Coming out of Florida State in the 2019 NBA draft, Terance Mann was a natural wing. He could slide between shooting guard and small forward and it looked like that was going to be his calling in the NBA.
But he had some point guard skills to his game as well, and with the Los Angeles Clippers’ need for additional playmaking when the season began, Mann appeared to be someone who could grow into that role.
In early preseason games, Clippers’ head coach Tyronn Lue experimented with both Mann and Reggie Jackson as the backup point guard. He praised Mann in particular for getting more comfortable with playing the point and getting better downhill and making the right reads.
Mann himself acknowledged the transition and that he was willing to do whatever was best for the team.
“One of my strong suits is being able to play-make and see the floor,” Mann said during the preseason. “Whatever Ty Lue wants me to do, if that is playing with the second unit and making plays, then that’s what I’m going to do.”
Not surprisingly, Mann was largely out of the main rotation once the season began. On a veteran-laden team with plenty of depth, there wasn’t much room for the second-year wing. But since then, the Clippers have been hit with a bout of injuries and that’s brought forth an opportunity for Mann.
There is one major difference though between now and then, he’s back to his natural wing position and he’s been playing free with loads of energy. He started at small forward in Monday night’s win over the Miami HEAT and turned in perhaps his best game of the season. He put up 15 points on 62.5 percent shooting from the field including 1-for-2 from three-point range, 7 rebounds and 3 assists.
During the team’s win over the Chicago Bulls on Feb. 12, he came into the game early due to a brief injury to Kawhi Leonard and gave the Clippers a strong energy boost while playing a team-high 33 minutes.
On a postgame call with media following the win against Chicago, Mann credited himself with staying prepared during the early days of the season in anticipation for when he might be needed.
“I’m out there working hard every possession. I try to be in shape to do so. Even sitting out the first few games of the season, just always on the sidelines trying to do things to stay in shape,” Mann said. “When my number is called, I’m ready to play 33 minutes and guard the best player on the other team.”
The past couple of games have been a real test for Mann, especially on the defensive end of the court. Against Chicago, Mann was matched up early on with Zach LaVine who is seventh in the league in scoring at 28.2 points per game. Against the HEAT, he spent much of the night guarding Jimmy Butler, and the star finished with 30 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists.
His skill-set and frame make him an ideal candidate to develop into a defensive stopper on the wing – but these early challenges are something he relishes and something he wants to do every time he steps foot on the court.
“Most of the time when I do step in the game, I’m trying to guard the best player just to get reps at it,” Mann said. “To know what I’m doing for down the road whether it’s playoffs or whether that’s the end of the year situations or if I get subbed in at the end of the quarter and I got to guard the best player for 20 seconds and they’re trying to ISO me.
That’s just what I do and what I’m going to continue to do.”
And who better from Mann to learn from than the Clippers’ defensive ace Patrick Beverley, who has irritated quite a few of the NBA’s top scorers throughout his career. Beverley was named to the league’s All-Defensive Second Team last season for the second time in his career and has also been an All-Defensive First Team selectee once as well. (2017).
Beverley’s mentorship of Mann began last season and, although Beverley has missed time this year due to injury, he’s constantly been in the youngster’s ear to provide veteran leadership.
“I’m going to be on his ass, that’s my rookie. If you don’t play well it looks bad on me, so I’m going to need him to be ready every game,” Beverley joked with media following the Clippers’ Feb. 10 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves.
“He’s been doing a hell of a job. Riding the bench and comes in always ready, first in practice, getting in extra work, coming in and impact the game the way he does. It’s no shock to anyone, when his name is called he always performs.”
Not only has Mann tried to replicate the defensive impact Beverley has on the court, but he’s also tried to develop the same underdog and tough mentality that Beverley has used to fuel him to a solid NBA career.
Mann knows that if he doesn’t play up to expectations, he can expect an earful from Beverley in the locker room.
“Pat [Beverley] has helped me out tremendously from my rookie year until now, developing that dog mentality when I’m out there on defense,” Mann said. “Carrying that chip that he has with him… What he does for me is awesome. Like he said, if I don’t play like he wants me to then I’ll hear it from him.”
Mann has been making a solid case to remain in the rotation even when the Clippers’ injured players return. Best of all, he knows the coaching staff believes in him and he’s ready for whatever the rest of the season brings.
“They have faith in me. They know I’m going to be ready, they know I’m going to play as hard as I can,” Mann said.
“Just be aggressive defensively and offensively. Play my game, that’s what goes through my mind. Once I know I’m going to get my opportunity, just be aggressive on both sides and play to win.”
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