NBA @ 2: Los Angeles Clippers Adding Size
The Los Angeles Clippers have signed Solomon Jones to bolster a bench in need of size. The agreement will be make-good contract, finalized once Jones passes his physical.
Behind Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan, the only players 6’9″ or taller were Brian Cook (6’9″) and rookie Trey Thompkins (6’10″). Both are face-up “bigs”, more suitable for helping the team’s offense.
Jones is a legitimate 6’10″ 245 pounds and while he’s yet to find a major rotation role so far through five seasons (three with Atlanta and two with Indiana), he may be able to help LA in a low-minute capacity.
Solomon can rebound and block shots (although he’s prone to fouling). Offensively he doesn’t have much of a post-up game but Jones will benefit playing with points guards like Chris Paul, Chauncey Billups and Mo Williams.
The Clippers have been hurting for rebounding thus far this season but they have one of the best per-minute rebounders in the league recovering from a foot injury in Reggie Evans.
“There’s a ligament in his ankle that’s been kind of swollen – kind of bothersome,” said Del Negro. “Hopefully he’ll get his conditioning up and built throughout the week.”
Reggie denied there ligament was a problem, just some basic swelling. He’s hoping to be able to play soon but given the compacted 66-game schedule, LA wanted to make sure the frontcourt had some immediate backup.
Evans is just 6’8″ but should eat up most of the big-man reserve minutes once healthy. At 2-2, the Clippers have been out-rebounded as a team by 10 a game, third worst in the league.
Griffin’s numbers have dipped from last year’s 12.1 rebounds a game to 9.8. His front-court partner Jordan has increased his time on the floor from 25.6 minutes a game to 32.0, but is still averaging just over seven boards.
Instead, DeAndre’s blocks have jumped from 1.8 to 3.8. The numbers will probably stabilize with more games played, but Jordan’s focus seems to be more on swats than rebounds.
Coach Vinny Del Negro would like to see a little bit more balance but also has urged his guards to try and stay in front of their defensive assignments.
“I think we have to do a better job controlling penetration and take some of the pressure off him. It’s not just DeAndre,” said Del Negro. “It has to be a team defense, a team mentality. DJ can alter shots. Sometimes the penetration hurts and he gets overexposed because he helps so much. So that’s a positive and a negative because our backside gets exposed a little bit more off the glass.”
After a difficult loss to the Chicago Bulls, Jordan wasn’t necessarily in the mood to ponder the issue.
“If I go for a block, I can’t box out,” said DeAndre. “I’m just trying to help us defend as best as I can. If I go for a block, I go for it. If not, I don’t.”
Perhaps Evans can help balance the team where it may be weakest. Jordan’s shot-blocking can be very disruptive defensively. The Clippers just need to find a way to rebounds more regularly.
LA also expects Billups to return as early as Wednesday night (against the Houston Rockets) after sitting the last two with a sore groin.
Noah Finding His Way
The Chicago Bulls opened the season with a surprising last-minute victory in Los Angeles over the Lakers. They’ve since won four of their first five games despite playing just one at home.
With one of the top point differentials in the league (11.2 per game), the Bulls continue to play stifling defense holding their opponents to just under 90 points.
The addition of guard Rip Hamilton has helped the team boost their offensive output to 101 a game, up from last season’s 98.6.
While Joakim Noah’s offense hasn’t been especially impressive (9.8 points on 45.9% shooting), Coach Tom Thibodeau told HOOPSWORLD recently that the team’s center has been gradually finding his way.
“He did it quite well at the start of last season and then of course the injury, so his conditioning really suffered,” said Thibodeau. “I’d say he’s in fairly good shape right now and his timing is back, which is critical for him. I think he’s gotten a lot more comfortable offensively.”
Early in the 2010/11 campaign, Noah was a primary scoring option for the Bulls before a broken hand sidelined him for about 30 games. It was a difficult stretch for Chicago with Carlos Boozer missing the start of the season with a fractured hand as well.
The team’s starting frontcourt essentially didn’t play together with any regularity until late in the season.
“I think before the injury I was playing great basketball, but we were playing .500 basketball as well,” said Noah, referring to Chicago’s slow start last year. “Also, I didn’t get an opportunity to play a lot of time with Carlos and I think that [now] offensively, my role has diminished a little bit.”
“If it’s scoring less points and just being hungry and getting as many rebounds as I can and affecting winning in any kind of way that’s what I’m going to do,” continued Noah. “It’s not about points and rebounds.”
The Bulls have six players currently averaging at least 9.2 points per game (and four overall in double figures). The combination of Luol Deng, Boozer and Noah are collecting combined 23.4 rebounds per contest.
In addition to his mantra of defense, Coach Thibodeau wants Noah to take advantage of some of the slower centers offensively.
“When he runs the floor well, along with Derrick [Rose] and we get our wings out, we play at a much quicker pace,” said Thibodeau. “I think Jo is such a good athlete, he could outrun most guys.”
Noah is willing.
“I think that the more I do it, the better it’s going to be,” said the Chicago center. “Just got to keep fighting and keep getting better.”
Lin: Rookie Year a Humbling Experience
Second-year guard Jeremy Lin was recently waived by the Houston Rockets, after getting waived by the Golden State Warriors. Two waiver claims later and the 6’3″ Harvard graduate found himself on the New York Knicks.
Lin was sparsely used by the Warriors, playing in just 9.8 minutes a game over 29 appearances.
“It was a humbling experience. It was really hard for me my rookie year, going down to the D-league three times and kind of just having to find my way,” said Lin. “[I'm] just thankful that I made it through the year while learning a lot from a lot of different people: Steph [Curry], Monta [Ellis] . . . and the coach in the D-league, coach [Eric] Musselman kind of letting me go and just to figure out what’s going to work at the next level and what won’t.”
So far Lin has played a total of six minutes for the Knicks (spread out over three games) while amassing a total of four fouls, two turnovers and just one assist.
Adjusting to the new situation without the benefit of training camp is a lot to ask of Lin, who is still essentially a project in the NBA.
“I know everybody,” said Lin of his new teammates. “It’s just more the plays and getting used to the system and understanding, building some type of friendship and chemistry on the court.”
Coach Mike D’Antoni runs a point-guard friendly offense but the Knicks don’t have a healthy, experienced true point guard on the roster.
Toney Douglas is a solid player but a far cry from the All-Star D’Antoni had in Phoenix in Steve Nash.
“I think that everyone kind of knows that about his offense and so it’s exciting,” said Lin. “[I'm] just trying to learn as much as I can and guys like, the point guards ahead of me, Baron [Davis] and Toney, their always talking to me, Mike Bibby, they’re always teaching me; so there’s just a lot to be learned right now for me and that’s what I try to focus on.”
The team is hopeful that Bibby will round into shape and that Davis, out another couple of months with a back injury, will be healthy enough, come playoffs, to lead the team through a deep postseason run.
Lin just hopes he can contribute.
“For me it’s just trying to control what I can control and when I get on the floor, if I get on the floor, I’m just going to try and play my best and just give it my best effort,” said Lin. “I’m not over-thinking it.”
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