ORLANDO, Fla. -- Ever since Los Angeles Clippers center Montrezl Harrell left the NBA's Disney World campus to be close to an ailing grandmother two weeks ago, coach Doc Rivers keeps fielding the same question: When is Harrell, a leading candidate for the league's top reserve, coming back?
For two weeks, Rivers' standard response has highlighted both the uncertainty surrounding the timing of Harrell's return and the team's approach when he does.
"My answer's been the same: When he's ready," Rivers said Saturday, before the Clippers' 126-103 victory against New Orleans in the second of the team's eight seeding games. "When he's ready he'll come back. You can't play if you're not right mentally and because of the emotional part of it.
"His grandmother is very tight with him so all I told him is I love him and take your time. We'll be ready with open arms when you come."
Harrell, who posted on social media last week that his grandmother had died, is one of several Clippers whose preparation for the league's restart has been interrupted by mourning.
Starting guard Patrick Beverley departed the league's bubble July 21 after the unexpected death of a close friend. Guard Lou Williams left July 23 to attend the funeral of a family friend in Atlanta. Reserve JaMychal Green's arrival was delayed by five days following the death of his grandmother.
"The league has always run the league and now they're trying to run teams as well because of the way they're doing the bubble," Rivers said. "And the bubble has been fantastic, but they're also learning that there's a lot of life that's involved with each individual team. I think the media is learning that, too, because we're all in the same place, so it's accented when a guy leaves the bubble or when he has personal problems. That happens.
"We were just unfortunate that it happened to three guys at the same time. There's nothing you can do about that. You just roll with it and when they come back, they come back and you hope you're ready."
Beverley returned to campus in time to play in the Clippers' first two seeding games, while Williams continues to wait out a quarantine extended by six days following his much-publicized visit to an Atlanta strip club. Only Harrell has yet to return, and he's documented his time away on social media, giving his 311,000 Instagram followers a raw window into his emotional state.
In a message Friday titled "I LOVE YOU GRANDMA," Harrell wrote: "I don't know how to feel right now I feel lost empty you are my queen, my best friend, my light in all darkness. I never had you leaving my side."