Clippers Air Out Issues, Wait for Young
The Los Angeles Clippers held a players only meeting late Thursday night after what was arguably their worst loss of the year to the Phoenix Suns (91-87) who were playing without both Steve Nash and Grant Hill.
A dejected Coach Vinny Del Negro met with the press after a lengthy delay, then returned to the locker room which would open for at least an hour after the game was complete.
Center DeAndre Jordan was first to talk with the media but claimed the team was waiting for the press all that time. Then he joked the players were just getting flu shots.
Kenyon Martin, Ryan Gomes and other Clippers wouldn’t elaborate.
Chris Paul admitted to the team meeting but wouldn’t qualify it as a positive, saying the team needs to show it on the floor, not talk about it.
Blake Griffin said it wasn’t a lot of shouting and finger-pointing. The normal post-game session just kept going as people talked openly about the team, the opportunity they have in front of them and their poor performance of late, most notably Thursday night.
There was some speculation outside of the locker room that there was some sort of altercation. Twitter ran with the notion that Mo Williams and Del Negro got into it but judging by Williams’ lose demeanor afterwards, that just doesn’t seem plausible.
Mo wears his emotions on his face. He’s struggled all year to put a smile on his demotion to the bench. If he and Del Negro had just gone through a dust-up, it’s hard to fathom him calm and relaxed as the press finally entered the room.
Sources verify there was no such incident with Williams and Del Negro.
Nick Young to the Rescue?
Clippers Vice President of Basketball Operations Neil Olshey addressed the media on Thursday after a busy trade deadline week that saw the team acquired Nick Young from the Washington Wizards for Brian Cook and the New Orleans’ Hornets 2015 second-round pick (acquired in the Chris Paul trade). The Wizards also sent JaVale McGee and Ronny Turiaf to the Denver Nuggets in return for Nene in a three-team transaction.
“We started talking about this ten days ago just conceptually, it never got out,” said Olshey of his talks with the Wizards. “I was actually surprised. I didn’t think there was any way we would be able to acquire a player like Nick Young for a future second round pick.”
The conversation lost momentum but reemerged as a possibility within the final hour before the deadline.
“[Wizards President] Ernie [Grunfeld] called at about 11:15 am this morning, so about 45 minutes before the deadline, and we jumped back into it. We had prepped this to [Clippers owner Donald] Sterling last night and got him on the phone,” said Olshey. “He endorsed it, he’s been great this whole time, hasn’t turned us down once on any deals we’ve wanted to do and we finished the trade call about 5:30 pm.”
The difficulty for Olshey wasn’t the Clippers’ part in the deal but waiting for the Wizards and Nuggets to resolve their components in the trade.
“Clearly it was a part of a bigger deal and we needed to make that math work for Denver and Washington to complete their transactions so as of last night I thought it was dead,” said Neil. “I didn’t think they were going to get the other stuff worked out on their end.”
Before the game Thursday, Young spoke to the Clippers’ pregame show.
“I am excited to be back first of all. It is a great fit,” said Young. “I find myself growing there. They have great players on the team and I can learn from each one of them.”"
Because Nick has taken the Wizards qualifying offer of $3.7 million this past summer, he had to approve the trade and relinquish his Bird Rights.
Due to the various quirks of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, the most the Clippers can offer Young in free agency via non-Bird Rights is $4.4 million this summer. If that’s not enough, and as expected the Clippers don’t have cap room, they can offer him their $5 million Mid-Level Exception.
Of course that assumes that he’s a successful fit on the team and that the Clippers don’t climb above the luxury tax line.
“It is a great feeling to have a team like the Clippers behind you and a team that’s vying for a championship wants you on their team,” said Young. “It is a good feeling. Once I got that call, I was excited.”
Coach Del Negro is looking forward to adding size to his shorter backcourt.
“You want to have big guards,” said Del Negro of the 6’7″ Young. “You look at all the guys you have to contend with in the backcourt I think we can use Nick as an advantage. He can score the ball. Let’s see how it all plays together but obviously having some more was size was something that intrigued Neil and myself.”
Olshey traded for Young with a starting job in mind.
“I think that with Chauncey [Billups] it was what he did on the court and off the court. I think with Nick it’s going to be what he does on the court and we’ve been looking for a traditional 6’6, 6’7 two-guard that can defend those guys on the opposition,” said Neil.
Billups is out for the season with a torn Achilles’ but will rejoin the team this weekend to provide support and leadership.
Young doesn’t have a reputation as a defender but Olshey said otherwise.
“What people don’t realize is that in isolation situations on the ball, Nick Young’s in the top ten percent in the league as a defender so we’re excited,” said Neil. “It adds depth to our bench, in terms of if we move guys down in the rotation we can go deeper into our bench which we’re going to need. We’re playing six games in eight days, ten in fourteen. It’s just not going to end between now and the season but with that lineup playing in the backcourt with Chris Paul, having a 6’6 wing and then having Caron, just so much more size.”
Olshey is hoping that Young’s outside shot will help balance the floor, preventing teams from clogging the lane and taking “away all of Chris’ penetration.”
“Nick is a multidimensional scorer, can score in pick-and-rolls, isolation, off screens, catch and shoot; he’s one of the best catch and shoot corner players in the league,” said Neil.
The Clippers were adamant that they wouldn’t give up any long-term pieces (like Eric Bledsoe or a first-round pick) to improve over the short-term. They gave up almost nothing to get Young but given how late the deal came together for the Clippers, what would they have done if the Wizards hadn’t called?
“Chris Paul came here to win a championship. That’s our goal, we’re not messing around. We’re right at the luxury tax. We’re going to use every available resource but we weren’t going to a short term fix that wasn’t going to be a permanent solution for us in terms of the path towards a championship,” said Olshey. “We had some other deals going, some fall back positions. I don’t want to discuss those players because they’re still on their teams, they didn’t get moved but at the end of the day we were looking for either a short term solution or a long-term fix. We didn’t have the long term fix in terms of someone under contract but we did get Nick Young who’s totally open to wanting to be here and we’re going to have some tools to resign if it works out.”
Olshey indicated that owner Sterling has yet to reject any of his recommendations.
“Sometimes the yes were the wrong yes, because we recommended the wrong thing and endorsed them and they clearly were mistakes,” said Olshey. “All the way back to the offer to Elton Brand, signing Baron Davis. That moving on to trading a first round pick to move Baron’s contract to give us the cap flexibility which allowed us to go get Caron Butler and Chris Paul this summer. We’ve used every exception available to us. We used the [room exception], we used the minimum. We’ll do it again next summer. Mr. Sterling wants to win.”
To make the deal with the Wizards, the Clippers used a trade exception acquired in the Paul deal. A new trade exception was generated for Cook for $1.2 million that will be good for a full year.
“We hold on to the [Al-Farouq Aminu] exception [$2.8 million] but we got Nick to fit into Eric Gordon’s trade exception,” said Olshey.
Olshey noted that the deadline for players to report for their physicals was Sunday with the results due by Monday. That might delay Young’s debut until Tuesday in Indiana against the Pacers. The Clippers have a back-to-back over the weekend at home against the Houston Rockets and Detroit Pistons.
“I just want to try and do my part and do the best I can do on both sides of the floor,” said Young. “I will try and help them out as soon as I can. I am happy to be here.”