-minute sample, Coach Tyronn Lue’s Serge Ibaka-and-Isaiah Hartenstein experiment on Friday afternoon.

The Clippers might have been outscored by three points when they had the two bigs on the court together in their 107-96 victory over the Detroit Pistons, but Lue still liked what he saw.

“I thought it was pretty good,” said Lue, who has been puzzling over how to give the 7-foot Hartenstein the minutes he’s earned as a reserve center while also giving the 6-10 Ibaka the minutes he needs – and deserves – as a veteran returning from back surgery in June.

Lue didn’t seem eager to pair the big men when Ibaka made his initial return to the Clippers (11-8) earlier this month, but after seeing it Friday against the Pistons (4-15), the coach sounded more enthusiastic about the concept – as did his players, including Eric Bledsoe who was a fan of “both of them out there clogging the paint up on defense.”

Said Lue: “Still gotta work on it, get our packages down. … Talked to my coaches over the last couple days, just the way Isaiah was playing for us was great, and to give Serge more minutes and give him an opportunity to be on the floor more, I wanted to take a look at it.

“I thought they did a nice job, so we just gotta continue to keep working on the packages and what we wanted to do defensively. Overall, I thought we did a decent job for the first time.”

In his third game back with the Clippers after volunteering for a four-game G League stint to get going, Ibaka – who is averaging 3.2 points and 2.4 rebounds through five games – clocked 18 minutes, 51 seconds overall Friday. He had a season-high nine points on 3-for-5 shooting to go with two rebounds, two assists and two blocked shots.

Hartenstein – who is averaging 7.4 points and 5.1 rebounds off the bench, en route to a team-best positive 12.2 net rating – played 18:34 Friday and finished with 10 points (on 4-for-5 shooting), five rebounds, three assists and a steal.

Neither man had any inkling they’d be sharing the court on Friday until Lue alerted them in a pregame walkthrough.

“I was surprised,” said Ibaka, a 13th-year veteran who won an NBA title three seasons ago alongside Kawhi Leonard in Toronto. “I haven’t been playing at the four in like four years, so for Ty coming today telling me that I was kind of surprised, honestly. But, again, right now I just want to be on the court to play. I feel good and in great shape, all I need is to play. I’m going to do whatever it takes.”

Even, Ibaka said, “if I had to play at the one, I’d play at the one… I just want to be on the court.”

Hartenstein said he was game to give Lue’s new big gambit a go the moment he heard about it.

“He’s like, ‘Yeah, y’all gonna play the four and five together,’” said Hartenstein, a 23-year-old from Germany who is playing his fourth NBA season with his fourth team. “So we ran through a couple stuff and that was the first time we knew it, so it was kind of on the fly. That’s kind of T-Lue, (he) kind of feels like stuff on the fly, adjustments. But I love it, just adjusting on the fly.”

That Hartenstein and Ibaka have established a good off-court rapport helped, they thought.

“Wherever I’ve been, I’ve found someone that’s been in the league a long time,” Hartenstein said. “With this team, (Ibaka) helps me a lot, just the knowledge of things, especially on defense, just giving me tips. And now … just talking through that, and I think that will get better and better.”

Ibaka says he feels obligated to assist a teammate, even if they’ve been vying for the same limited minutes.

“I used to be in the same position like him,” Ibaka said. “Someone helped me too, so of course I have to do the same. Especially I’ve been in the league so long, I’ve seen many things and all we are here for one reason to win. If I can help I would be there and do it.”