Thursday, February 27, 2014
Drawing power an asset for Clippers
By Arash Markazi
LOS ANGELES -- As Glen "Big Baby" Davis addressed the media from one end of the Los Angeles Clippers' locker room on Wednesday night, there was an empty locker straight across from him that did not go unnoticed by a few players who walked past it.
If things go according to plan for the Clippers, that locker won't be empty for long.
The Clippers seem to have turned into a team where veteran free agents want to come as they pursue an NBA title.
Earlier in the day, Danny Granger and the Philadelphia 76ers completed a contract buyout, making the former All-Star swingman a free agent once he clears waivers at 5 p.m. ET on Friday.
While the Clippers and San Antonio Spurs seem to be in the lead among those vying for his services, there's a strong sense Granger will ultimately choose the Clippers and could even be in uniform for Saturday's game against the New Orleans Pelicans.
It was a feeling that existed before Jamal Crawford was sidelined because of a left calf strain that will be reevaluated Thursday or before J.J. Redick's timetable to return from a bulging disk in his lower back turned from "weeks" to "we'll see."
Granger's representatives were on hand Wednesday night to watch the Clippers beat the Houston Rockets 101-93 at Staples Center and met with Clippers officials during and after the game.
"Of course!" Clippers coach Doc Rivers said when asked if he wanted to sign Granger. "A guy with that talent you want to look at. I don't think it will be up to us. I think it will be up to Danny. I think there will be a lot of teams going after him, and there should be. ... We're going to have our day hopefully to talk."
If Granger does pick the Clippers, he will do so by choosing them over the Spurs and Miami Heat, who are also pursuing Granger. Several other teams, including the Dallas Mavericks and Chicago Bulls also have expressed interest in him.
That a veteran player in pursuit of a championship ring would consider signing a minimum deal to join the Clippers over the Spurs and Heat is yet another example of how far the Clippers have come as both contenders on the court and in the minds of players as a destination franchise.
"I don't know if we're going to make it the destination, but we want it to be one of them," Rivers said. "That's our goal. Bringing in Big Baby when he could have gone to a lot of other places was a good thing. Darren Collison could have gone to a lot of other places and came here. At the end of the day we just have to keep being a good basketball team and the rest of the stuff will follow. I think the key to this is showing that we have a shot and we're a good team. Players follow that. They'll go anywhere for that."
Granger has played in only 34 games over the past two seasons as he recovers from a left knee injury, but he has played in 29 games this season for Indiana and averaged 8.3 points on 35.0 percent shooting. He was an All-Star in 2009 and also was named the NBA's Most Improved Player that season. He averaged 25.8 points then and shot better than 40 percent from beyond the arc.
"He's another guy who has been in this league and has been a 20-point scorer," Jared Dudley said. "He's a shooter and someone who, after his injury, is trying to find himself. Any time you have an All-Star trying to conform to being a role player it's a process that takes a while, but he's probably just happy to be healthy and out there on the floor. He would help any team, not just us."
Davis was recently in the same position as Granger after he negotiated a buyout from the Orlando Magic. Davis was being recruited by Rivers and other playoff teams but committed to the Clippers before he had even officially cleared waivers.
"You want to come here and play," Davis said. "It's the weather, the atmosphere, and what they're trying to accomplish, but I'm playing for an NBA championship. I'm not here to do the Hollywood thing and be in movies and commercials. I don't want that. I want another ring. That's why I came here, that's why I chose to come here. You don't get any younger, you get older. And being my age, and being still in my prime, why not come here and play for something like that?"
In the past, Chris Paul and Blake Griffin have picked up the phone and called prospective free agents to sell them on coming to play with them, but with Rivers now serving as both the coach and senior vice president of basketball operations, and the Clippers being the only current playoff team in Los Angeles, it hasn't been such a hard sell of late.
"I think one of the biggest advantages for us is that we live in L.A., in all honesty," Paul said. "Also when you watch us play or see or hear anything about our organization and the players that we have and our coaching staff, I think guys naturally want to come here. I think we sell it by the way we play and it sort of speaks for itself."
That Granger could soon pick the Clippers in pursuit of an NBA title over the two teams that met in the NBA Finals last season still sounds a little odd, but it's slowly becoming the new normal in Los Angeles.
"It says a lot," Paul said. "It obviously started with B.G. and the pieces that we have added and the mindset that our team and our organization has, it's on the right path. We still haven't done what we'd like to do, but we're working on it."