Los Angeles Clippers: Jared Dudley

Rapid Reaction: Clippers 112, Suns 108

April, 2, 2014
Apr 2

PHOENIX -- Before Wednesday's game against the Phoenix Suns, Doc Rivers knew the Los Angeles Clippers were going to be challenged over the next two games.

They were facing back-to-back games against two teams fighting for their playoff lives, the Suns and the Dallas Mavericks.

"The playoffs have started for Phoenix. The playoffs have started for Dallas," Rivers said. "It's hard to get your intensity to match that."

The Clippers' intensity for much of Wednesday night's game didn't match the Suns' until they looked up at the scoreboard in the final minutes of the third quarter and found themselves down by 17 points. That's when the Clippers mounted a comeback and completed their third double-digit come-from-behind win in their past four games, 112-108, and claimed their second consecutive Pacific Division title in the process.

How it happened: The Clippers looked finished in the waning minutes of the third quarter. They were down by 17 points, Blake Griffin, playing with back spasms, could hardly move and the Clippers looked ready to fly home after their five-game trip. They then mounted a comeback and outscored the Suns 34-17 in the final quarter.

What it means: The Clippers have won their second straight division title, which is also their second in franchise history. The Clippers are also only 1.5 games behind the Oklahoma City Thunder for the second seed in the Western Conference playoffs and are four games up, not including the tiebreaker, on the Houston Rockets for the third seed.

Hits: Griffin came back after essentially missing two games because of back spasms and had 23 points and six rebounds. Darren Collison had 23 points and five assists. Chris Paul had 20 points and nine assists, and Jared Dudley had 12 points off the bench and the game-clinching free-throws.

Misses: There were not a lot of misses after the third quarter. Even though the Clippers' bench was outscored by the Suns 42-23, it helped kick-start the team's comeback.

Stat of the game: The Clippers hit 11-of-26 from beyond the arc. The Clippers are now 33-1 this season when making at least nine 3-pointers.

Up next: The Clippers travel home to play the Mavericks, another team battling for their playoff lives. The Clippers came from behind to beat the Mavericks in Dallas last Thursday, 109-103, and a win this Thursday would give them the season series sweep.

Without Griffin, Rivers keeps Clips moving

March, 31, 2014
Mar 31

MINNEAPOLIS -- Don’t ask Doc Rivers about injured players.

It’s a dead-end road that usually leads to a cul-de-sac of shoulder shrugs and I-don’t-knows.

If you’re injured, you’re essentially invisible to the Los Angeles Clippers coach unless you are able to put on a uniform.

“Doc always says he doesn’t talk to you if you’re hurt,” Chris Paul said. “It’s funny. I’ve never been on a team like that. Usually when a guy’s out, guys in the locker room are saying it’s going to be tough tonight without this guy, but we rally around each other.”

Before Monday’s game against the Minnesota Timberwolves, the Clippers found out they would be without Blake Griffin, who is battling back spasms, and Jamal Crawford, who is dealing with a sore left Achilles tendon. They joined J.J. Redick, who has missed the past 23 games with a bulging disk in his lower back, and Danny Granger, who was sent home for the final three games of this road trip with a strained left hamstring.

With 10 active players, the Clippers beat the Timberwolves 114-104, and led by as many as 24 points in the fourth quarter. After the game when Rivers was asked about Griffin, he once again shrugged his shoulders.

“I didn’t ask, I didn’t even have to make a decision,” Rivers said. “[Clippers trainer Jasen Powell] came to me and said he was out.”

Coaches are typically more invested in the injuries and recovery of their players, but Rivers is adamant that when players are out, Powell will let him know when they are able to play. Until then, it does him and the team no good to worry or think about what could have been.

[+] EnlargeChris Paul
AP Photo/Ann Heisenfelt"No excuses," Chris Paul said of the Clippers' approach to injuries. "The next guy comes in and plays."
“No matter what the obstacle is, you keep playing,” Rivers said. “We have enough guys. That’s what we talked about today. We didn’t mention the injuries. We never said anything. I didn’t even tell [Jared Dudley] he was starting [in place of Griffin]. One of my coaches told him he was starting. I just think you go out and play, and it will work out if you believe that and you play well.”

It’s this mindset that has helped the Clippers withstand injuries this season not just to Griffin and Paul, but also every player on the roster except for DeAndre Jordan, who has started every game.

Darren Collison, who is starting at shooting guard because Redick and Crawford are both out, finished with 28 points and seven assists Monday, while Paul had 22 points and nine assists. Dudley, who hadn’t started since Jan. 18 and had completely fallen out of the rotation, finished with 16 points.

“Before we ran out on the floor tonight and we were in the huddle, I said, ‘Fellas, let’s be who we are,'” Paul said. “We got who we got and keep the train moving. No excuses, the next guy comes in and plays.”

When Paul was out, Griffin showed he was an MVP candidate, and if Griffin is out, Paul might once again prove he’s an MVP candidate, but the real MVP candidate on the team might be the one guy who won’t get a single Coach of the Year vote.

“Doc Rivers is that good,” Crawford said. “There are no excuses. It’s Doc. I think I’ve had a great year. Blake went to an MVP level. Chris is having another one of his years, but Doc is the true MVP of this team. He keeps us prepared. He keeps us locked in. We know exactly what we’re supposed to do night in and night out. He sets that standard for us.”

Rivers not only doesn’t have time for injured players (he sent Granger home when it was discovered he would be out for a week), he also doesn’t have time for distractions. When Glen “Big Baby” Davis was making a scene after being taken out of Saturday’s game against the Houston Rockets, Rivers kicked him off the bench and had him escorted back to the locker room by team security. Afterward, he spoke to Davis and Davis apologized to the team.

“Doc is Doc,” Davis said. “I’m an emotional guy and sometimes I let my emotions get the best of me. Sometimes it can be a good thing and sometimes it can be a bad thing, and in this case it was a bad thing. I need to get better. I want to help this team. I don’t want to just be here. I want to be sure I can play Clipper basketball.”

What it means to play “Clipper basketball” has certainly changed over the years, but under Rivers it has meant playing the same kind of basketball no matter what lineup is on the floor.

“It’s huge because you just never know what’s going to happen in any game in the playoffs,” Paul said. “It gives you the confidence to know that you can do it. It doesn’t mean one guy has to do too much. Other guys get opportunities and minutes. It’s fun that way, I’m telling you it’s so much fun. Regardless of who’s on the court, we play our way.”

Clippers add drama to a winning résumé

March, 29, 2014
Mar 29

HOUSTON -- As Los Angeles Clippers forward Jared Dudley sat in the visiting locker room of the Toyota Center on Saturday night, he had a question for me.

Why don’t the Clippers get more media coverage in L.A?

It was a fair question, and one I often get from friends and family visiting me from out of town when they turn on local TV and radio stations.

The Clippers have had one of the five best records in the league this season, while the Los Angeles Lakers have had one of the five worst records in the league. But the unofficial breakdown on coverage on the local airwaves is still probably about 95 percent to 5 percent, in favor of the Lakers.

[+] EnlargeChris Paul
AP Photo/Patric SchneiderThe Clippers found some serious sizzle -- on and off the court -- Saturday in Houston.
Putting aside the history of both teams for a moment, I told Dudley why I thought the Lakers were still the local media darlings, even if most of the current active roster is unrecognizable.

“There’s more drama with the Lakers,” I told him. “It’s a real-life reality show.”

The only thing Hollywood loves more than a winner is a good drama. And even when the Lakers aren’t winning, they’re making headlines with Jeanie and Jim Buss trying to run the team together, Phil Jackson bolting for New York, Pau Gasol and Chris Kaman getting into a war of words with Mike D’Antoni, Kobe Bryant calling out management, Steve Nash saying he’s still playing for the money, and even Nick Young’s house getting burglarized.

Meanwhile, down the street in Lob City, there’s usually nothing but peace, quiet and highlight-reel plays, which is great in most municipalities. But that’s not enough in the entertainment capital of the world.

Enter stage left, Glen “Big Baby” Davis.

The serenity that the Clippers once enjoyed was shaken Saturday night when Davis, who was signed by the Clippers last month, was sent off the court by Doc Rivers and escorted back to the locker room by team security.

When Davis was taken out of the game early in the second quarter, he exchanged words with Rivers, who yelled at Davis to sit his, well, behind down. Clippers assistant coach Alvin Gentry then attempted to talk to Davis, but Rivers apparently had seen and heard enough at that point and sent him off the bench.

It was something Rivers had never done and something none of the players in the locker room had ever seen before. After the Clippers were forced to play without Blake Griffin, who was sidelined for the rest of the game after suffering back spasms in the first quarter, Griffin's replacement, Davis, gets ejected from the game by his coach.

“I've talked about emotional hijacks," Rivers said. "If you have one, I'll send you back. We've talked about that as a group. I didn't make a big deal, didn't address it halftime, and it's not a big deal. We needed him tonight, but he wasn't here emotionally. So you tell him to go and sit.”

Emotional hijacks aren’t ideal for a team, but they’re also not the worst thing in the world for a team in need of a shakeup.

After Davis was sent back to the locker room with the Clippers down 15 points, they went on a 34-18 run, took the lead at halftime, went up 13 in fourth quarter and won 118-107.

“I’ve never been on a team like this before,” said Chris Paul, who had 30 points and 12 assists. “I think a lot of teams, when a guy goes down, they start looking for excuses. And I’ve been on teams like that.

“Our team is like, 'All right, next man stand up,' and they know what to do.”

Not only were the Clippers united on the floor, they worked together after the game and acted as if they were unaware of the Davis incident -- or simply said it would be handled in-house -- before moving on to the next question.

But there’s nothing wrong with a championship-contending team having an emotional and unpredictable “Big Baby” in the locker room. Back in 2008, Davis was driven to tears at the end of the Celtics' bench in Boston when Kevin Garnett yelled at him. That team found a way to get to two Finals in three years and win one. Rivers was at the helm of those teams and knew what he was getting on and off the court when he signed Davis.

Rivers didn’t have an issue with Davis after the game.

“I love Baby,” Rivers said. “I just didn't think emotionally he was ready to play tonight, so we told him to go to the locker room.”

As he prepared to leave the locker room after the game, Dudley listened to reporters taking about the Davis incident and laughed.

“I guess you guys will be talking about us now,” he said.

Jared Dudley out of Clippers' rotation

March, 22, 2014
Mar 22
LOS ANGELES -- For the past two days, every player on the Los Angeles Clippers roster was healthy enough to practice and every player on the roster, except for J.J. Redick, will be healthy enough to be in uniform Saturday when the Clippers play the Detroit Pistons.

It’s probably the healthiest the Clippers have been this season, and the four-day break with just 13 games left in the season couldn’t have come at a better time for injured players and those trying to work their way back into the rotation.

No one knows that better than Clippers forward Jared Dudley, who started the first 42 games of the season and played in every one of the first 63 games of the season before being sidelined for three games with back spasms. His absence and inability to make shots consistently when he has been on the floor has completely knocked him out of the Clippers’ rotation.

“He’s just not in the rotation right now,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. “He’s healthy and working his way back. At some point he’ll be back in and helping us. I really believe that.”

The only way Dudley was going to work his way back was with the two days of practice the Clippers have had during their mini break, considering that the Clippers hardly ever practice and even in a couple of blowout situations Dudley hasn’t come off the bench. Dudley has not played in the last seven games and hasn’t played at all since March 4.

“Once I got hurt I thought I would come back and start playing,” Dudley said. “I just look at it as you have to be ready and be professional. You have to be a pro’s pro through the good times and the bad times. You cheer the team on like you’re supposed to, you’re at practice and you work hard so when your name is called you’ll be out there prepared.”

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Rapid Reaction: Clippers 102, Cavaliers 80

March, 16, 2014
Mar 16

LOS ANGELES -- Doc Rivers is used to switching up his starting lineup at the last minute by now.

During the Los Angeles Clippers’ current 11-game winning streak, L.A. has been without, at various times, J.J. Redick, Jamal Crawford, Jared Dudley and Darren Collison. (You could also add Danny Granger when he was forced to miss a game as a result of not being circled on the active list.)

On Sunday, Willie Green was forced to start at shooting guard as essentially the team’s fourth option. Redick, who would normally start, is sidelined indefinitely with a bulging disk in his lower back. His backup Crawford is sidelined at least another week with a strained left calf. And Collison, who was starting in Crawford’s place (and also started in place of Chris Paul this season) was a late scratch with a stomach virus.

As has been the case this season, the Clippers didn’t miss a beat without Redick, Crawford or Collison as they beat the Cleveland Cavaliers, 102-80, to win a season-high and current league-high 11th straight game.

How it happened: The Clippers jumped out to a 14-point lead in the first quarter and pushed it to 16 by halftime and 21 in the third quarter. L.A., however, let Cleveland back into the game in fourth quarter as its lead was dwindled down to seven points before the Clippers finally pulled away.

What it means: It means the Clippers have won a season-high 11 straight games, the longest active winning streak in the league. They also took a six-game lead over the Golden State Warriors in the Pacific Division. The Clippers also hold a three-game lead, which is really four with the tiebreaker, over the Houston Rockets for the third seed. L.A. is just three games back of the top seed in the West and two games back of the No. 2 seed.

Hits: Blake Griffin had 21 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists and has now scored at least 20 points in a franchise-record 26 straight games, which is the second-longest streak in the NBA this season. Paul had 16 points and 15 assists and DeAndre Jordan had 15 points and 10 rebounds. It was the eighth time this season all three players reached a double-double in the same game. The Clippers’ “big three” has combined for 108 double-doubles this season, the most by three teammates in the NBA this year.

Misses: It was a rough night for Glen "Big Baby" Davis, who has played well defensively but has yet to make his presence felt on offense. On Sunday he went 1-for-5 from the field for two points off the bench, but added seven rebounds.

Stat of the game: The Clippers had 25 fast-break points to just five for Cleveland and had 40 points in the paint compared to 30 for the Cavs.

Up next: The Clippers will board a flight to Denver immediately after the game to play the Denver Nuggets on Sunday. The season series is tied after the Clippers lost to the Nuggets in their last meeting in Denver, when Randy Foye hit a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to give the Nuggets a 116-115 win.

Despite win, Rivers still wants more

March, 9, 2014
Mar 9
LOS ANGELES -- Doc Rivers was not happy after the Los Angeles Clippers' season-high seventh straight win on Saturday.

There were no congratulatory messages from the coach as he addressed the team after the game. The usual music blaring from an iPad and players' children running around the locker room was replaced by the booming sound of Rivers' voice.

[+] EnlargeRivers
AP Photo/Gus RuelasDoc Rivers says the Clippers need to continue striving for a stronger identity as they get closer to the postseason.
He lit into his players about execution and turnovers that nearly cost the Clippers a crucial game they led by 11 points with 5:30 left.

"I wasn't real happy with our execution down the stretch of the game," Rivers said. "We won the game, but we wouldn't win a lot of games with the way we turned the ball over and how careless we were with the basketball. Every night you're not going to play well, it's just human, but you can execute well or at least be in the right spots. The turnovers the last three or four games were just too casual."

The Clippers have won those games, but that doesn't always matter to Rivers. He said he's more concerned about the way his team is playing during the final stretch of the season than celebrating a win that would have easily been a loss against most teams in the NBA.

"I don't like turnovers period," Rivers said. "You are going to have some, but a lot of them were not forced. They were way too casual. And I think you have to be a great execution team. That does not mean the plays work defensively or offensively, but it certainly helps when everybody's in the right spot. It gives you a fighting chance. That is the only thing I didn't like."

Rivers didn't want his team celebrating the win because squeaking out a one-point win over the 26-35 Hawks, losers of six straight, isn't going to help them beat teams like Oklahoma City, San Antonio and Houston in the playoffs.

"You're not going to win deep lucky," Rivers said. "You're not going to luck into it. You're going to have to go get it and do it right."

As they got dressed in the locker room, Clippers players began making plans for meeting at the team's training facility to shoot and workout despite no scheduled practice Sunday.

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Rapid Reaction: Clippers 108, Pelicans 76

March, 1, 2014
Mar 1

LOS ANGELES -- Five days after the Los Angeles Clippers played the New Orleans Pelicans in the Crescent City, the result wasn’t much different in their return engagement at Staples Center.

The Clippers beat the Pelicans 108-76 to claim their fourth straight victory and remain within a game of the No. 3 seed in the Western Conference.

How it happened: The Clippers took a 25-8 lead in the first quarter and never really looked back. They were ahead by as many 35 points. The Pelicans never led and never cut the Clippers' lead to lower than double digits after the midway point of the first quarter.

What it means: The Clippers have won four straight after dropping the first two games after the All-Star break and are a game out of the No. 3 seed and just 2½ games out of the No. 2 seed. The Clippers also hold a four-game lead atop the Pacific Division.

Hits: It was another big game for Blake Griffin, who had 20 points and five rebounds, extending his streak to 19 straight games of scoring at least 20 points. Chris Paul had 21 points and eight assists, while DeAndre Jordan had seven points and 12 rebounds.

Misses: The Clippers got contributions from everyone on the bench, but Jared Dudley continues to struggle this season. He hit only one of his five attempts and missed all three of his 3-point attempts. It was another example of why he is now on the bench and why the Clippers felt the need to upgrade the small forward position with the addition of Danny Granger, who was not active on Saturday because his name was inadvertently not circled on the active list.

Stat of the game: The Clippers hit their magic number of nine from long distance on Saturday. The Clippers are now 26-0 when they make at least nine 3-pointers.

Up next: The Clippers have a couple of days off before going on the road Tuesday to play the Phoenix Suns. The Clippers lost their first game against Phoenix 107-88 on Dec. 30. This will be a big game in the Pacific Division, as Phoenix is just five games behind the Clippers and could possibly play them in the first round of the playoffs.

Paul's return ignites defense, second unit

February, 9, 2014
Feb 9
LOS ANGELES -- It will be easy to get lost in the franchise-best 45-point margin of victory, Chris Paul's return and the dozens of highlight-reel plays that littered the Los Angeles Clippers' 123-78 win over the Philadelphia 76ers on Sunday night.

But that wasn't what impressed 76ers coach Brett Brown and Clippers coach Doc Rivers when they spoke at midcourt afterward.

[+] EnlargeChris Paul
AP Photo/Mark J. TerrillChris Paul's return to the Clippers helped their defense become all it can be more than their already solid offense.
"What Brett said after the game was right," Rivers said. "He said, 'As much as you scored, it was your defense that changed the game.' That's what I kept saying with Chris. People are talking about offense, but we miss Chris defensively. He’s one of the best pick-and-roll guards in the league, defensively. Not having that hurts us and having that, you could see what happens."

At one point, the 76ers were 1-for-25 on pick-and-rolls, according to Rivers, and that was largely because of Paul.

"When a guard can get over the pick and the bigs can get back and then you can defend the line, everything falls into place," Rivers said. "I thought that's where it showed for me. The offense was a byproduct of the defense."

Blowouts will happen during the course of a season. They're usually more of an aberration than an indicator of things to come. For example, it's safe to say the Clippers won't be taking many 31-point leads in the first quarter or 56-point leads in the third quarter this season.

What will last long after the blowout win and play a part in the Clippers' success or failure in the postseason is how they can build upon the defensive intensity they showed Sunday, and also embrace the rotations that will now come into shape with L.A. returning to full health.

Not only did Paul return, but J.J. Redick, who has missed 24 games this season because of various injuries, is expected back in the lineup Wednesday. It will be the first time the Clippers have their full collection of players available to them since the beginning of the season. It will allow players like Darren Collison and Jamal Crawford, who started when Paul and Redick were out, to return to a second team that has struggled without them.

"When you have Jamal and D.C. in that second unit that turns into a really nice unit," Rivers said. "Unfortunately we haven't had that unit or the first unit much this year, but it's getting closer and that's good. ... That'll be nice to see that second unit be an energy group again for us."

Rivers even hinted at returning Matt Barnes, who has started the past 12 games, to the second unit because he likes Jared Dudley, who started the first 42 games of the season, to play along with Paul and Redick, and likes Barnes' energy off the bench.

(Read full post)

Clippers trying to emulate Heat

February, 6, 2014
Feb 6
LOS ANGELES -- Whenever Doc Rivers talks about championship expectations, championship defense and championship attitude, he points to the Miami Heat.

They are the unquestioned gold standard he holds up when trying to show the Los Angeles Clippers what they should aspire toward.

[+] EnlargeClippers/Heat
Kirby Lee/USA TODAY SportsThere's a lot the Clippers can learn from the Heat if they hope to one day see Miami in the Finals.
And why not? After back-to-back championships and three straight trips to the NBA Finals, there aren’t many other teams a coach would want his team to emulate besides the Heat. Rivers, as the coach of the Boston Celtics, faced the Heat in the playoffs three consecutive seasons and got a firsthand look at the team he wants his Clippers to one day become.

On Wednesday, he once again got a firsthand look at the Heat as they came to Staples Center and defeated the Clippers, 116-112.

It was the second time Miami has beaten L.A. this season. The Clippers quietly pointed at playing the second night of a road back-to-back after the first loss, and pointed at playing without Chris Paul and J.J. Redick -- in addition to playing their 12th game in their 10th different city in 19 days -- after Wednesday’s loss.

The truth: The Clippers weren’t better than the Heat then and they’re not better than the Heat now.

That’s no surprise. The Clippers are still in the process of trying to become the kind of team that is talked about in the same sentence as the Heat and, more importantly, will be in a position to play the Heat at the end of the season come June.

“Teams like the Heat and San Antonio have the ultimate trust in each other, in their systems, in their rotations,” Rivers said. “They very rarely make a mistake. As a matter of fact, you can tell when they do make a mistake because they want to look at each other like they want to kill each other. We’re still in the middle of that. It’s good to see teams do it, and they’ve done it. They’ve been through everything.”

(Read full post)

Rapid Reaction: Heat 116, Clippers 112

February, 5, 2014
Feb 5

LOS ANGELES -- The Los Angeles Clippers want to be an elite team but to do that they must start to beat elite teams.

As “The Nature Boy” Ric Flair used to say, “If you want to be the man, you have to beat the man.”

So far this season, the Clippers have beaten a lot of teams but are just 2-7 against the top five teams in the league after Wednesday’s 116-112 loss to the Miami Heat.

The Clippers are also 0-4 against the Heat and the Pacers this season and 0-5 against the league’s elite on the road.

Wednesday’s loss, coming back from 19 down to nearly tie the game in the fourth quarter without Chris Paul and J.J. Redick, was admirable. But admirable efforts and moral wins don’t mean much to a team trying to be elite.

How it happened: After the Clippers scored the opening basket of the game, the Heat took a 12-point lead in the first quarter and never looked back. They increased their lead to 19 points in the second quarter and controlled the game for much of the night before the Clippers stormed back in the fourth quarter, going on a 10-0 run and coming within two points. However, the Clippers could never tie the game or take the lead.

What it means: Beating the Heat is going to be hard when the Clippers are at full strength. Trying to beat them without Paul and Redick to end a grueling 19-day stretch during which they have played 12 games in 10 cities is a thankless task. Nevertheless, elite teams find ways to beat elite teams.

Hits: Blake Griffin was all over the court and above the rim, finishing with 43 points and 15 rebounds. Jamal Crawford added 31 points and 6 assists while DeAndre Jordan had 16 points and 16 rebounds. All but eight of the Clippers’ 112 points on Wednesday came from Griffin, Jordan, Crawford and Matt Barnes (12 points).

Misses: The Clippers got absolutely nothing from their bench against the Heat. Jared Dudley was 1-for-5 and missed all of his 3-point tries and finished with three points. Willie Green missed his one attempt and finished with two points. That was about it. No one else on the Clippers' bench scored. Meanwhile, the Heat got 27 points from their second team.

Stat of the game: After having some success with the deep ball, the Clippers struggled from beyond the arc on Wednesday. They finished just 7-of-25 for 28 percent.

Up next: The Clippers will finally be able to stay home after playing a game at Staples Center, and may even get in a practice on Thursday before playing the Toronto Raptors on Friday. The Clippers beat the Raptors in Toronto in their first meeting of the season, 126-118, as Terrence Ross scored 51 points.

Clippers understand roles, expectations

January, 20, 2014
Jan 20
DETROIT -- There was a familiar sight on the Los Angeles Clippers' sideline and in their locker room before and after Monday’s game against the Detroit Pistons.

During the national anthem and shortly after the game, Chauncey Billups, wearing a designer suit, was standing amongst the Clippers’ players and coaches, catching up with his former teammates.

It was a familiar sight, but thankfully for the Clippers, it was an image that is now in their rearview mirror.

As respected as Billups is, the truth is his presence and stranglehold on the starting shooting guard position (whenever he was able to play, that is) was never a solid long-term plan for a team that is trying to contend for the next five years.

AP Photo/Alex BrandonWhether a star on the court or a leader in the locker room, Doc Rivers' players understand their roles in making the Clippers a championship contender.
That’s not to say the Clippers failed to get out of the first or second round of the playoffs the past two seasons because of Billups, but the Clippers' insistence on depending on a 37-year-old guard who hadn’t played more than 22 games in a season for a team since 2011 was always a recipe for disaster.

Billups started just 22 games for the Clippers last season after returning from a ruptured Achilles tendon. He started just 20 games the previous season before suffering the injury. Instead of moving on, the Clippers continued to wait for Billups to return to the player he was before the injury, which was never going to happen.

Injuries happen, that’s part of basketball. No one knows that better than the Clippers, who are in the midst of playing without Chris Paul for six weeks after playing without J.J. Redick for six weeks, but that’s different than helplessly waiting around on a player who should have retired and was never going to return to All-Star form.

The Clippers don’t have a Billups problem on their hands this season. They knew Redick would return to form when he came back and Paul will eventually return to form when he comes back. They also aren’t depending on veterans who are past their prime -- like Grant Hill -- to contribute off the bench. As good as Billups and Hill might have been in the locker room, the truth is both should have retired before last season instead of being counted on as key players on a contending team.

When Doc Rivers came to Los Angeles, one of his first moves was to get a prototypical shooting guard who could, well, shoot, unlike Billups, who was a true point guard and shot less than 40 percent from the field with the Clippers. The Clippers made a trade and added Redick, who is shooting better than 45 percent from the field this season, and Jared Dudley, who replaced Caron Butler, another aging veteran on the Clippers who was well past his prime.

“It’s always nice to have a shooter who can move because it gives you a different kind of offense,” Rivers said. “It also helps both bigs be able to play on the floor more.”

Dealing with his players’ roles and expectations has always been one of Rivers’ better traits as a coach. It’s the ability to tell Antawn Jamison, who was upset with his diminished role last season with the Los Angeles Lakers, that he wanted him to come to the Clippers not to be a major contributor but rather be a leader in the locker room. The ability to tell Willie Green, who started 60 games last season in place of Billups, that he wanted him to be part of the team as well but not as a starter.

It’s a big reason Jamison and Green are two of the leaders in the Clippers’ locker room despite rarely getting on the court. That’s a big difference from Billups and Hill’s roles last season when both were not only leaders in the locker room but depended on to contribute on the court when they simply couldn’t.

“It is hard but in the veterans’ case they knew what they were getting when they came here,” Rivers said. “It’s still no fun. Everybody wants to play. You grew up playing basketball to play basketball, not to watch basketball. I don’t think that ever changes. I don’t care what age you are.

“It’s good to have a guy giving them positive information and not worrying about his playing time. A lot of the time you have veterans on the bench who are not happy about not playing and they don’t handle it well. Fortunately for us, our guys have been great. Willie Green and Antawn have been absolutely tremendous in that way.”

Green is 32 and has been in the NBA for 10 seasons while Jamison is 37 and has played 15 seasons. In their combined 25 seasons, the one common denominator between both players is neither has won a ring and that’s why they are more than happy being the role of locker room veterans on the team who rarely see the court. In fact, neither saw the floor against Detroit on Monday and haven’t played in the Clippers’ past four games.

“My biggest thing is the overall picture,” Jamison said. “The main reason I wanted to come here was to win. By me talking to DeAndre [Jordan], Blake [Griffin] and [Jared] Dudley when stuff is going on, I can let them see what I see and try to ease their mind a little bit and those guys are very receptive of what I have to say. They really take heed to it and that’s the biggest thing I can contribute.”

It hasn’t always been easy for Green, who was a starter for the majority of last season for the Clippers, including during their franchise-record 17-game winning streak and was quickly pulled as soon as Billups was healthy enough to play.

“I respect my teammates and when I’m not playing, I’m not one of those guys that’s moping and pouting and mad at the word,” Green said. “I want my teammates to do well. I want to be out there with them and try to help them get that win but if not, I’m going to cheer them on and help them on and be ready. I’ve been in this league long enough to know that things happen and when they do, you got to be ready to step up.”

Rivers made sure every player on the team from the stars to the reserves understood their roles before the season started. He met with each one individually and did the same with players he has added during the season, such as Hedo Turkoglu, who was signed last week. He knows he has a young team but they are all bound by one common goal and one simple fact -- none of them has won an NBA championship.

“The stars are going to be the stars,” Rivers said. “The role players, we got to get them to be stars in their role. I think the sell of that is important. The veterans are over themselves. They’re done with themselves. They’ve already had their day. They’re not trying to establish anything. They’re hungry and desperate to win. Young guys all say they want to win but they want their day and they really want to establish that. It takes time. With a young team, you have to convince them if you win, you will get your day.”

Rapid Reaction: Clippers 112, Pistons 103

January, 20, 2014
Jan 20

DETROIT -- The Los Angeles Clippers may be in first place in the Pacific Division and hold one of the top four seeds in the Western Conference, but Doc Rivers did not like what he was seeing from his starting lineup.

It wasn’t so much that Chris Paul was missing (although that doesn't help) as much as it was the production he wasn't getting from the small forward position.

So for the first time this season, Rivers benched Jared Dudley and started Matt Barnes in his place.

It’s a change Rivers will likely keep for the time being after the Clippers’ 112-103 win over the Detroit Pistons on Monday. Barnes finished with 10 points and five rebounds while Dudley finished with seven points and one rebound.

It's a move that was made just as much for defensive reasons as it was for offensive reasons.

“He’s going to be in and out,” Rivers said of Dudley. “He’s going to get a rhythm at some point. I’m really not concerned with his offense, to be honest. He can shoot the ball. That will never go away, but I do need him to improve defensively. That’s more picking up our stuff better. He is what he is individually. He knows what he can and can’t do because he’s going to have to keep improving with the team concept, and that’s all I can ask.”

How it happened: The Clippers pulled away in the second quarter, going on a 14-1 run, and never really looked back. The Clippers went up by as many as 20 points and turned the game into a mini dunk contest in the first half when it seemed every basket was coming on a dunk or lob.

What it means: The Clippers are 8-2 in January and have held their ground in the standings without Paul, who will be sidelined six weeks with a separated right shoulder. The Clippers are 2-1 so far on their seven-game road trip with a date with Charlotte up next.

Hits: Blake Griffin had 25 points, five rebounds and five assists in the game while J.J. Redick had 20 points and six assists. Barnes was solid in his first start of the season with 10 points and five rebounds while DeAndre Jordan added 16 points, 21 rebounds and four blocks.

Misses: Darren Collison suffered a sprained left big toe against Indiana and hasn’t been the same since. He finished with 10 points and four assists in the loss to Indiana and had just four points and six assists against the Pistons after going 0-for-6 from the field. With Paul out for another month, the Clippers will need Collison to get better in a hurry.

Stat of the game: Jordan’s 21 rebounds tied his season high and was just one away from his career high.

Up next: The Clippers’ two-week road trip will continue Wednesday when they visit the Charlotte Bobcats. It will be the second and final meeting of the season between the two teams after the Clippers beat the Bobcats 112-85 in Los Angeles on Jan. 1. The 18-25 Bobcats are tied for the final playoff spot in the East.
LOS ANGELES -- Chris Paul's presence is still felt at Los Angeles Clippers games as he walks around the locker room pregame, talking to his teammates, during games as he sits next to the assistant coaches and yells out instructions, and after games, as he leaves with his young son, "Little Chris," by his side.

[+] EnlargeBass
Robert Hanashiro/USA TODAY SportsThe Clippers picked up their third win in the past four games without Chris Paul.
Paul's presence is everywhere but on the court right now, but the Clippers -- at least in the short term -- are doing just fine without their leader.

They beat the Boston Celtics on Wednesday for their second straight win without Paul and third in their past four games without him. It's a small sample size, but life without Paul might not be as bad as expected for the Clippers.

"I'm very encouraged," coach Doc Rivers said. "There's some things we have to clean up. I need to do a better job figuring out the second unit. I've got to keep a couple stars on with both groups. With Chris out, and J.J. [Redick], it changes a little bit. Whenever you sub now, the guys you're usually subbing are already in. I thought they didn't have enough scoring in that one stretch in the second quarter, and I thought that hurt us."

Rivers' issues with the second team might get shored up in the coming days with Redick expected to return to the lineup Friday against the Los Angeles Lakers for the first time in six weeks and Reggie Bullock expected to be back soon after that for the first time in a month.

(Read full post)

Rapid Reaction: Clippers 111, Celtics 105

January, 8, 2014
Jan 8

LOS ANGELES -- When the Los Angeles Clippers heard that Chris Paul had suffered a separated right shoulder during the third quarter of their game last week against the Dallas Mavericks, it would have been easy to expect the worst.

They were trailing Dallas at the time, had to travel to San Antonio that night and were possibly looking at playing a stretch of six weeks without Paul.

Well, they're about a week into life without Paul and it's not as bad as expected. The Clippers came back to beat Dallas, lost to San Antonio as expected, and have now beaten the Orlando Magic and Boston Celtics.

Wednesday's 111-105 win over the Celtics was the Clippers' second straight win and third in their past four games sans Paul.

It won't always be this easy without CP3, but the Clippers so far have navigated the rough waters of life without their captain better that most expected.

How it happened: The Clippers jumped out to a 26-10 lead and looked as if they would cruise. But they took their foot off the gas, allowing the Celtics to not only come back, but take a two-point lead in the third quarter. The Clippers finally buckled down in the fourth quarter despite a late collapse and were able to secure the win.

What it means: The Clippers have won two in a row and three of four without Paul. The Clippers are still leading the Pacific Division and have a top-four seed in the West, a position they'd like to hold on to even without Paul.

Hits: The Clippers' starters came to play Wednesday, scoring about 90 percent of the team's points. They were led by Blake Griffin's 29 points, six rebounds and eight assists. DeAndre Jordan had 11 points and 13 rebounds, and Jared Dudley had 18 points, including four 3-pointers.

Misses: The bench was basically missing Wednesday. Only two players on L.A.'s bench scored, as Willie Green had seven points and Matt Barnes had five. That was all the Clippers really got from their nonexistent bench against Boston, and was a big reason the Clippers' 16-point lead quickly evaporated before halftime.

Stat of the game: The Clippers also outscored the Celtics, 24-5, in fast-break points and put on a dunk show in the first quarter when they took a 16-point lead.

Up next: The Clippers will play the Los Angeles Lakers on Friday in a rematch of their season opener when the Lakers defeated the Clippers 116-103. That was perhaps the high water mark of the Lakers' season as they are now 14-22 and have lost nine of their past 10 games.

Rapid Reaction: Clippers 112, Bobcats 85

January, 1, 2014
Jan 1

LOS ANGELES -- Despite coming off the third-worst home loss of the Chris Paul era, Los Angeles Clippers coach Doc Rivers remained even-keeled when discussing his level of concern over his team laying an egg to close out 2013.

"How many bad games have we had?" Rivers said before Wednesday's game against the Charlotte Bobcats. "It's not like we have a habit of bad games. We had one. We've lost games, but we've played hard. We lost to Golden State and Portland, but we played hard.

"The other night we just didn't do any of those things. So that was abnormal. Look at it as that."

Rivers' words proved false in the first half Wednesday, as the Clippers' inconsistent defensive effort picked up where it left off against the Phoenix Suns. The Bobcats shot 51.3 percent, scored 26 points in the paint and got to the free-throw line 12 times, essentially toying with the Clippers' porous D.

The second half, however, featured considerably better defensive intensity from Los Angeles, with the Clippers rotating on a string and generally stymying the Bobcats' first option on a given possession.

Charlotte's 28th-ranked offense hung around as long as it could, but a barrage of Jared Dudley 3-pointers in the third quarter and Blake Griffin 18-footers in the fourth -- coupled with the Clippers' defense -- guided L.A. to a convincing 112-85 victory.

How it happened: Paul had a monster first half, scoring 17 points and dishing out seven assists, but the Clippers -- despite shooting 56.1 percent -- couldn't find their footing defensively and were tied 56-56 at halftime.

L.A. tightened up its defense in the third quarter, holding Charlotte to 13 points on 21.1 percent shooting and, in the process, expanded its lead to as many as 13. The Bobcats briefly cut the lead to 11 in the fourth before Griffin's four consecutive jumpers stretched it to 19 and sealed the win.

What it means: The Clippers start the new year with a win, and an impressive one at that. Their occasional defensive malaise is slightly discouraging this deep into the season, but when they’re clicking, they can suffocate nearly any offense, as they showed in the second half.

Though the Bobcats (14-19) have a sub-.500 record, they still boast the fourth-best defense in the league, so there's also some merit in dropping 112 points on them.

Hits: Griffin had 31 points and 12 rebounds, highlighted by his second-half shooting display, which included a 3-pointer from the top of the arc.

Paul finished with 17 points and 14 assists.

Dudley broke out of his recent shooting slump and scored 20 points on 6-of-9 shooting from beyond the arc.

The Clippers had 36 assists on 47 field goals (76.6 percent of their baskets).

Misses: Jamal Crawford and Matt Barnes combined to shoot 1-of-14 on 3-pointers.

Stat of the game: 24.3 percent. That was the Bobcats’ shooting percentage in the second half, after scorching L.A. for 51.3 percent in the first. As a result, Charlotte scored only 29 points in the final 24 minutes.

Up next: The Clippers (22-12) have little time to savor their bounce-back victory, as they head to Texas for a tough two-game trip against the Dallas Mavericks (19-13) on Friday and the San Antonio Spurs (25-7) on Saturday.