Clippers moving in right direction
New additions Redick and Dudley helping build chemistry on and off the court
LOS ANGELES-- There are moments when the Los Angeles Clippers get together during a film session in which the concepts and principles that Doc Rivers has been preaching from the first day of training camp come together on the screen and are visible to everyone in the room.
"Doc calls it 'coach's porno,'" Clippers guard J.J. Redick said. "The stuff that gets me excited is the multiple stops in a row, which we've been able to put together for quarters at a time like the first quarter against Sacramento, the third quarter at Houston, the third quarter at Orlando. We've had these quarters where we hold teams in the teens, and that's how our defense is supposed to look. If we can put that together for a whole game -- and a whole stretch of games -- we'll be rolling."
Even after the Clippers' 39-point, 121-82 win over the Chicago Bulls, which featured the largest margin of victory in franchise history, the Clippers are still far from rolling, but they can finally see the wheels moving in the right direction.
The fact that the Clippers are now 15 games into the season with a new coach, coaching staff and half a new roster certainly plays a role in the team's improved play of late. Chemistry isn't built overnight, and neither are understanding coach's philosophies and teammate tendencies. That is built over the course of a season, and the Clippers are finally beginning to see that.
"I was talking to [Chris Paul] about little things like how I like to catch the ball," Clippers forward Jared Dudley said. "Little things that [Steve] Nash already knew, like how I like to gather my feet a certain way, and that's the chemistry of playing with guys. We're slowly getting it."
Against the Bulls, Dudley and Redick had 40 combined points midway through the third quarter as the Clippers' offense and defense played as well as they have all season. Dudley and Redick came to the Clippers in the same offseason three-team trade and gave the Clippers the perimeter shooting they had been lacking in the past. It also gave them two players who fit Rivers' defensive concepts well.
"People talk about the spacing and shooting, but I was excited to play with another guy that was a pro," Redick said. "Jared's a pro. Those are the guys you want in the locker room. Both of us are high-IQ guys, and we get team defense and we get team concepts. I think the main thing is being solid. Some nights you're going to have a mismatch, and some nights you're going to have to guard someone that's a little bit bigger and a little bit quicker, but as long as we stay within the team concept, we can be successful as a team defensively."
Dudley fits in perfectly with Rivers' defense because he always knows exactly where to be and exactly where to send his man. He's not the best one-on-one defender in the league, but few players understand their roles on team defense as well as Dudley does.
"I try to do position defense," said Dudley, who scored a team-high 21 points and hit four of five 3-pointers against Chicago. "I know what guys like to do. I'm not someone that's going to block your shot or get a lot of steals, but every team has a defensive concept where they know where the help is, and I know where my help is and I send them to the help or use angles and sidelines. So, for me, it's about positioning myself. Sometimes, your best defense is offense. You try to pick and choose your spots."
Rivers had been targeting Dudley and Redick as possible players he would like to have on his team when he was with the Boston Celtics. Nothing ever came close to happening, but when he was able to get both players in the same deal in the offseason for Eric Bledsoe and Caron Butler, he jumped at the opportunity.
"We gave up a hell of a player [in Bledsoe], but we got players that probably fit us better," Rivers said. "Jared's a crafty defender and is just always in the right place. I would look at him in Phoenix, and there were certain games he'd have against Paul [Pierce], and I was like, 'How is that possible?' He's just crafty."
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"My role here is like my role anywhere else, which is to be a glue guy," Dudley said. "A guy that's good in the locker room. A lot of games are won and lost in the locker room. Sometimes, teams don't have the chemistry, and I'm a guy that gets along with everybody. I joke around and have a good time and go out to dinners, and that helps a lot when it comes to chemistry. On the court, I'm someone who likes to space the floor and lets our stars be stars."
Redick had heard the Clippers locker room was close when he came to the team in the offseason, but he couldn't have imagined how close it would be until the season started. "My wife made a point to me after the game when she said, "I don't think you've ever been on a team where we're waiting in the family room and literally every single guy comes in and says hello by name to every single wife and every single kid,'" Redick said. "I hate to use a cliché, but it is a family atmosphere. We have good guys in this locker room. It's a pleasure to be a part of it."
If the Clippers can find that same bond on the court consistently on offense and defense, they might finally be ready to do something special this season.
"We're getting there," Rivers said. "I think we're getting closer every night."