Los Angeles Clippers: Courtney Fortson

Young is latest piece to puzzle

March, 18, 2012
There have been six mainstays in the Los Angeles Clippers rotation since the 2011-2012 season started on Christmas Day: Chris Paul, Mo Williams, Randy Foye, Caron Butler, Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan.

Those six started the season with the team and continue playing in most every game. Then there are the five players the team has added into the mix since then, either by trade, free-agent signing or return from injury. In order, those are Reggie Evans, Kenyon Martin, Eric Bledsoe, Bobby Simmons and, after making his debut in Sunday's win over the Detroit Pistons, now Nick Young.

And that doesn't count mid-year additions Solomon Jones and Courtney Fortson, who both played significant minutes with the Clips before getting released and landing elsewhere.

That's a lot of new pieces to add to a puzzle, especially considering they've all joined the team over an 84-day period in which the Clippers have played 44 games. And, to make matters worse, they've all been separate additions, joining the team weeks apart from each other.

How have the Clippers done it?

"It's not easy," coach Vinny Del Negro said before Sunday's game when asked that question. "We have to do a better job incorporating and getting a feel for guys, and that's tough. But that's the situation we're in.

"You've just gotta work together a little bit better and connect a little bit more as a team, because we're incorporating all types of players and personalities and you have to manage all that."

Blake Griffin put it a little more simply.

"It feels like we add a new piece every month or so," Griffin said after Sunday's game. "It's like every month you're forced to add someone new. I don't want to say it disrupts things, but it changes things.

"We're not used to playing with a guy like Nick. He's been in L.A. for two days now, I think."

Young definitely changed the shape of Sunday's game. Because he logged 29 minutes in the victory, Williams played only 24 -- the shortest time he's been on the court in almost a month. And Bledsoe, who had played in each of the Clippers' last 15 games, didn't play at all.

That was similar to what happened when the Clippers added Simmons at the end of February. Ryan Gomes has only played three minutes since Simmons was signed.

Evans also experienced a slight downturn in minutes right after Martin made his debut in early February.

Del Negro said Sunday he tries to focus on the "rhythm of certain lineups," and that makes sense. But there obviously wasn't going to be much rhythm with Young and the rest of the players on the floor during his 29 minutes against the Pistons.

But, as Griffin said, the Clippers can help ease the transitioning process if they turn up the energy, like they did in the fourth quarter and overtime period Sunday, when they outscored Detroit 30-18. Young was on the floor for 16 of 17 possible minutes in that stretch.

Said Griffin: "The thing is, if we play hard, we can kind of erase or make up for those mistakes that we make because we're new."

Clippers waive Courtney Fortson

January, 27, 2012
LOS ANGELES – The Los Angeles Clippers waived guard Courtney Fortson, the team announced Friday.

Fortson was signed by the Clippers on Jan. 16 to give the team some backcourt depth while Chris Paul missed five games, Mo Williams missed three games, Chauncey Billups missed two games and Eric Bledsoe missed the first 16 games of the season with injuries.

Bledsoe has been sidelined all season after undergoing surgery Oct. 7 to repair a torn lateral meniscus in his right knee he suffered during an off-season workout but is expected to return to the lineup this weekend after a two-game rehabilitation assignment in the NBA Development League.

Bledsoe recorded 15 points and 7 assists in 18 minutes for the Bakersfield Jam on Thursday and will play for the Jam again tonight before rejoining the team Saturday for their game against the Denver Nuggets on Sunday.

Fortson appeared in four games for the Clippers, averaging 4.3 points, 2.0 rebounds and 1.3 assists in 11.2 minutes. Fortson scored a career-high 13 points on Jan. 17 against Utah.

The Clippers roster currently stands at 14, allowing the team the flexibility to sign another player at some point if needed.

ESPN The Magazine’s Chris Broussard reported Friday that the Clippers are one of five teams pursuing free-agent forward Kenyon Martin and that Martin will make a decision on which team he will sign with next week.

The Clippers could offer Martin the $2.5 million mini-midlevel exception but Martin would be unable to join an NBA team until the Chinese Basketball Association season ends on Feb. 16 after signing a deal with the Xinjiang Guanghui Flying Tigers during the lockout.

Postgame thoughts: 1/16 win over Nets

January, 16, 2012
LOS ANGELES -- Here are a few items of note from a Monday matinee win over the New Jersey Nets, 101-91, at Staples Center:

No CP3...somewhat of a problem

Point guard Chris Paul missed Monday's game because of a hamstring injury suffered in the fourth quarter of Saturday's win over the Lakers. Randy Foye started in his place at shooting guard and Chauncey Billups moved over to the point, and both players performed fairly well in his absence -- combining for 33 points and 14 assists.

But Paul's presence was obviously missing in the fourth quarter, when the Clippers led by 13 with 10 minutes left and then fell victim to a 15-2 run by the Nets to tie the game. Billups hit three key shots to seal it late, but the success the Clips have had in the final periods of games this year was much harder to come by Monday.

Interestingly, small forward Caron Butler played some shooting guard for the first extended stretch this season, logging time there in the second quarter when Billups went out of the game. It appears that will be the plan for the two spot in any games where the Clippers are missing three of their top five guards in Paul, Mo Williams and Eric Bledsoe.

Defensive rotations

They were once the Clippers' biggest weakness. They're a lot better now, as evidenced by the first half against New Jersey. Blake Griffin's movement out to Mehmet Okur on the perimeter left quite a bit to be desired, but there was clearly a concerted effort to close down on the Nets' MarShon Brooks and Anthony Morrow, two scorers who scored just four points in 31 first-half minutes.

"Our high beams are up, I guess you could say," Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro said. "Our antennae are up. We're getting a better feel for our defensive schemes and where guys are and should be."

That was in the first half, though. The second half wasn't so great.

Brooks scored 10 points in the first five minutes as the Clippers repeatedly gave him enough space to operate, and the Nets' fourth-quarter run was also a product of less-than-perfect defensive effort.

"It's still a work in progress," forward Reggie Evans said. "We have showed good signs, but we didn't finish it out the way we wanted to."

Reg-gie, Reg-gie

On the topic of Evans, he actually didn't play much Monday (12 minutes) or record that many rebounds (four), but he did have one incredibly efficient stretch in the second quarter that stood out afterward.

In a two-minute, two-second stretch early in the second period shortly after he checked into the game for the first time, Evans recorded four offensive rebounds, a steal and a lay-up. The Clippers had the ball for all but 23 of the 125 seconds, essentially all because of Evans.

That earned him a "Reg-gie, Reg-gie" chant from the Staples Center crowd and an ovation when he checked out of the game two minutes later for Griffin. He came on later in the third and fourth and went to the free-throw line a few times, but those were his only rebounds of the day.

"Reggie Evans was really the difference-maker tonight," Nets coach Avery Johnson said. "Both he and Griffin were giving them extra possessions."

Free-throw shooting

The Clippers are the NBA's second-worst free-throw shooting team this season.

They shot like it Monday, converting just 19-of-35 shots from line for a 54-percent clip. The 35 attempts were good -- a sign that the Clippers were penetrating the lane early and often and creating easy scoring opportunities. But they shot better from the field in the first quarter.

"Obviously we struggled from the free-throw line tonight," Del Negro said. "We have to do a better job there. It's not from lack of practice; we just have to concentrate and knock those down and make teams pay for fouling us."

Entering Monday, the Clippers had made just 68 percent of their shots from the line this year, which is 29th in the NBA, in front of only the 65-percent Orlando Magic. And the Magic actually have three great free-throw shooters among their top four shooters. Dwight Howard's 46-percent clip just brings the whole squad down a considerable amount.

Final notes

Asked how he felt the back and forth went between him and Kris Humphries in Monday's game, Griffin shot a quizzical look at a reporter. "Back and forth?" he asked, in a slight dig at Humphries' 14-point night...Rookie point guard Courtney Fortson, called up from the Development League's L.A. D-Fenders earlier Monday, said he had no idea how long the Clippers' staff planned to keep him on the roster. "I'll find out from you guys," he told the media...Attendance at the Staples Center was announced at 19,060, the seventh sellout in seven home games for the Clippers this season. But there were plenty of empty seats throughout the game.