Clippers’ secret weapon: French – Press Telegram

LOS ANGELES — Serge Ibaka’s first Zoom press conference as a Clipper in November ended with questions in Spanish and French; a reminder that the Clippers’ floor-stretching big man is a multilingual talent.

To hear his fellow French speaker on the team tell it, that’s something of a secret weapon.

France’s Nicolas Batum said he and Ibaka make it a habit to speak French to each other when they’re both on the court, something opponents seem to find confounding.

“Every game. Literally, every game we do that,” Batum said. “I think it was in Phoenix, when, on a free-throw situation, we were talking in French and Jae Crowder looked at us, it was like, ‘Should be illegal to do that!’

“I mean, we use it as an advantage sometimes. Sometimes we can say stuff people can’t really understand, especially … on defense.”

Clippers coach Tyronn Lue said he’s overheard the veterans speaking French, but he said he hadn’t stopped to consider how advantageous it might be. He has, however, thought about how cool it sounds.

“I don’t know what kind of advantage it would be!” Lue said. “I hear them talking sometimes. It’s actually kind of cool. (Especially) Serge coming to the United States, he couldn’t even speak English, and now to speak five or six languages, it’s just cool to see.”

Actually, it’s four for the native of the Republic of Congo (Lingala, French, English and Spanish). But that’s no less impressive – or effective.

As Batum said earlier: “That’s sometimes the strength you can have, you can talk in your own language (and) the opponent can’t understand what you’re saying so it can be an advantage.

“We’re gonna still doing it for sure.”

Crowder, it seems, will just have to invest in a Rosetta Stone subscription.


Luke Walton was Ivica Zubac’s first NBA coach, taking the helms of his first NBA team when the young 7-footer initially landed in the league in 2016-17.

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