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DETROIT -- Los Angeles Clippers coach Doc Rivers said he might shake up his starting lineup when he spoke to reporters Monday morning and he didn't waste any time doing just that an hour later.
For the first time this season, Jared Dudley found himself out of the starting lineup as he was replaced by Matt Barnes at small forward before Monday's game against the Detroit Pistons.
|Jared Dudley was out of the Clippers' starting lineup for the first time all season on Monday.|
Dudley had started all 42 games this season for the Clippers while Barnes had come off the bench in 23 games while battling various injuries.
Rivers hinted at possibly making a change at the position before Monday's 112-103 win.
"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 team concept and that's all I can ask."
Dudley, who scored seven points Monday, has struggled this season as a starter, shooting a career-low 45 percent from the field. He is also shooting 37.9 percent from three-point range and 66.7 percent from the free-throw line, which is his lowest percentage in five years. Dudley has scored in double figures just twice since Dec. 22 and has also struggled as a defender; often getting replaced by Barnes for defensive purposes.
Before Monday's game, Rivers said he was considering making the switch and that he would be looking to make the switch again moving forward.
"I always consider it and we'll do it at times," Rivers said. "I don't do it for the play; I do it for the fit. I don't know what the big deal is with lineups. I do it more for fit than to make a statement. We'll do it several times. I'll start Matt at times. I'm waiting for Matt to play well, too. I told them before the year that's a lineup I hope we can go back and forth on and I think it's getting to that point."
Barnes played 27 minutes and had 10 points, five rebounds and two assists.
He suffered a retinal tear in his left eye in the Clippers' Nov. 18 game against the Memphis Grizzlies and underwent a surgical procedure the next day and missed 16 games. He missed three games earlier in the season with a bruised right thigh. Barnes is averaging 7.1 points, 4.3 rebounds and 1.4 assists off the bench this season.
"I think he's healthy now but he's not playing well yet," Rivers said of Barnes. "My idea of playing well and Matt's idea of playing well are completely different. Matt's idea of playing well is making shots. My idea for Matt playing well is playing defense and getting the rebounds and winning the 50/50 game. When Matt makes shots, that's great, but Matt's role on this team is to be the captain of the 50/50 team. He's one of our key intangible players and we haven't had that this year because of injury but you can see it in his movement he's healthy."
Rivers said Dudley's and Barnes' roles won't change regardless of who starts and said it wasn't fair to focus on the numbers given their respective roles on a team with other players who are expected to carry the scoring load.
"It's different," Rivers said. "I always try to tell guys when they come from a different team. [Dudley's] not going to what he got in Phoenix. He was on a team that won 20 games. He got all the ball time. He's on a team now with Blake Griffin and Chris Paul so he's not going to have the same numbers. It's impossible. That's why I'm not that concerned by it. What I need him to do and he's done is at the game if you leave him, I want him to make that shot. He can do that and he's going to be able to do that."
Dudley has been playing with tendinitis in his right knee and nothing short of rest will improve it and Rivers is hoping fewer minutes and some time off next month will help him get ready for the stretch run.
"He's better but I don't think 100 percent," Rivers said. "Hopefully the All-Star break will get him a little bit of a break. My goals are by the time the playoffs start he feels great but through the regular season that's going to be hard."