Los Angeles Clippers: Kenyon Martin

Report cards: Paul

June, 5, 2012
Here is the final player capsule in our ongoing look at the 2011-2012 season for the Los Angeles Clippers, and what's ahead for 2012-2013. We examined every player who finished the season on the roster. Later, we'll look at the head coach.

We started with Trey Thompkins and Travis Leslie, moved on to Ryan Gomes and Bobby Simmons and continued with Chauncey Billups, Kenyon Martin, Reggie Evans, Randy Foye, Eric Bledsoe, Nick Young, Mo Williams, Caron Butler, DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin.

Now, we do Chris Paul.

2011-2012 contributions: Chris Paul had a magnificent first season with the Clippers. Maybe his first postseason wasn't as good as expected -- and injuries probably played a role in that -- but he truly was everything the organization could have hoped for in the 60 regular-season games he played. He averaged 19.8 points and 9.1 assists and proved to be a legitimate 3-point threat, taking the most 3-pointers of his career and converting 37 percent of them. Statistically, though, the area Paul shined the brightest was in the category of turnovers. There are players who produce similar numbers of points and assists as Paul, like Nets point guard Deron Williams, but there aren't any who do it while keeping their turnover totals anywhere near Paul's. Williams, for example, averaged 21 points and 8.7 assists but four turnovers per game. The Clippers' point guard just doesn't waste many possessions, and that's one of the reasons why he's so great.

2012-2013 prediction: Oh, man. Next season is really going to dictate a lot for Paul and his future with this organization. You have to assume he'll agree to come back if the Clippers continue making progress like they did this year, but what happens if they stay stagnant and exit early in the playoffs again? That could be trouble. Luckily, there is plenty of reason to believe that the team -- and Paul -- could be better in 2012-2013. Really, there was about a month this year where he wasn't himself because of a balky knee and other nagging injuries, which the lockout-shortened season didn't help. He took about two weeks to get going after Christmas and then struggled for the final two weeks of the postseason. Take those periods away and the season could have gone differently. Paul could also use a more established, more consistent backcourt mate next year, and preferably a legitimate shooting guard, not a point masquerading as one. That wouldn't hurt, either.

Grade: A

Report cards: Jordan

June, 1, 2012
Here is the 12th player capsule in our ongoing look back at the 2011-2012 season for the Los Angeles Clippers and forward at the 2012-2013 season. The series runs until next week, examining every player who finished the season on the roster as well as the head coach.

We started with Trey Thompkins and Travis Leslie, quickly moved on to Ryan Gomes and Bobby Simmons and continued with Chauncey Billups, Kenyon Martin, Reggie Evans, Eric Bledsoe, Nick Young, Mo Williams and Caron Butler. Now, we do DeAndre Jordan.

2011-2012 contributions: Was Jordan's 2011-2012 campaign what the Clippers envisioned when they matched Golden State's four-year, $43 million offer sheet to him last December? No. Was it a complete and outright disappointment? Not that, either. The question is which of those it's closer to, and an argument can be made for both. The same on-again, off-again defensive struggles he had his first three NBA seasons were plain to see again this season, and it's hard to name something he got better at, other than free-throw shooting -- which was still poor at 53 percent. One definite positive: He has proven to be an effective rebounder, and that didn't change either, as his per-minute rebound rate was actually better than Blake Griffin's. But he pulled a gradual disappearing act all season, with his points per game declining each month. And then he went the first 10 playoff games without finishing in double digits in points or rebounds a single time.

2012-2013 prediction: Jordan is a Clipper to stay. Going forward, it's vital to the franchise's success that he learns how to become at least a serviceable offensive player in non-dunk situations. Developing reliable post moves has been a focus in his first four years, but that effort has yet to result in anything tangible. Luckily, he's still just 23 and has time to learn. Also, if Jordan can get his free-throw rate to flirt with 60 percent, then Vinny Del Negro could actually keep him on the court late in games. And an $11 million man should be able to play 3o effective minutes per game, which Jordan has yet to do for extended stretches of his NBA career. Plus, it'll help his per-game numbers look a little better.

Grade: C+

Report cards: Young

May, 30, 2012
Here is the ninth player capsule in our ongoing look back at the 2011-2012 season for the Los Angeles Clippers and forward at the 2012-2013 season. The series runs until next Tuesday, examining every player who finished the season on the roster as well as the head coach.

We started with rookies Trey Thompkins and Travis Leslie, moved on to small forwards Ryan Gomes and Bobby Simmons and then Chauncey Billups, Kenyon Martin, Reggie Evans and Eric Bledsoe. Now, we do the last of the bench players: Nick Young.

2011-2012 contributions: Young did not play well in his first few weeks with the Clippers this year, once he was acquired for next-to-nothing at the trade deadline. Then he began to bounce back in April and peaked with a 19-point performance in an end-of-year win over Oklahoma City. He then matched that output in Game 1 of the first-round series against Memphis and hit several other big shots in the 10 remaining playoff games -- while memorably dealing with significant pain from impacted wisdom teeth that he has since had removed. Young still shot better than 50 percent from the field in only two of the 22 regular-season games he played for the Clips.

2012-2013 prediction: Young is probably the most likely Clipper free agent to be brought back next season, partially because he played well toward the end of his brief tenure last season and partially because he actually fits their long-term needs fairly well. But his contract demands are an unknown, and he's proven to be a bit of a loose cannon when it comes to free agency. Few could have predicted a year ago that Young would end up re-signing with Washington after the lockout for just one year and $3.5 million, but that's exactly what he did. If he does come back to the Clippers, he probably steps into a starting role alongside Chris Paul in the backcourt -- because if the Clips are paying him enough to return, then they're not going to be able to bring in much else at his spot.

Grade: C+

Report cards: Bledsoe

May, 30, 2012
Here is the eighth player capsule in our ongoing look back at the 2011-2012 season for the Los Angeles Clippers and forward at the 2012-2013 season. The series runs until next Tuesday, examining every player who finished the season on the roster as well as the head coach.

We started with rookies Trey Thompkins and Travis Leslie, moved on to small forwards Ryan Gomes and Bobby Simmons and then Chauncey Billups, Kenyon Martin and Reggie Evans. Now, we do Eric Bledsoe.

2011-2012 contributions: Bledsoe missed the first month of the season while recovering from an offseason meniscus tear and didn't even get into the rotation until March, but he was very productive in the final month and in the playoffs. In fact, Bledsoe was arguably the Clippers' third or fourth most important player in their playoff run, when he consistently came in and injected energy to the rest of the club during his limited minutes. He finished the team's 11 playoff games with averages of 7.9 points, 2.1 assists and 1.2 steals, but those numbers don't do his production justice. Bledsoe was, to put it simply, a postseason revelation.

2012-2013 prediction: He's a key piece to the puzzle going forward, and it'll be interesting to see how his role changes over this offseason depending on what the Clippers do around him. His status will change significantly based on whether or not Mo Williams chooses to return next season. Ideally, Bledsoe would be a 20-25 minute per-game guard next season, serving as Paul's direct backup but also sharing the court with him at times. But if Williams comes back, that'll be different.

Grade: B+

Report cards: Foye

May, 30, 2012
Here is the 11th player capsule in our ongoing look back at the 2011-2012 season for the Los Angeles Clippers and forward at the 2012-2013 season. The series runs until next week, examining every player who finished the season on the roster as well as the head coach.

We started with Trey Thompkins and Travis Leslie, quickly moved on to Ryan Gomes and Bobby Simmons and continued with Chauncey Billups, Kenyon Martin, Reggie Evans, Eric Bledsoe, Nick Young and Mo Williams. Now, we start the starting lineup with Randy Foye.

2011-2012 contributions: Well, he definitely did better than last year. After a disappointing 2010-2011 season, Foye proved to actually be a useful player when thrust into a starting role in 2011-2012, hitting 39 percent of his 3-point shots to rank in the top 40 in the NBA. His defense still left a lot to be desired, and there are inherent problems in the way he plays offense: i.e., he doesn't maximize the things he's best at, and he's arguably getting worse at playing to his strengths. Foye is a superb foul shooter, yet he attempted only 85 free throws all season -- good for by far the lowest per-minute rate of his career -- and missed just 12 of them. Part of that is because his role changed into more of a spot-up shooter once Chris Paul arrived in Clipperland, but part of it is also because he just didn't drive into the lane very much.

2012-2013 prediction: It's highly unlikely that Foye will be back with the Clippers next season. He just finished up a two-year, $8.5 million deal, and there's no reason the team would want to bring him back for anything around that money. It's hard to predict what kind of contract he'll fetch on the open market, but at least he put up a better season this year for his financial sake. If he does re-up with the Clippers, it'll likely be (1) a surprise and (2) a short-term, low-value deal struck late in the free-agency process when other opportunities have dried up.

Grade: B-

Report cards: Evans

May, 29, 2012
Here is the seventh player capsule in our ongoing look back at the 2011-2012 season for the Los Angeles Clippers and forward at the 2012-2013 season. The series runs until next Tuesday, examining every player who finished the season on the roster as well as the head coach.

We started with rookies Trey Thompkins and Travis Leslie, moved on to small forwards Ryan Gomes and Bobby Simmons and then Chauncey Billups and forward Kenyon Martin. Now, we do Reggie Evans.

2011-2012 contributions: Evans did exactly what the Clippers asked him to do last season -- which isn't necessarily to say that he played particularly well. He just did what he's done each of his 10 seasons in the NBA: rebound well and do everything else poorly. The man simply cannot shoot. But, hey, he still rebounded at an impressive rate of 16.9 boards per 48 minutes, almost exactly matching his career averages. A crazy stat: He made 34 field goals the entire season, meaning he had eight times as many rebounds as made shots.

2012-2013 prediction: There's a reason Evans has bounced around the league so much despite being so good at something, and it's not because he's a bad locker room guy. (The young Clippers, Thompkins and Leslie, looked up to him this season.) It's because he's hard to hide on the court, especially on offense. And the truth is he's not a fantastic defensive player either, when you move him away from the glass. The next team Evans signs with will be the sixth of his career, and yes, that means we're predicting he's not going to be a Clipper next season. The team simply doesn't need both Evans and Martin, and Martin brings more to the table than Evans does.

Grade: C+

Report cards: Martin

May, 28, 2012
Here is the fifth player capsule in our ongoing look back at the 2011-2012 season for the Los Angeles Clippers and forward at the 2012-2013 season. The series runs until Tuesday, examining every player who finished the season on the roster as well as the head coach.

We started with rookies Trey Thompkins and Travis Leslie, moved on to small forwards Ryan Gomes and Bobby Simmons and then did guard Chauncey Billups. Now, we grade forward Kenyon Martin.

Kenyon Martin

2011-2012 contributions: Martin was a late addition to the mix as a February signee because he signed a deal in China during the lockout, but he ended up playing a fairly large role in the Clippers' end of-year rotation. He finished the year averaging 5.2 points and 4.3 rebounds and kept producing at a similar rate in the postseason -- albeit in fewer minutes. Martin wasn't really a perfect fit with the rest of the Clippers' roster: They needed a 7-foot big man with offensive skills and they got an undersized four-man with a declining offensive game but nice defensive and rebounding acumen. Still, he was at times effective, and he did produce two big-time performances in the final two games of the Memphis series and just played well overall in the playoffs.

2012-2013 prediction: Where does Martin fit in with the Clippers' roster of the future? He doesn't, really. But he does make some sense for next season, simply because he's a better option than anybody else the team could get for the veteran's minimum. They can use the non-Bird exception on him and pay him around $3 million, without having to worry about the cap at all. For that reason, he's probably the second most likely of the Clippers free agents to come back next season, after Nick Young. As long as Neil Olshey pairs Martin with a capable backup center and not someone like Reggie Evans, then bringing him back will probably be applauded.

Grade: B

Game 7 and what could've been

May, 11, 2012
LOS ANGELES -- Remember three weeks ago, when the Los Angeles Clippers lost their last two games of the regular season and effectively handed over home-court advantage in the first round to the Memphis Grizzlies?

They admitted then that they shot themselves in the collective foot, but that was mostly forgotten a few days ago, when the Clippers held a 3-1 lead in this series and looked to be probable candidates to face the San Antonio Spurs in the Western Conference semifinals.

Now, suddenly, it looms very large, with the Clippers having dropped back-to-back contests, including one at home Friday night in a game they led by eight with eight minutes to play. Now, Sunday's 10 a.m. PT matchup in Memphis is an absolute must-win in a situation where the Clippers will be serious underdogs.

As he did when asked about losing home court at the end of the regular season, Chris Paul downplayed that part of Sunday's game when told of the ugly statistics for road teams in Game 7s.

"We've got to win," he said Friday. "This it. We could lose Game 5 and Game 6 and be OK, but Game 7 is going to be exciting. It's in Memphis, and we showed the ability to win there.

"I can't wait. You just leave it all out there. It is what it is."

The Clippers hand out printouts of selected quotes from their players and opponents after each game. They often skip over parts of the players' comments that could put the teams or the league in a bad light.

Their transcription of that Paul quote included two exclamation points, supposedly after he said "We've got to win!" and, "I can't wait!"

Watch the video here, beginning at the 0:47 mark. Does he seem happy or particularly enthusiastic when he says those phrases?

(Read full post)

10 reasons to be excited the Clippers are in the playoffs

April, 27, 2012

1. This simply hasn't happened very often. It is the Clippers' fifth playoff appearance since 1976 and first since 2006. When things that don't happen do happen, celebration and excitement typically are in order. This is one of those situations.

2. Chris Paul. The Clippers' new point guard and fearless leader has proved time and again -- with this team and in previous years -- to be an ideal closer, perfect for playoff situations. He's arguably been the best closer of any star in the league this season, and fans in L.A. are well aware of it.

3. The Clippers beat Memphis, their first-round opponent, in two of three meetings this season, including a 16-point smashing in L.A. in March that was one of the team's best performances. The Clippers may not have home-court advantage, but they might at least have the matchup advantage -- albeit by a small amount.

4. Plus, San Antonio -- the Clips’ likely opponent if they get by Memphis –- isn’t a terrible team for them to face either. The squads have met three times this season: The Spurs won the first game, way back in December, by 25. But the Clippers won the third (with Tony Parker hurt) and they took San Antonio to overtime in the in-between game. It'd be unlikely that L.A. could pull off the upset, but not impossible.

5. Three key supporting-cast Clippers have 25 or more playoff starts under their belts in Kenyon Martin, Mo Williams and Caron Butler. Sure, that is in contrast to the lack of postseason experience of Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan and Randy Foye. But the 25-plus starts are also more than any single Memphis player can boast, so the Clippers will not be out-experienced in the first round.

6. Memphis gets its points from a variety of sources – Rudy Gay was the only Grizzlies player to average 15 or more points this season. You can’t really say that about the two-headed tandem of the Clippers, especially of late, but, in looking back at the three L.A.-Memphis matchups this year, the Clippers did a good job of spreading around the scoring. Seven current Clippers have averaged at least eight points against the Grizz this year.

7. Expectations are not all that high. If the Clippers make the second round and lose, there probably won’t be too many cries of disappointment. The refrain would be that they needed some time to get used to each other and were hurt by their new additions and injuries. They may just play loose, with a sense of nothing to lose.

8. The fact that the Clippers have to start out on the road is going to give many fans serious misgivings, and rightfully so. But at least realize this about the team's away-from-home struggles this season: They were a little bit alleviated as the year went on. It took the Clips more than a month to record a road win over a playoff-caliber team, but they started to do it more and more in March and April. You could argue that the Clippers' biggest problem won't be stealing one on the road but actually sealing down all three at home.

9. Zach Randolph. The Grizzlies forward serves as a reminder of how far this franchise has come in the last three years. Since the Clippers won the lottery 35 months ago and earned the right to select Griffin, so many things have changed. Among those changes was the status of Randolph, whom the Clippers dealt to Memphis a week after the draft. He went from being acquired by the team to being the team's leading scorer to being traded away in a matter of a half-year.

10. Remember the last time the Clippers made the playoffs, after the 2005-2006 season? It was actually a pretty good run back then. They beat the Nuggets in five games despite being on the short end of a 3-6 matchup, then gave the 2-seed Phoenix Suns a great run for their money in the Western Conference semifinals. A thing or two done differently in Game 5 that year and the Clippers might have been going against the Dallas Mavericks in the conference finals for the right to face the Miami Heat. So, strange as it seems, history might actually be something the Clippers can lean on this time around.

Will Neil Olshey win exec of the year?

April, 24, 2012
So you want to trade for a superstar? Sounds easy enough, right? Cultivate some young talent, acquire a few draft picks, hang on to valuable expiring contracts and wait for a small-market team to get realistic about their chances of keeping a superstar like Chris Paul, then pounce at the right moment.

After the impact Paul has had on the team It feels kind of like a million years ago that Clippers GM Neil Olshey choreographed the team's blockbuster trade back in December. Actually, it feels long enough ago that many have forgotten just how hard it was to pull that trade off.

But as we approach awards season in the NBA, it's time to revisit that trade and the other moves Olshey made this year that have completely revamped the team's roster and culture.

"Most people don't realize just how difficult it is to acquire a franchise player through a trade," Clippers president Andy Roeser told ESPNLosAngeles.com. "Neil was able to do that and set us on our way to where we are now.

"There's several guys who stand out this year. David Morway in Indiana has done a nice job putting that team together. But I think we did a nice job upgrading our team. And it goes beyond just the Chris Paul trade. Neil put together an entire roster virtually overnight. I can't think of anyone more deserving."

Whether Olshey's body of work will beat out Morway in Indiana, Spurs president RC Buford, Memphis GM Chris Wallace, Knicks GM Glen Grunwald or any of the other leading contenders for the award is debatable. There are some voters who will probably dismiss Olshey because the Clippers virtually became the Hornets only trading partner after NBA commissioner David Stern, acting as owner of the Hornets, vetoed a trade with the Lakers.

(Read full post)

Clips win a tough one without Paul's heroics

April, 18, 2012
Entering Wednesday's game against the Denver Nuggets, the Los Angeles Clippers had -- count 'em! -- nine road wins over .500-or-better teams this season, and there had been a common theme to every one.

The team would keep things close for the first 45 or so minutes, and then point guard Chris Paul would take things over down the stretch and lead his teammates to a triumphant victory.

Wednesday's 104-98 win was the exact opposite.

Paul had a fine game, with 21 points and eight assists in 35 minutes, but he was at his best in the third quarter -- not in the fourth. He actually struggled mightily in the final minutes, shooting 0-for-5 in meaningful situations and appearing downright exhausted at various key moments.

But his teammates, including veteran reserves Kenyon Martin and Mo Williams, were at their best.

Williams made three 3-pointers in one three-minute stretch in the fourth, including a ridiculous 33-footer as the shot clock expired. In a key sequence in the final minute, Martin tipped in a missed jumper from Paul and then blocked a Ty Lawson layup on Denver's next possession to seal the game for the Clippers and give them a magic number of just two to secure home-court advantage in a likely first-round NBA playoff matchup with the Memphis Grizzlies.

"I don't know what it was," Paul said in a postgame interview on the TV broadcast, in explaining his poor play in the fourth period. "But that's why you're a team."

Funny: The Clippers haven't always looked like a team down the stretch this season. They've looked like Chris Paul and four other guys on the court for moral support. How many times has Paul seemingly free-styled and come up with a key shot attempt almost on his own? Too many to count.

And, sure, he's proven to be a potent playoff performer. But it's unreasonable to expect those kind of heroics four different times in a seven-game stretch. That's why it's so important that the Clippers' alternative late-game sources start to come through, with the playoffs now literally just 10 days away.

(Read full post)

DeAndre Jordan's defensive struggles

April, 4, 2012
LOS ANGELES -- DeAndre Jordan left the Clippers' locker room before reporters were allowed in on Wednesday night following the 113-108 loss to the Lakers, but his teammates stood up for him.

There wasn't anything he could do against Lakers center Andrew Bynum, they said, even though Bynum put up 36 points against Jordan and repeatedly outmuscled and outsmarted him in the post.

In fact, Kenyon Martin and Chris Paul both said Jordan did an "excellent" job defending Bynum.

"The kid (Bynum) is a good post player," Martin said. "DeAndre guarded him and made everything tough on him.

"That's all you can do."

Bynum hit 65 percent of his shots in Wednesday's game -- most of which came one-on-one against Jordan -- and didn't turn the ball over. And that was with a sprained ankle that had him listed as questionable before the game.

That was all Jordan, who's making roughly $10 million this season in the first year of a monstrous four-year deal, could do?

No, said Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro. Of course Jordan could have done more against Bynum and the Lakers, Del Negro said.

"But it's not just D.J -- it's everybody," he said. "We've gotta do a better job spinning him baseline, getting help for him, fighting him early and getting him off his box, his sweet spot. Bynum's a load down there -- we all know that."

"It's not just one guy, it's several."

(Read full post)

What to watch: Clippers-Hornets

March, 22, 2012
Clippers (26-20) vs. New Orleans Hornets (11-35) at New Orleans Arena, 5 p.m. PT

Five storylines to track:

1. Coming home: When Chris Paul was traded from the Hornets to the Clippers for Eric Gordon, Chris Kaman, Al-Farouq Aminu and a first-round draft pick more than three months ago, the first game Paul circled on the schedule was his first trip back to New Orleans. It will be an emotional night for Paul, who is hosting 150 kids and parents from his CP3 Afterschool Zone at the game, and will be seeing many of his old teammates and friends for the first time since being traded. At his introductory news conference in Los Angeles, he mentioned his former teammates and the children from the program before talking about his new team. “Going to New Orleans is going to be tough,” Paul said. “It will be cool because I have a lot of family and friends there but it will be a little odd. I had to do it at some point.”

2. Scoring slump: For the eighth straight game, the Clippers failed to score 100 points. For the second straight game, they allowed a team to score more than 100 points. In other words, this is a team that can’t score and can’t defend right now, which is never a good combination. The Clippers have hit the century mark twice in their last 13 games, and their record in their last 18 games is 7-11. This season, the Clippers are 16-3 when scoring more than 100 points and 10-16 when scoring less than 100. Reaching the century mark on the road is even more critical for the Clippers, as they are 9-1 when they score at least 100 and 2-10 when they don’t.

3. Know your role: The Clippers’ inability to develop a consistent rotation was again on display against the Thunder. Randy Foye, who had been the Clippers' starting shooting guard for 28 games after Chauncey Billups was lost for the season last month, was benched in favor of newly acquired swingman Nick Young against Indiana. Foye was the only player on the Clippers' active roster who did not play in the game. Well, 24 hours later, he was back in the starting lineup and scored 23 points in 35 minutes. Judging by the Clippers’ recent rotation inconsistencies, it’s entirely possible he might not see the floor against New Orleans on Thursday night.

4. Butler out: Foye started against Oklahoma City because Caron Butler was a healthy scratch for the game, but he'll likely be back in the starting lineup against the Hornets. Sitting Butler might not just have been for his health during the team's last back-to-back-to-back of the season. He has been in a slump after being one of the key players for the Clippers at the start of the season. Through the first 25 games of the season, the Clippers were 17-8 and Butler was averaging 15.3 points while shooting 44 percent from the field and 38.6 percent from three-point range. In his last 18 games, however, the Clippers are 8-10 and Butler is averaging 8.1 points, and shooting 31.1 percent from the field and 26.3 percent from behind the arc.

5. Bench problems: One of the biggest weaknesses for the Clippers this season, despite their acquisitions of Young and Kenyon Martin, has been their bench. After being outscored 50-23 in Indiana, they were outscored 37-24 in Oklahoma City. The only player on the bench who scored more than four points in either game was Mo Williams, who averaged 11.5 points in both. Williams is averaging 13.8 points and 2.0 assists this season and has accounted for more than 51 percent of the Clippers’ bench production. Martin and Reggie Evans are usually good for a couple of put-backs and Eric Bledsoe usually provides one fast-break layup, but there has been no consistent production from the Clippers’ bench outside of Williams this season.

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."

What to watch: Clippers-Nets

March, 7, 2012

Clippers (22-14) vs. New Jersey Nets (12-27) at Prudential Center, 5 p.m. PT

Five storylines to track:

1. CP3 vs. D-Will: Clippers guard Chris Paul and Nets guard Deron Williams, two of the best point guards in the NBA, have faced each other 16 times in their careers, with Williams winning 12 times. The last time these two teams met, on Jan. 16, Paul sat out during a 101-91 Clippers win as Chauncey Billups scored nine of his 20 points in the final five minutes. Coming into this game, much of the focus will be on Williams since this will be his first game since scoring a franchise-record 57 points in the Nets’ 104-101 win over the Charlotte Bobcats on Sunday.

2. Close calls: The Clippers have been one of the more exciting teams this season, but they have not been able to pull out close games as of late. The Clippers have played 14 games this season decided by five points or fewer and have an 8-6 record in those games. The Clippers, however, have suffered six losses by five or fewer points since Feb. 13 and lost two games on their current road trip by a combined four points. Earlier this season, a Clippers win was all but guaranteed with a close game in Paul's hands, but that has not been the case lately, as highlighted by Paul’s missed attempt at a game-tying free throw in the Clippers’ loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves on Monday.

3. Bench rising: There is plenty of blame to go around for the Clippers’ recent struggles, but the bench can no longer be looked at as the main culprit. The Clippers' bench has outscored the opposition in the last four games by a combined total of 140-86. The bench is averaging 35.0 points during the stretch, an 11-point increase from its season average of 24.1 points per game. The Clippers’ bench has been outscored 1,067-846 this season, but the tide may be shifting with the improved play of Clippers forward Kenyon Martin in addition to the steady contributions of Clippers guard Mo Williams. Martin is shooting 52.7 percent from the field and averaging 9.5 points, 5.5 rebounds and 1.0 blocks over the last four games, while Williams is averaging 16.0 points on 46.2 percent shooting from the field and 47.6 percent shooting from beyond the arc.

4. Butler’s battles: Clippers forward Caron Butler has been streaky, to say the least, for the Clippers after Billups was lost for the season last month. Butler failed to score in the Clippers’ game against Minnesota, going 0-for-6 from the field. It was only the fourth time in his career that he did not register a point or a field goal and the first time since Feb. 27, 2006, when he went 0-for-5 as a member of the Washington Wizards in a loss to Memphis.

5. Dimes down: In the Clippers’ last three games, their assist totals are down from their season averages. In the Clippers’ first 33 games of the season, they averaged 21.5 assists, tallying assists on 58.6 percent of their field goals. In the Clippers’ last three games, they have averaged only 15.0 assists, tallying assists on 44.0 percent of their field goals. Paul has tallied only five assists in each of two of the Clippers' last three games.