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Tuesday, July 9, 2013
Clippers making championship moves

By Arash Markazi

LOS ANGELES -- At 9:01 p.m. on Tuesday in Los Angeles, the Clippers will officially be able to puff out their chests publicly and announce all the moves they have made over the past 10 days.

They will make it official during a Wednesday morning news conference where they will showcase what they think will be a championship team this season. Las Vegas sports books seem to agree, putting the Clippers at 10-1 favorites to win the NBA title this season, behind only the Miami Heat and Oklahoma City Thunder.

Let’s take a look what the Clippers have done over the past two weeks to vault themselves into the NBA’s elite and championship contenders this season.

The Clippers sign Doc Rivers to a three-year, $21 million contract and send a 2015 first-round draft pick to the Boston Celtics as compensation.

This was a franchise-altering move for a team in the midst of a culture change over the past two years.

Outside of Phil Jackson coming out of retirement or Gregg Popovich suddenly bolting the Spurs after 20 years, this was the best hire the Clippers could have made.

Rivers arrives with a recent championship ring and a cache few coaches in the league can match. He also was given authority (senior vice president of basketball operations) that leaves no doubt that he is the man in charge of Lob City now. The Clippers were looking for a coach to take them to the next level and with Rivers they found that guy.

Chris Paul verbally agrees to a five-year, $107 million extension with the Clippers.

After Rivers was hired, Paul’s decision to come back wasn’t that surprising. That Paul announced he was coming back on the first day of the free agency period and told other teams not to even bother calling him speaks to how much the culture of the Clippers has changed.

Paul, along with Blake Griffin, who signed a five-year, $95 million extension last year, give the Clippers one of the league’s best one-two punches and a solid foundation the team can build around moving forward with Rivers at the helm.

It may have seemed like a foregone conclusion but when Paul officially inks his contract extension Wednesday, it will be one of the most significant moments in Clippers history.

The Clippers, Phoenix Suns and Milwaukee Bucks agree on a three-team trade that sends Caron Butler and Eric Bledsoe to the Suns, brings J.J. Redick and Jared Dudley to the Clippers and gives the Bucks two second round picks.

After Paul verbally agreed to his five-year contract extension, the Clippers knew they had to trade Bledsoe. The backup point guard’s stock wasn’t going to get much higher and they couldn’t risk having him get hurt in training camp or during the season before pulling off a deal and losing him for nothing at the end of the season. They also wanted to get out from under Butler’s contract, which will pay him $8 million this season.

The Clippers ended up pulling off the best deal they possibly could and certainly the best one from the many that had been rumored. Redick and Dudley are two starters that will fit in perfectly with what Rivers wants to do with the Clippers. They are solid from beyond the arc and are good system defenders. They will extend the floor, which will make life easier for Griffin and DeAndre Jordan, and benefit from the open looks and opportunities they will get by being on the floor with Paul.

Matt Barnes verbally agrees to a three-year, $11 million extension with the Clippers.

After signing a one-year deal for the veteran’s minimum before training camp last season, Barnes went on to have a career year and was the most productive and consistent player off the bench for the Clippers outside of Jamal Crawford, who nearly won the Sixth Man of the Year award.

Barnes averaged a career-high 10.3 points, 1.0 steals and 0.8 blocks per game. He also averaged 4.6 rebounds and 1.5 assists. Barnes' production increased during the playoffs, when he averaged 11.8 points and 5.0 rebounds per game, including putting up 30 points and 10 rebounds in the Clippers' Game 6 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies in the first round.

The Clippers considered signing free agent forward Carl Landry instead of Barnes but at the end of the day went with Barnes, who had become integral on the court and in the locker room.

Darren Collison verbally agrees to a two-year, $3.8 million contract with the Clippers.

After trading away Bledsoe, the Clippers were in need of a backup point guard for Paul to run the Clippers’ second unit and couldn’t have found a better one than Collison, who began his career as Paul’s backup in New Orleans four years ago.

Collison started 47 games for the Dallas Mavericks last season and averaged 12.0 points, 5.1 assists, 2.7 rebounds and 1.2 steals per game. He has started 219 games during his four-year career and has proven he is more than capable of leading a team in stretches if Paul misses any time.

Barnes, according to sources, didn’t take all of the Clippers mid-level exception, so the team could sign Collison, who is from Rancho Cucamonga and played at UCLA.

Ryan Hollins verbally agrees to a one-year, $1.2 million extension with the Clippers.

Hollins is the one player on the Clippers roster who has experience with Rivers and the new coaching staff, having played for the Celtics during the 2011-12 season and playing in 17 playoff games for the Celtics during their run to the Eastern Conference finals.

The Clippers weren’t going to make much of an upgrade at the end of their roster with only veteran minimum contracts to offer and Hollins was a solid reserve for the Clippers’ potent second unit last season, averaging 3.4 points and 2.3 rebounds per game.

The Clippers name Alvin Gentry as their associate head coach and also name Armond Hill, Kevin Eastman and Tyronn Lue as assistants. JP Clark will serve as the assistant players skills coach.

There was some question how Rivers’ staff would look after leaving Boston abruptly and many of his assistants having strong roots in the city, but Rivers has assembled a solid staff in Los Angeles. His most high-profile hire was Gentry, a former Clippers coach who was in the running for the job this season. Gentry is an offensive-minded coach who got the most out of Amare Stoudemire in Phoenix and the hope is he can do the same for Griffin and Jordan.

Hill, Eastman, Lue and Clark were with Rivers in Boston and will be new voices for a team that grew tired of Del Negro’s message toward the end of his tenure in Los Angeles.

The Clippers aren’t completely done maneuvering this offseason. They expect to sign one or two more veteran forwards to round out their roster, with the smart money being on Antawn Jamison and Ronny Turiaf signing one-year deals for the veteran’s minimum. Lamar Odom and possibly Metta World Peace, if the Lakers amnesty him, could come into play as well.

Either way, the Clippers have had a busy two weeks putting together a roster and coaching staff that expects to contend for a championship this season and in the future.