- Arash Markazi, ESPN Staff Writer
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SAN DIEGO -- Doc Rivers won an NBA title with the Boston Celtics in large part because of the Celtics' Big Three of Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen. Rivers believes he now has a "big three" with the Los Angeles Clippers.
"I'm always focused on our big three guys, Blake [Griffin], DJ [DeAndre Jordan] and Chris [Paul]," Rivers said. "Their leadership is important to our team. I'm always watching them. I think those are the guys that I have more focus on than anybody else."
Paul and Griffin have combined to play in nine NBA All-Star Games, including the past three together, but Jordan has never been named an All-Star. Rivers, however, feels comfortable putting the 25-year-old center in the same conversation as Paul and Griffin heading into this season.
"That's our big three, I like our big three," Rivers said. "I like what DeAndre gives us. He gives us something a lot of the guys in the league can't do. He can block shots, he can run the floor, he can defend, he's talking and he's in the best shape of his career. He's doing a lot of great things for us."
Rivers said he expects Jordan to be in the running for defensive player of the year this season and has spent the first two days of the Clippers' training camp in San Diego focusing on defense. Rivers expects the Clippers to be one of the best defensive teams in the league this season.
"They should be better than any team I've ever coached, I really believe that," Rivers said. "They're more athletic. They don't have the veteran IQ but they should be in that area. We have a couple of individual defenders that can be dominating on defense. We have great speed but we don't have the size in some ways as some of the teams I've coached."
Paul believes Rivers' high praise of the Clippers on defense is largely based on how their two big men will play.
"I think the reason he says that is solely because of DJ and Blake," Paul said. "Their ability to protect the rim and their speed and athleticism is something that you rarely see in anybody, let alone being on the same team. Those two are the cornerstones of our defense."
Rivers held two full-court scrimmages between the first and second teams at the end of practice Wednesday. After the first team lost the first scrimmage, Paul demanded a rematch, which the first team won. Paul said the team already has noticed the difference in having Rivers as coach just two days into training camp.
"One of the best things about Doc being here along with the rest of the coaching staff is the attention to detail," Paul said. "Everything has a purpose. He expects a lot of us. He allows us to be pros and men, and he knows we all want to win, and we got to show it."
7hMarc Stein and Mike Mazzeo
4dIan O'Connor, ESPN Senior Writer