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Clips seek defense, execution in new year

PLAYA VISTA, Calif -- For a team that’s had little to no practice time for nearly a month, the new year couldn’t have come soon enough.

What’s one of the key things the Los Angeles Clippers feel needs work? Neither Blake Griffin nor Chris Paul hesitated before giving the same answer.

“Our defense. Our defense,” Paul said flatly before the team’s first practice of 2015. “I think Doc [Rivers] said sometimes you have a little bit of slippage when you have so much time with no practice. But I think we’ll be ready.”

What’s interesting about the Clippers this season, though, is that, despite their pedestrian 103.7 defensive rating, it’s been the offense that has calcified in the waning moments of tight games.

Rivers seemed attuned to the need for overall fine tuning as well. “I think you’ve got to work on the whole game,” he said. “I think we’ve slipped in a lot of areas of execution. So the word would be execution. And you can go defense and offense.”

The boys of Orlando Summer League

The Clippers will be taking their talents to Disney World this summer to participate in the Orlando Summer League.

Rivers was more than pleased that a spot opened up at the more intimate venue this year.

“I just think it’s a better format,” he said. “It’s a better teaching thing … it’s a teaching summer league to me. It’s the perfect summer league. It’s not too many games. I like the smaller audiences where you can hear and you can teach. It’s not a show if you know what I’m saying.”

Rivers said the team is still undecided as to whether they will also participate in the Las Vegas Summer League. The Clippers have participated in the Vegas version (which began in 2004) for the past nine summers.

D-League affiliate on the horizon?

As the D-League establishes itself more and more as a viable alternative for developing younger prospects, teams have begun forming their own exclusive affiliates.

The Clippers are currently one of 13 NBA teams affiliated with the Fort Wayne Mad Ants, the defending D-League champions, but Rivers seemed elated when asked about the possibility of the Clippers establishing their own franchise.

“I would love it. I think it’d be great,” Rivers said. “We’re trying to find the right place for it. I know we’re researching it. I can tell you that much. Whether we do something or not I can’t -- we haven’t even gotten close to even thinking about making a decision. We’re just doing the research.

“It would be great. We all know that. Not only just for basketball -- for the players -- it’s for the management too. You can bring coaches in to run your stuff. You can see if they’re capable people -- even down to administration, PR, the marketing, everything. It builds your whole organization and gives young people a chance to get in on the ground floor and grow with the organization. I think we all see there’s some value to it for sure.”

The Clippers maintained an affiliation with the Bakersfield Jam from 2009 to 2014, sharing the outfit with the Warriors, Lakers, Suns, Raptors and Jazz over that stretch. But when Phoenix created a one-to-one partnership with the Jam after the 2013-14 season, the Clippers switched their developmental operations to the Mad Ants.