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Saturday, February 9, 2013
Clippers try to salvage rest of Grammy trip

By Arash Markazi

NEW YORK -- The Los Angeles Clippers looked as if they had moved on from their 111-89 loss to the Miami Heat on Saturday morning as they returned to AmericanAirlines Arena to go through a practice before boarding a flight to New York.

Long before "Winter Storm Nemo" entered our lexicon, the Clippers had already planned to stay over Friday night in Miami and go through practice in Miami on Saturday morning before leaving for New York. Among the NBA cities that teams don't mind lingering in a little longer than usual, South Beach is pretty high on the list, especially during the winter.

As luck would have it, the Clippers didn't need to adjust their plans as their flight left on time and got into New York early Saturday evening as scheduled before their Sunday afternoon game against the New York Knicks.

The Clippers' recent luck off the court has been one of the few bright spots during their 2-4 Grammy trip. Not only did they not have any travel hiccups, but for the first time all season, every player on the Clippers' roster is healthy and ready to play.

Of course, there's that small detail of that fully healthy Clippers team getting blown out by the Heat on Friday and falling behind by a season-high 32 points in the second half.

Most of the Clippers didn't seem to be overly concerned about that Saturday. As Blake Griffin darted halfcourt shots at the basket like a quarterback and Lamar Odom went at assistant coach Marc Iavaroni to see what he still had in the post, the Clippers just seemed happy that everyone was back on the court. They could finally move past the "wait until so-and-so comes back" narrative that has shadowed them this season.

"It's good to have everyone back, but everyone has to be on the same page again," coach Vinny Del Negro said Saturday. "Guys are limited minute-wise, but this is just the start of the process of us being back together as a full unit. The key for us is to stay healthy and get everyone feeling good about the rotations and the chemistry and the trust."

Del Negro said everyone on the Clippers felt fine after Friday's game and would be in uniform Sunday against the Knicks.

The focus for the Clippers is now salvaging what's left of their Grammy trip over the next two days by finding a way to beat the Knicks and Philadelphia 76ers and finishing their 14-day, eight-game trip with a 4-4 record. That is not exactly what they had in mind two weeks ago and certainly falls short of Griffin's bold 8-0 prediction, but if the Clippers can go 4-4, have everyone healthy and be riding a two-game winning streak headed back home, they'll consider the trip a success.

"We want to win, of course, but you have to play well to do that," Del Negro said. "We have to play better than we did yesterday. The Kincks are another team that spreads you out and we have to do a better job on the weak side and do a much better job on the 3 ball. Talking about it is great, but you have to go out there and do it."

The biggest issue for the Clippers in these next two games -- as it has been all season, really -- is defending the perimeter and 3-pointers. The one constant in most every Clippers loss this season has been their opponent getting open outside looks and knocking them down with regularity.

Del Negro spent a good portion of practice Saturday working on defensive rotations and defending the arc and going over film from Friday night's game, but he still shook his head brifely while talking about that area of the team.

"Our weak side has to be over more and we have to have more of a sense of urgency of running guys off the line," Del Negro said. "Our bigs have to run back in coverages. The transition threes have really hurt us. When we turn it over and we get out on the open court, the three ball really affects us."

If the Clippers don't shore up that area of their defense, chances are Del Negro will still be shaking his head when the Clippers finally return to Los Angeles Monday night after playing Philadelphia.