Sunday, December 25, 2011
Clips haven't been there, done that
By Kevin Arnovitz
Special to ESPNLosAngeles.com
SAN FRANCISCO -- Very little feels familiar about a Los Angeles Clippers squad that finished the 2010-11 season 32-50 but heads into a nationally televised Christmas night matchup on ESPN against the Golden State Warriors as one of the NBA's glamour teams.
Power forward Blake Griffin is the only holdover from the Clippers' starting lineup on opening night 2010. This season, the reigning rookie of the year will be flanked by All-Stars Chris Paul, Chauncey Billups and Caron Butler -- along with fourth-year center DeAndre Jordan -- as the Clippers tip off the season.
With the arrival of those veterans come heightened expectations for the Clippers, a mood that Griffin says can be felt when the team goes about its daily routine.
"There's a different vibe, a difference mindset going into each shootaround and each practice," Griffin said. "It starts with the older guys."
Two days after claiming Billups off waivers, the Clippers acquired Paul on Dec. 14 in exchange for Eric Gordon, Chris Kaman, Al-Farouq Aminu and a draft pick. The team signed Butler as a free agent on Dec. 9.
Griffin says that the presence of the three All-Stars -- two of whom have won NBA titles -- has changed the temperament of the team.
"It's all about business," Griffin said. "They don't have to waste time explaining things that are known."
Decked out in green shoelaces to match his cherry-red shoes, Griffin worked diligently on his midrange jump shot with Clippers assistant coach Marc Iavaroni at the team's shootaround Sunday morning.
"It's getting better, better and better," Griffin said. "It's the confidence of knowing when to shoot, always catching in rhythm and shooting the right way consistently."
Paul excels at creating open midrange shots for his teammates, and Griffin knows that his proficiency to convert those attempts will help the Clippers' offense. Paul and Griffin have participated in only two exhibition games against the Los Angeles Lakers and a handful of practices together as teammates.
"For me, it's about getting game shots," Griffin said. "[Paul and the coaching staff] told me in the last Lakers game for the whole game, 'When you're open, shoot the ball.' It's just about getting reps and feeling comfortable out there."
Kevin Arnovitz covers the NBA for ESPN.com and is the editor of the TrueHoop Network.