Los Angeles Clippers: Willie Green

Rapid Reaction: Clippers 111, Warriors 98

March, 12, 2014
Mar 12
10:16
PM PT


LOS ANGELES -- Blake Griffin has reached plenty of milestones during his first four seasons in the NBA.

He reached another one on Wednesday as the Los Angeles Clippers beat the Golden State Warriors, 111-98. Griffin joined Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Charles Barkley as the only players to have accumulated 6,000 points, 3,000 rebounds and 1,000 assists while shooting at least 50 percent from the field.

"Wow, that's impressive," Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. "I played against Kareem and Charles, and they are completely different. If three guys could be more different those three ... there is not anything that is similar about any of them. Which is amazing and it's another lesson that you can get things and do things similar in different ways."

Griffin had 30 points and 15 rebounds on the night, his franchise-best 24th straight game scoring at least 20 points. On the season, he is averaging a career-best 24.4 points and 9.6 rebounds per game.

"It just tells you how great Blake is," Rivers said. "He's awful young to be reaching milestones."

How it happened: The Warriors controlled the game from the end of the second quarter to the end of the third quarter before the Clippers finally reclaimed the lead after a 15-3 run to end the third quarter. A couple of big put-back dunks by Griffin and DeAndre Jordan helped the Clippers control the momentum and the lead in the fourth quarter as the Clippers were able to hold on for the win.

What it means: The Clippers have won a season-high nine straight games, the longest active winning streak in the league. They also took a five-game lead over the Warriors in the Pacific Division and tied the season series at two games apiece. The win also increases their lead over the Houston Rockets for the third seed by a full game and gives them a 3½ game lead over the Portland Trail Blazers. The Clippers are only three games behind the top seed in the West and two games behind the No. 2 seed.

Hits: Aside from Griffin's performance, Chris Paul had 16 points and 12 assists, and Danny Granger came off the bench to score 18 points with six rebounds. Granger made his first six shots from the field. Willie Green also had 13 points off the bench.

Misses: Not many misses on the night although the Clippers would like to get Glen "Big Baby" Davis more involved heading into the playoffs. He had only two points on 1-of-3 shooting in 14 minutes off the bench.

Stat of the game: The Clippers had 19 second-chance points compared to only three for the Warriors. L.A. also had 21 fast-break points compared to only 15 for Golden State.

Up next: The Clippers are off Thursday before traveling to Salt Lake City to play the Utah Jazz. The Clippers won their first two games against the Jazz and their most recent encounter, 102-87, in Los Angeles.

Rapid Reaction: Clippers 118, Raptors 105

February, 7, 2014
Feb 7
10:33
PM PT

LOS ANGELES -- The Los Angeles Clippers weren't sure how successful they would be when Chris Paul went down because of a separated right shoulder, but with their All-Star point guard expected to return to the lineup Sunday, the team finished off its 19-game stretch without him in impressive fashion.

After defeating the Toronto Raptors 118-105 the Clippers are now 14-6 this season without Paul and have actually improved their winning percentage while he has been out.

How it happened: It looked as if the Clippers would run away early after they took an 18-point lead in the second quarter and a 22-point lead in the third quarter. After an unsuccessful run at "Hack-a-Jordan," the Raptors actually cut the Clippers' lead to eight before the fourth quarter, but that was as close as they would get.

What it means: With Paul expected to return to the lineup Sunday, the Clippers went an impressive 13-6 in this latest stretch without their team leader, holding their place in the Western Conference standings.

Hits: Blake Griffin blossomed into an MVP candidate with Paul out and once again showed why Friday, finishing with 36 points and eight rebounds and becoming the first Clippers player since the team moved to Los Angeles to score at least 36 points in three straight games. DeAndre Jordan also had 18 points and 13 rebounds and hit enough free throws in the third quarter to force Toronto to stop intentionally fouling him.

Misses: Outside of Willie Green, who scored 12 points, the Clippers didn't get much from the bench as Jared Dudley had only five points and Reggie Bullock had three points. The Clippers' second unit was a big reason the team nearly squandered its 22-point lead in the third quarter.

Stat of the game: The Clippers shot 54 free throws in the game and made 37 of them, forcing the Raptors to at least abandon their philosophy of frequent fouling.

Up next: The Clippers return to Staples Center on Sunday to play the Philadelphia 76ers. The Clippers beat the 76ers 94-83 in their first meeting of the season, in which Griffin had 26 points, Jordan had 21 rebounds and Paul had 11 assists.

Clippers understand roles, expectations

January, 20, 2014
Jan 20
2:47
PM PT
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.

Rivers
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 111, Celtics 105

January, 8, 2014
Jan 8
10:26
PM PT


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 94, Sixers 83

December, 9, 2013
12/09/13
7:02
PM PT


The open looks were there for the Los Angeles Clippers, but their shots just weren’t falling against the Philadelphia 76ers.


And then the second half started.

First, Blake Griffin made a 17-foot jumper. Then Jared Dudley hit a 19-foot shot. On the next possession, Dudley nailed a 3-pointer in the right corner. Soon, the Clippers’ lead ballooned to 21 points. By the time the third-quarter onslaught was over, the Clippers had scored 32 points on 61 percent shooting, extending their lead to 16.

The 76ers made a late rally in the fourth, cutting the lead to as few as seven points, but Griffin and Chris Paul sealed the victory with clutch baskets down the stretch and two key defensive plays -- a charge and a blocked shot -- by Griffin. When the buzzer sounded, the Clippers walked away with a 94-83 win to bring their disappointing record on the seven-game road trip to 2-2.

Their third-quarter performance notwithstanding, the Clippers’ offense has been cause for concern recently -- especially from deep. For the fifth time in their past six games, L.A. failed to shoot better than 30 percent from beyond the arc, going just 5 of 27 on 3-pointers (18.5 percent) against the 28th-ranked 76ers defense.

The Clippers’ defensive effort was encouraging -- it was the third straight game they held an opponent to less than 40 percent shooting -- but until they can figure out a way to consistently produce on both sides of the floor, expect their roller-coaster results to continue. The injuries certainly don’t help matters, of course. Perhaps Paul said it best after the team's 88-82 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers on Saturday: “We’re consistently inconsistent right now.”

How it happened: The Clippers cranked up the pace early, pushing the ball in transition regardless of whether the 76ers made or missed. They couldn’t buy a basket in the first half (they shot just 35.6 percent), but their third-quarter barrage gave them enough cushion to withstand the 76ers’ late run. The Clippers didn’t shoot well overall (42.7 percent), but they overcame that by holding Philadelphia to just 35.9 percent shooting.

What it means: Facing the 25th-best offense and 28th-best defense -- the 76ers’ offensive and defensive ratings heading into Monday night’s game -- can do wonders for a struggling ball club, so the Clippers shouldn’t pat themselves on the back just yet.

While the road trip is far from ideal so far, the Clippers can at least take solace in the fact that their next three opponents (Boston, Brooklyn, Washington) have a 25-37 combined record. With the signing of veteran swingman Stephen Jackson reportedly on the horizon, L.A.’s depleted wing crop could benefit from the additional size and 3-point shooting.

Hits: Griffin bounced back from his season-low 10 points against the Cavaliers, scoring 26 points on 9-of-14 shooting and blocking three shots.

Paul had 25 points and 13 assists. DeAndre Jordan added 11 points and 21 rebounds.

The Clippers held the 76ers to a season-low 83 points, including a season-low 36 points in the first half.

Misses: The Clippers almost blew their lead in the fourth, in large part due to their six turnovers. They had only six throughout the first three quarters.

Jared Dudley and Willie Green combined to shoot 2-of-14 (14.3 percent) on 3s.

Stat of the game: 14.3 percent. The Clippers may not have shot well from deep, but they forced the 76ers into 3-of-21 shooting from there.

Up next: The Clippers have Tuesday off before facing the Boston Celtics on Wednesday, which marks Doc Rivers’ emotional and long-awaited return to Beantown. The reunion continues on Thursday, as the Clippers travel north to face the Brooklyn Nets and, most likely, Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce for the first time.

Rapid Reaction: Kings 110, Clippers 100

October, 25, 2013
10/25/13
10:27
PM PT
LOS ANGELES -- Blake Griffin created a stir a few weeks ago when he told ESPN that "Lob City was done."

His teammates, though, must not have taken the message seriously just yet because the Los Angeles Clippers' first four field goals against the Sacramento Kings on Friday night were all dunks, including a no-look lob from Chris Paul to DeAndre Jordan.

The rest of the evening wasn't as pretty, with the Kings ultimately prevailing, 110-100.

After taking an impressive 30-20 lead at the end of the first quarter, the Clippers' bench gave up a 13-1 run to start the second quarter and the team was in a dogfight the rest of the way. Led by Isaiah Thomas (27 points) and DeMarcus Cousins (20 points), the Kings built on their six-point halftime lead to pull away from the Clippers in the third quarter, leading by as many as 19 points.

Coach Doc Rivers decided to sit his starters the rest of the way, and while the bench was able to cut into the double-digit deficit a bit, it wasn't enough to snag another late victory for the second straight game.

With the loss, the Clippers finished the preseason 5-3. The Clippers will next take on the rival Los Angeles Lakers in their regular-season opener on Tuesday night.

Here are three takeaways from the game:

(Read full post)

How the Clips-Celts trade could happen

June, 14, 2013
6/14/13
6:19
PM PT
LOS ANGELES -- If the Los Angeles Clippers get their wish, the only thing they won't be getting from the Boston Celtics this summer is the parquet floor at the Garden and the 17 championship banners hanging from the rafters.

If their plan works, however, maybe they'll be able to raise their very own banner at Staples Center next year.

[+] EnlargeBoston Celtics
Greg M. Cooper/US PresswireThe Clippers could be angling to not only bring in Kevin Garnett, left, and Paul Pierce, right, to their roster, but also Celtics coach Doc Rivers.

The Clippers' plan is to someway, somehow pry Doc Rivers, Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce from the Celtics and hope that the trio, combined with Chris Paul and Blake Griffin, can get the Clippers their first NBA title. (Or at the very least, get them to their first Western Conference finals.)

There are two key things that need to take place for this to happen.

First, the Clippers must be fine with essentially mortgaging their future to make a run at a title for the next year or two with two players who will be 37 and 36, respectively, when next season begins.

Second, the Celtics must be fine with starting their rebuilding project early by blowing up the core of the team that won a title in 2008.

If those two things happen, the next step is figuring out how this mega-deal would shake out logistically, and for that there's no one better to turn to than ESPN.com's salary-cap guru Larry Coon.

There are two scenarios for the Clippers to complete this move, one is if they do it before July 1 and the other is if they do it after July 1.

(Read full post)

Offseason improvements list

May, 9, 2013
5/09/13
11:42
AM PT
When asked about the Los Angeles Clippers’ goals this upcoming offseason, vice president of basketball operations Gary Sacks answered with with no hesitation.

“The No. 1 priority for us right now has to be re-signing our star player, Chris Paul,” Sacks said at Day 2 of the Clippers’ exit interviews. “That's our goal, that's what we want to do.”

While the Clippers’ early playoff exit certainly doesn’t sit well with their free agent superstar, ESPN.com’s Marc Stein has reported that Paul will likely stay in Los Angeles and accept the nearly $30 million extra the Clippers can offer him.

Heading into the offseason, the Clippers only have six players under fully guaranteed contracts: Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan, Jamal Crawford, Eric Bledsoe, Caron Butler and Grant Hill. Willie Green’s contract is non-guaranteed for the next two seasons, meaning the Clippers can waive him to alleviate cap space.

The collective salaries of the group equal 46.7 million ($45.3 million if Green is waived before July 1). If Paul signs the five-year, $108 million extension the Clippers can offer, his first-year salary would be a little under $18.7 million, bringing the Clippers’ salary total to $66.5 million, including the 25th overall selection in the 2013 NBA draft (the average salary at that slot is about $1.1 million).

ESPN cap guru Larry Coon projects a $71.5 million to $73 million tax line in 2013-14, meaning with only nine players under contract -- the league minimum is 13 -- the Clippers would have $5 to $7 million to spend on at least four players in free agency and still remain under the dreadful luxury tax.

With six free agents -- Paul, Matt Barnes, Chauncey Billups, Lamar Odom, Ronny Turiaf and Ryan Hollins -- and no decision announced yet on the future of their Vinny Del Negro, the Clippers will have a slew of difficult decisions to make in what Sacks calls a “huge” offseason.

Here are three things to look for this offseason:

Deciding on the future of Jordan and Bledsoe

The young duo was nearly packaged alongside Butler to the Boston Celtics at the trade deadline, and it’s looking more and more like one of them, if not both, will eventually be dealt.

Bledsoe is more likely to be traded than Jordan, as the back-up point guard is due for a significant raise next summer as a restricted free agent. Many, including Paul, believe Bledsoe should be starting on his own team.

That being said, it’s unlikely the Clippers move Bledsoe -- the ultimate insurance policy -- until Paul is locked up, which would be July 1 at the earliest. If the right move comes along though, especially around the NBA Draft in late June, Bledsoe could be moved sooner.

While Jordan has yet to play up to the standards of the hefty contract he signed last summer, it’ll be more difficult to replace him because athletic 7-footers are hard to come by and provide unquantifiable value on defense.

Still, the Clippers are in win-now mode and don’t have time to wait for Jordan to blossom an offensive game or become competent at free throw shooting. If he’s unable to play in crunch time, he isn’t worth keeping around.

It’s unlikely the Clippers keep both players, but still possible. Bledsoe has proven he can play shooting guard alongside Paul, and his stout perimeter defense is a game-changer; Jordan has improved every year and may finally breakthrough with a solidified role and consistent playing time.

Nevertheless, these two will be the centerpieces of any trade talks the Clippers have over the offseason.

Big man with shooting range

One of the biggest problems for the Clippers offensively this season was that besides Griffin -- who’s at his best when operating down on the low block -- they didn’t have a big man that could space the floor and stretch opposing defenses out with his shooting.

Odom was supposed to fill that role, but his shooting stroke deserted him for the second straight season. He shot 39.9 percent from the floor and 20.0 percent from the beyond the arc, figures that ranked as the second worst of his career.

Meanwhile, Jordan, Turiaf and Hollins combined to make 9 shots beyond 10 feet all season. Defenses often ignored the latter two and only paid attention to Jordan because of the ever-looming threat of a lob from Paul.

No matter who he played with, Griffin was always paired with an offensive non-factor, forcing him to single-handedly carry the interior-scoring burden. After he sprained his ankle before Game 5 of the 2013 postseason, no one else stepped up -- the remaining big men combined to average just 15 points per game over the final two games of the series.

With the Clippers on a strict budget, and floor-spacing big men a hot commodity, it’s unlikely they find a guy without severe flaws (especially defensively). Regardless, finding a shooting big man who can play with Griffin for 10-15 minutes a night will spruce up the Clippers’ offense.

Potential fits: Earl Clark, Antawn Jamison, Dante Cunningham (Team Option), Anthony Tolliver, Jon Leuer (Restricted Free Agent)

Athletic wing defender with size

The Clippers’ perimeter defenders made the Grizzlies’ wings look like All-Stars this postseason, even though none of the Grizzlies’ perimeter players averaged double-digit scoring numbers during the season.

With Butler, Crawford and Green as the only wings under contract, the Clippers will undoubtedly need to address their perimeter defense, as none of those guys are “stoppers”. To contend for a championship next year, the Clippers will need a couple of players who can feasibly defend the Kobe Bryants and Kevin Durants of the world without being burned.

Barnes did a great job filling this role this year, but due to the constraints of the collective bargaining agreement (the Clippers don’t own his Bird Rights), the Clippers can only offer him up to 120 percent of his current contract, which is a little over $1.6 million. If Barnes wants to stay in L.A., he’ll have to take a significant pay cut compared to his projected market value. Chances are, though, he bolts for more money and a larger role, as he’s already stated he wants a pay increase.

While a lot of the shooting big men in the Clippers’ price range will be defensively challenged, most free agent wing defenders will likewise be offensively challenged. There’s a reason why they’re not getting paid more.

Ideally, the Clippers would sign someone with the size and/or length to play power forward in small ball lineups, while also possessing the ability to shoot corner 3-pointers. If they can sign two such players -- one to start and one to come off the bench -- they should be set on the perimeter.

Potential fits: Barnes, Tony Allen, Corey Brewer, Ronnie Brewer, Brandon Rush (Player Option), Marquis Daniels

Stats used in this piece are from ESPN.com and NBA.com/Stats.

Salary cap information used from ESPN.com, HOOPSWORLD.com, CBAFAQ.com and ClipperBlog.com.

Clippers 2012-2013 grades: Bench

May, 7, 2013
5/07/13
11:56
AM PT

Fredrick J. Brown/AFP/Getty Images

The Los Angeles Clippers enjoyed their best season in franchise history, winning their first division title, a record 56 games, going on a 17-game winning streak and sweeping the Lakers for the first time. Their postseason, however, wasn’t as memorable, ending in four straight losses after taking a 2-0 series lead on the Memphis Grizzlies. We’ll take a step back and try to grade what each player brought to the table, beginning with the bench. Check back for grades on the starters and the Clippers' coaching staff and front office.

JAMAL CRAWFORD

Crawford didn’t come into this season with any grand personal expectations other than winning after signing a four-year, $25 million contract last summer with the Clippers, but it didn’t take him long to change his tune. Crawford expected to be selected as an NBA All-Star for the first time in his career and to win his second NBA Sixth Man of the Year award by season’s end. Neither goal was achieved, but it didn’t take away from the incredible season Crawford had.

“It's more about winning than anything,” Crawford said. “I know a lot of people say go out there and prove why you should win this or that, but I feel I've been proving it all season. So it's not about that. You just want to go out and win.”
When Crawford was on, the Clippers and their bench were at their best. He was second on the team in scoring and ranked third in the NBA this season in fourth-quarter scoring, behind Kevin Durant and Kobe Bryant. He led the league in 20-point games off the bench and was second in the league in fourth-quarter plus-minus, finishing just behind LeBron James. He also was atop all NBA reserves in scoring per 26 minutes and in simple plus-minus.


Stats

16.5 PPG, 1.7 RPG, 2.5 APG, 1.1 SPG, .438 FG, .376 3FG: After a couple of rough seasons in Atlanta and Portland, Crawford returned to the old form he had when he won the Sixth Man of the Year award with the Hawks in 2010 and nearly won the award this season, finishing second.


Outlook for 2013-14

Crawford might be one of three Clippers pieces likely set in stone if Chris Paul ends up re-signing. The Clippers believe they have arguably the best point guard, power forward and sixth man in basketball with Paul, Blake Griffin and Crawford. Everything else is negotiable. Expect to see plenty of names end up in trade rumors this offseason but no serious one will include Crawford, who has three more years on his deal and who could contend for an All-Star appearance or two or a Sixth Man award during that time.


Grade

A: He may not have had the best postseason (no one on the Clippers did) but it’s hard to ask for a better regular season from a bench player.


ERIC BLEDSOE

Arguably the best backup point guard in the NBA had another solid season and showed why he should be starting on another team if Paul re-signs with the Clippers. When Paul went down with an injury during the regular season, Bledsoe stepped in and averaged 8.5 points, 3.0 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 1.43 steals in starts.

“Bled is one of the best guards in our league," Paul said last month. “I've said it all season long. I'm enjoying playing with him right now because there's no way he can be here next year because we probably won't have enough money to pay him. He should be a starting point guard in this league next year.”

The Clippers don’t need to deal Bledsoe in the offseason but once Paul re-signs they’d be wise to start looking for suitors. One of the more popular destinations has been Boston in a package that would include DeAndre Jordan for Kevin Garnett. Considering Bledsoe had 23 points, 10 assists and seven rebounds against the Celtics earlier this season, it’s not hard to see why Boston would be interested.


Stats

8.5 PPG, 3.0 RPG, 3.1 APG, 1.4 SPG, .445 FG, .397 3FG: Bledsoe’s statistics took a massive jump from his sophomore season when he battled back from knee surgery.


Outlook for 2013-14

Bledsoe’s future with the Clippers really hinges on Paul’s decision this offseason. If he decided to stay, the Clippers would be wise in looking to deal the up-and-coming point guard for pieces that will help the Clippers compete for a championship this season with Paul. If Paul decides to leave, Bledsoe immediately becomes the team’s new starting point guard and they would move forward with Bledsoe and Griffin, while trying to add another big piece in free agency.

The smart money is on Paul saying, and the Clippers shipping Bledsoe in a package that would net the Clippers an experienced player who would help them compete for a championship.


Grade

B: Bledsoe’s continued improvement is a big reason the Clippers have been careful not to trade him too soon. He is their safety net if Paul bolts, but he is also their most intriguing bargaining chip when they enter the trade market, looking for pieces to add to the team this summer if Paul stays.


MATT BARNES

The last player signed before the start of Clippers training camp to a veteran’s minimum deal ended up being one of the most productive players off the bench and the team’s leading scorer and rebounder in their last playoff game. Barnes played in all but two games this season (both due to suspension) and averaged a career-high 10.3 points and 4.6 rebounds. He was one of the most consistent contributors off the bench, along with Crawford and Bledsoe.


Stats

10.3 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 1.5 APG, 1.4 SPG, .462 FG, .342 3FG: It was a career season for Barnes after two disappointing seasons with the Lakers. He seemed to thrive after doubters said he was finished and many teams passed up on him in the offseason when he was a free agent.


Outlook for 2013-14

Barnes is again a free agent but the chances of him being available a couple of weeks before the start of training camp for the minimum are slim to none. He’ll want a multiyear deal with a hefty raise and the Clippers are likely to give him one after letting him feel out the market. Despite his solid season, Barnes is 33 and has played for eight teams in 11 seasons. He’s not going to get a huge offer elsewhere and would like to stay in Los Angeles to be with his family. Barnes said during his exit interview that Paul has already started to recruit him to return next season.

“Chris and I have already been talking about it,” Barnes said. “We talked about it on the plane last night. He's obviously the franchise player but we also talked about what I was thinking about doing. Without giving anything away, he was doing his job (in recruiting me).”

Barnes would once again be a key in the Clippers’ second team and would likely see an even more prominent role if the Clippers end up dealing Bledsoe and/or Caron Butler in the offseason.


Grade

A: If you look at his production in relation to his salary, it’s hard to ask for much more from a guy making the minimum.


LAMAR ODOM

The Clippers acquired Odom in an offseason trade for Mo Williams and for much of this season, you had to think there must have been any number of trades that would have given the Clippers a better return for the former All-Star guard. There might even be some who still wonder that today.

Odom came into training camp a good 30 pounds overweight and it wasn’t until about midseason that he returned to his former playing weight. He would turn out to be a solid player for the Clippers off the bench and was one of only two players on the team who played in all 82 games.

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Clippers look to get tougher over offseason

May, 4, 2013
5/04/13
4:52
PM PT
PLAYA VISTA, Calif. -- The Los Angeles Clippers were still in shock Saturday.

They didn't expect to be out of the playoffs just two weeks after they started. Chris Paul didn't have any plans on his calendar until after June. He doesn't know how he's going to spend the rest of his summer now. He's still trying to process how to explain to his son, Little Chris, that the season is over.

But that's the harsh reality after another early playoff exit.

Despite setting a franchise record for wins (56) and securing their first Pacific Division championship, among various other season accolades, the Clippers couldn't manage to get any further in the playoffs this season than they did last season. If anything, they regressed, losing in the first round instead of the semifinals.

Without a doubt, the Clippers' top priority this offseason is re-signing Paul, and rightfully so. He's their franchise player, a superstar and arguably the best point guard in the league. With Blake Griffin already locked up until 2017, the Clippers hope to preserve their All-Star duo for at least the next half-decade.

Yet having Paul and Griffin alone won't get the Clippers to the Western Conference finals and beyond. It didn't even get them out of the first round this season, even after taking a 2-0 series lead against a team they had beaten in last year's playoffs and won the season series against, 3-1.

For the Clippers to take the next step as a franchise and endure longer postseason runs, they need to add younger and better-fitting pieces.

The Memphis Grizzlies exposed L.A.'s lack of big man depth behind Griffin and DeAndre Jordan, and made the Clippers look old and slow on the perimeter. The Clippers also need to get a little tougher, as the Grizzlies pushed them around, controlling the paint, the boards and the series.

When asked at the Clippers' exit interviews if they needed to add toughness over the offseason, Matt Barnes said: "Yeah, definitely. I think that was exploited this series. We have a lot of talent, but we do need to [get tougher]. With our two bigs (Griffin and Jordan), I think people point a lot of fingers at them because they're young. But it's a learning experience. I'm 11 years in this and I'm still learning. We have to do a better job as a team."

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Clippers come to fight too late

May, 4, 2013
5/04/13
4:41
PM PT
With their storybook season on a lifeline, the Los Angeles Clippers had perhaps their gutsiest performance of the 2013 playoffs, but it simply proved too late.

"We took too long to come to fight," Chris Paul told reporters following the Memphis Grizzlies' 118-105 win over the Clippers, eliminating them from the playoffs in six games.

Well, that's partially true.

The Clippers fought hard in Games 1 and 2, winning both the rebounding margins and the games, even if Game 2's nail-biter instilled confidence in the Grizzlies. The three games that followed were disasters, though, as the Grizzlies comfortably controlled each from start to finish, leaving no doubt which team was better and more prepared.

In Game 6, the Clippers finally found a way to somewhat flummox the Grizzlies' frontcourt, with aggressive double-teams whenever Zach Randolph or Marc Gasol touched the ball near the post. This caused the Grizzlies to swing the ball around the perimeter to find the open man, often resulting in an outside shot -- a victory for the Clippers' defense.

But the success didn't last long, as the Clippers were limited in their options down low. With Blake Griffin's high right ankle sprain limiting him to just 14 minutes and Lamar Odom and DeAndre Jordan not performing to his liking, head coach Vinny Del Negro decided to roll the dice with small ball lineups -- featuring Matt Barnes, Grant Hill and even Caron Butler as big men -- to try to disrupt the Grizzlies' recently efficient offense.

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Chauncey Billups ready for the 'real season'

April, 16, 2013
4/16/13
11:22
PM PT
LOS ANGELES -- Chauncey Billups put a towel over his head and buttoned up his warm-ups with a stern look on his face. When he heard his name announced in the starting lineup at Staples Center for the first time in a month, he kept his head down and walked through his teammates like a heavyweight fighter headed toward the ring.

Even though it was the Los Angeles Clippers' final regular-season home game and the penultimate game of the season, Billups considered Tuesday's 93-77 win over the Portland Trail Blazers a preseason game.

[+] EnlargeBillups
Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE/Getty ImagesChauncey Billups, left, returned to the starting lineup for the Clippers on Tuesday, to the delight of teammate Chris Paul.
Then again, Billups considers all games played before the postseason to be preseason games. That's what happens when you've been to the playoffs 12 years in a row, led your team to seven straight conference finals and back-to-back NBA Finals, and won an NBA Finals MVP.

"I always refer to the regular season as the preseason," Billups said. "That's just how I've been raised in the league. Everything is different in the playoffs and in playoff time. It's the best time of the year. Everything changes. The stakes are higher. The pressure is more intense. And our preparation should be more intense."

That might be true, but there is also something to be said for developing some semblance of consistency and chemistry with your teammates during the regular season. And for all the postseason experience Billups brings to the table, he hasn't been on the court very much for the Clippers during his two seasons in Los Angeles. He played in only 20 games last season before rupturing his Achilles tendon in February and being lost for the season. Before Tuesday's game, he had played in only 20 games this season as he came back from that Achilles injury and dealt with various other injuries.

"We've been trying to get Chauncey out there a lot," Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro said. "He's only played 20 games or so. He knows how to play. He gives us another dimension out there making plays off the basketball, shooting the basketball, but he's got to get out there and get his rhythm and his chemistry with the guys. We've been trying to incorporate that all season, but he's had his nagging injuries. It's unfortunate."

While Billups has battled to get back onto the court, Willie Green has played in 72 games this season and started 60 of them. Yes, Green has played in and started more games this season than Billups has in his two seasons combined with the Clippers. Despite developing that consistency and chemistry with the Clippers' starters, however, Green hardly plays when Billups is active. On Tuesday, Green went from averaging 18.5 minutes and 10.2 points per game this month to playing the final six garbage minutes of the game and scoring two points.

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Rapid Reaction: Clippers 111, Wolves 95

April, 10, 2013
4/10/13
9:59
PM PT


LOS ANGELES -- The Los Angeles Clippers won their third consecutive game, routing the Minnesota Timberwolves, 111-95, Wednesday night at Staples Center.

Here are three keys to the victory:

End-of-quarter runs

The Clippers started hot, jumping out to an 8-0 lead and did not allow the Timberwolves to score until the 8:13 mark of the first quarter, but it was the way they finished quarters that won the game. Minnesota nearly erased double-digit deficits in the second and third quarters, but both times the Clippers made late-quarter runs to keep the Timberwolves at an arm's length. Minnesota pulled to within two points with 4:29 left in the second quarter, but a 13-2 Clippers run to end the half helped push the lead back to 58-46. Minnesota trimmed that to 69-66 with 6:30 left in the third quarter, but the Clippers outscored the Timberwolves, 19-6, for the rest of the quarter and opened an 88-72 lead after three quarters.

The Blake Show

Blake Griffin finished with 19 points, eight rebounds, seven assists and his fair share of highlight-worthy dunks. A couple of those dunks were particularly meaningful. Minnesota, which trailed by as many as nine in the first quarter, used a strong run to make the score 42-40 with 4:29 left in the half. After a Chris Paul 3-pointer, Griffin had back-to-back fast-break power dunks late in the first half to give the Clippers a 49-42 lead. Soon after, he lobbed a pass to DeAndre Jordan for a crowd-raising alley-oop. Griffin's high-flying act keyed the late run in the second half that gave the Clippers some much needed momentum when it became apparent Minnesota would not go quietly.

Seeing Green

For the second time in three games, Willie Green tied his season high with 15 points. He made 5-of-8 shots from the field, including 3-of-3 from 3-point range. The three 3-pointers also tied a season high for the 12th-year veteran. Green also scored 15 points on April 3 against the Phoenix Suns and has reached double figures in scoring five times in the past nine games. He has made 17-of-26 3-pointers during that nine-game stretch, providing a legitimate deep threat to help open things up inside for Clippers' forwards.

Rapid Reaction: Clippers 126, Suns 101

April, 3, 2013
4/03/13
10:13
PM PT


LOS ANGELES -- It took the Los Angeles Clippers four tries but on Wednesday after losing their previous three games, they won their 50th game of the season and moved within one win, or a Golden State Warriors loss, of winning the Pacific Division.

Never before in team history had the Clippers won 50 games in a season or won the division, and the significance of that wasn't lost on Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro before the game when he said accomplishing both this week would be "special."

After losing four of their last five games, the lowly Phoenix Suns were the perfect remedy to what had been ailing the Clippers. The Clippers destroyed the Suns, 126-101, in a game that was never close after halftime as the Clippers dominated in every way imaginable.

Here are three takeaways:

That's their DJ

DeAndre Jordan responded to one of the worst games of his career by having one of the best games of the season, putting up 20 points and 12 rebounds in just 30 minutes. Jordan, who was 0-for-2 for no points and 5 rebounds in the Clippers' loss to the Indiana Pacers on Monday, was a force throughout Wednesday's game, hitting 10 of 15 shots and helping the Clippers jump out to a 28-point lead in the second half. This is the kind of game the Clippers would love see from Jordan heading into the playoffs. He may never be a consistent 20-10 player, but he has the talent and ability to be that kind of player, which is why the Clippers are paying him $43 million over four years.

Backcourt depth

When the Clippers were at their best earlier in the season, their high-flying second unit was powered by the backcourt of Eric Bledsoe and Jamal Crawford. Injuries to both players over the second half of the season hurt their progress, but on Wednesday both players reverted to their old ways as Crawford had 13 points on 5-of-10 shooting with four assists and Bledsoe had 17 points on 8-of-14 shooting with seven assists. Other bench players stepped up as well including Ryan Hollins, who had seven points before getting ejected after a minor altercation with Goran Dragic in the third quarter. He received a standing ovation from the Staples Center crowd and his teammates on his way back to the locker room.

Motown Willie

No one has been put in a more awkward position this season than Willie Green, who was brought in to be a backup point guard and hold Chauncey Billups' spot as the starting shooting guard. A variety of injuries and setbacks to Billups has made him available to start only 20 games. Green has started the other 56 games. When Billups returns, Green quietly goes back to the end of the bench and doesn't play. It's a thankless position, but Green's play this season is a big reason why the Clippers have won 50 games. On Wednesday, Green scored 15 points on 7-of-10 shooting in just 19 minutes. As Del Negro said about Green, "You never have to worry about Willie. He's the first one in and the last one out. Willie's a pro."

Clippers need to make adjustments, and soon

April, 2, 2013
4/02/13
10:46
AM PT
The Clippers are struggling as the season draws to a close. Here are some adjustments they can make as they prepare for the postseason:

Sound defensive rotations


The Clippers’ Achilles heel this season has been their 3-point defense, which stems from poor defensive rotations. They’ve lost a handful of games to some of the worst teams in the league -- the Cleveland Cavaliers, Orlando Magic, New Orleans Hornets and Sacramento Kings – because of their inability to defend beyond the arc.

For the season, the Clippers rank 26th in opponent 3-point percentage and 24th in opponent 3-point makes per game. Despite their ninth-ranked overall defense, the Clippers rank just 22nd in opponent points-per-shot, which factors in the amount of 3-pointers they allow.

“We have to play with a little more sense of urgency on both ends of the floor. Our defensive percentages have gone up, which means we're not playing the defense we're capable of," shooting guard Willie Green said after practice last week.

This, in part, has to do with the Clippers’ pick-and-roll defense. While it’s much improved from last year, it’s still susceptible to breakdowns, especially if the ball-handler can get by the Clippers big man who’s hedging. If this happens, the Clippers are left playing three-on-four, which almost always results in an open 3-pointer or lay-up.

"Our bigs are getting stretched out a little bit," head coach Vinny Del Negro said after practice last week. "They have to have a little sense of urgency in closing out. Some guys can make that adjustment, and some guys are struggling with that but we drilled it again today. That's obviously an area of concern."

Since most NBA defenses focus on packing the paint and preventing lay-ups, the Clippers usually collapse toward the rim when they suffer a breakdown and leave shooters open all over the court. And, of course, there are certainly other reasons the Clippers’ defense slips up, whether it’s a guard getting blown by on the perimeter or weak-side defenders over-helping on a drive.

The Clippers need to get on the same page defensively. The two teams they will likely have to defeat in order to make the NBA finals -- the San Antonio Spurs and Oklahoma City Thunder -- are the third and fifth-best 3-point shooting teams in the league, respectively, so the Clippers will need to shore up their rotations and figure out a way to stop the bleeding.

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