Blake Griffin: Clips can be 'much better'
PLAYA VISTA, Calif. -- For a brief moment Thursday afternoon it looked as if Blake Griffin might exhale a little bit. Things were good after his Los Angeles Clippers swept both their preseason games against the Los Angeles Lakers this week.
"It's encouraging," Griffin said of the Clippers preseason wins. "But we can be much, much better. Defensively with our rotations, offensively not wasting possessions. We have the potential to do much, much better."
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In other words, the extent to which Griffin is allowing himself to enjoy how much his world has changed in the past few weeks as the Clippers traded for Chris Paul, acquired Chauncey Billups off waivers and signed free-agent forward Caron Butler is small.
There is still much work to be done in order to turn this team into a winner. And Griffin himself has much more to learn from his new, veteran teammates.
"Getting to play with those three guys is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," Griffin said. "Every time Chauncey comes to me it's like I'm trying to remember everything he's saying. He knows things and he sees things that most guys don't. You know how physically good he is, but he's on another level on how he thinks the game.
"Honestly, getting ready for a game now, stepping out on to the court, it's a totally different experience."
While Griffin has been impressive in the Clippers first two preseason games, he's also seemed a bit deferential to Paul, Billups and Butler.
Griffin might be the young player in the group, but he and center DeAndre Jordan are currently the longest-tenured Clippers on the roster (three seasons for Griffin, four for Jordan).
As such, Griffin has tried to walk a fine line between welcoming his new teammates to the team, and preparing himself to build off of his monumental rookie season.
"He's thirsty to learn," Butler said. "He wants to get better. He's always like, 'Show me. Show me what it takes to win.'
"He's made this transition very open and welcome."
Butler signed with the Clippers at the beginning of training camp for the chance to play with Griffin and then-starting point guard Mo Williams. As fate would have it, he got quite a bit more than he expected when the team acquired Billups and Paul.
Or did he?
"After talking to management about the direction they were trying to go, I knew something was going to get done," Butler said. "I didn't know if it was going to be Dwight Howard or Chris Paul, but I knew someone else was coming and I knew I wanted to be a part of that transition."
Still, it's been a fast and furious adjustment period for all involved. Training camp began two weeks ago, Paul and Billups practiced for the first time last Saturday, and all of a sudden the first regular season game is upon them.
"There's been a lot of stuff going on the last two weeks. A lot of stuff," Butler said. "But we're clicking on the court and off the court.
"We're spending a lot of time before basketball games, after basketball games. It's a good vibe here. It reminds me of Dallas last year. We were always together. If somebody's down, we pick 'em up. After games, we'd go out. The camaraderie was always really tight and I feel the same thing here.
"It's just happening. It's not like someone's saying, 'we gotta do this.' It's just happening."
Meanwhile, the Clippers officially signed free-agent forward Reggie Evans to a one-year, $1.3 million contract Thursday afternoon. He will not play in Sunday's opener as he recovers from an ankle injury that's expected to keep him out at least a week.
"If you look at his rebounding numbers, he goes and gets the ball," coach Vinny Del Negro said of Evans, who averaged 11.5 rebounds for the Raptors last season. "He's a possession guy and we've been struggling in rebounding so far this year against the Lakers, who are long."
Ramona Shelburne is a columnist and reporter for ESPNLosAngeles.com.