- HOOPSWORLD | Basketball News & NBA Rumors - http://www.hoopsworld.com -
NBA PM: A New Era of Clippers Basketball
Posted By Alex Kennedy On September 9, 2013 @ 4:56 pm In NBA | No Comments
Boston Celtics head coach Brad Stevens holds court at the Orlando Summer League.Watch More Video Here
A New Era of Clippers Basketball
The Los Angeles Clippers are no longer the NBA’s laughingstock. The franchise that constantly ended up in the lottery and punch lines over the years is now almost unrecognizable. The jerseys are the same, but that’s about it.
Gone are the days when the Clippers were a bottom feeder in the Western Conference. Last season, they won a franchise-record 56 games and emerged as one of the most talented teams in the league. This year, the organization enters the season with championship expectations and may once again top their record for most wins in a single season.
Gone are the days when the Clippers would lose their star players (Elton Brand, Lamar Odom, etc.) because the grass seemed greener elsewhere. In the past two offseasons, Blake Griffin and Chris Paul each signed long-term deals to remain with the Clippers. In fact, Paul decided that he was ready to re-sign without even meeting with other teams and hearing their pitches.
Gone are the days when the Clippers were viewed as one of the league’s most frugal franchises. This season, L.A. has two players on maximum contracts and their payroll exceeds $72 million. Owner Donald Sterling even opened up his wallet to give Doc Rivers a three-year deal worth $21 million, giving the Clippers one of the highest-paid head coaches in the league. Rivers replaces Vinny Del Negro, who was one of the NBA’s lowest-paid head coaches in recent years.
Gone are the days when the Clippers were the secondary team in Los Angeles. They are no longer in the Los Angeles Lakers’ shadow, even if they do have to play under the franchise’s 16 championship banners. For the first time, the Clippers are without question the best team in STAPLES Center, and the gap between the two teams is significant. The Clippers have championship aspirations while the Lakers will have to fight just to make the playoffs in the competitive Western Conference.
After years of suffering, Clippers fans are finally being rewarded for their patience. It took quite awhile, but their team is now a contender. Entering the season, the Clippers are expecting to be one of the top teams in the West and compete for a championship.
“It’s definitely realistic,” Jared Dudley said. “That should be our goal, to the be No. 1 seed in the West. As we’ve seen in the playoffs, home court advantage is huge. Talent-wise, we’re there and we’re bringing in one of the best coaches. Now, it’s just about chemistry. It’s not about talent or coaching. It’s just meshing everyone together and playing both sides of the ball. We’re not going into this thinking this is a year to feel each other out. This is a year where we’re trying to be the No. 1 seed or, at the least, the No. 2 seed.”
“We feel like our chances are as good as anybody else’s and we like where we’re going,” Jamal Crawford said. “For us, we’re not going to be judged on the regular season results. We’ll be judged by what we do in the playoffs. We’ve already shown that we’re a good team, but now we have to take that next step and that means winning big in the playoffs. That’s our goal and our next step, and that’s what we’ll ultimately be judged on.”
The Clippers were one of the most active teams over the offseason. After hiring Rivers and re-signing Paul, the team also acquired Dudley, J.J. Redick, Darren Collison, Byron Mullens and Antawn Jamison among others. Last year, L.A. had one of the deepest teams in the league, but they may have even more depth this season.
“This team’s depth is right up there [with the deepest teams I’ve been on],” Crawford said. “Adding Jared and J.J., those are two guys who can really shoot the ball, who can space the court and who can really play. They’re welcome additions to our team. We hate to see anybody leave and it’s unfortunate to see some of the guys from last year leave in different ways like trades and free agency, but anytime you can get some high-level additions like that it really helps your ballclub. I think it’s going to give us a lot of space. When you have guys like that who can knock it down consistently, the defense can’t help off of them. That’s going to be important for us, especially with myself and Chris being able to create and Blake being able to work down low. It gives us space. When you have shooters like that, guys are scared to leave them and that ultimately opens up the court. That’s when we’re at our best. I think it’s something we needed and it’s something that will help us.”
“I definitely think we’re one of the deepest teams,” Dudley added. “I think people saw some of the Clippers’ flaws last year. I think Memphis kind of exploited them a little bit. Their bigs would sometimes clog the lane and they needed shooting. I think Byron Mullens is kind of a sleeper that nobody is talking about. I played with him on the Bobcats and he can stretch the floor. You’re not going to see him really stand out, especially on a team like the Bobcats since they were losing, but [he could thrive] with someone like Chris Paul. He kind of reminds of me of Channing Frye. Channing wasn’t playing in Portland, but then with Steve Nash, he was top five in threes made and three-point percentage. Byron Mullens can do that. I think that’ll help our spacing when we play these bigs. When Chris Paul and Blake Griffin are picking-and-rolling, the lane won’t be clogged anymore. Then with myself and J.J. and Matt Barnes, who is back after one of the best years of his career, and Jamal Crawford, who should’ve been Sixth Man of the Year rather than runner-up, I think we have a lot of unfinished business. With all of these pieces, we’re trying to finish it.”
The biggest difference from last year to this year is that the Clippers now have one of the best coaches in the league managing all of those talented players. Rivers is an enormous upgrade over Del Negro. The former is widely regarded as a top-tier coach whereas the latter is often criticized and placed on the opposite end of the spectrum. Rivers, who won a championship with the Boston Celtics in 2008, should make a world of difference in L.A.
“I’m excited to play for him,” Crawford said. “We talked about my role and it’s basically going to be the same as it was last year. He’s going to use me in the exact same role. Obviously, Doc has championship pedigree and that’s what we’re aspiring to be – champions. You have to have someone who can lead you there, someone with that kind of pedigree, and he has the credentials. I think it’s going to be a lot of fun. I’ve talked to some of his former players that have played for him and he gets everybody to buy in. Everyone is going to be on the same page, competing together, winning as a team and losing as a team. That’s all you can ask for from your coach.”
“The best thing about it is that he’s probably the best coach that I’ve ever played for, so that’s exciting right there,” Dudley said. “Not only is he one of the best coaches, he’s one of the best player-coaches. He has played in the NBA and been a successful player. He has won a championship. You see his passion when you’re watching him coach. His guys play team basketball and come together. He’s someone that just knows that right way to play, and that’s how I like to play so it’s a great fit. I’ve always had a good relationship with him, even though I was never one his players. When I’ve talked to him on the sideline, you can just tell that he has a good heart and he has players’ best interests in mind. At the same time, he’s honest with you. He’s not going to BS you or say something just to sound good. I have a lot of respect for Doc Rivers.”
When Dudley first learned about the trade to the Clippers, he was surprised. Shortly after, the realization that he was on a contending team started to set in and he was thrilled.
“I was shocked to hear about it because we had just had the draft a few weeks beforehand and usually trades happen during that time,” Dudley said. “I just thought that I was going to be there helping the young guys out and going through another transition year in Phoenix. But once I found out that I’d have the opportunity to play for the Clippers, I was excited. It really was the perfect situation. Chris Paul re-signed, Doc Rivers had just gotten there and they traded Caron Butler so there was a spot opening up at the small forward position. All the stars aligned. It was just perfect and I was excited to jump in.”
“This is what my game is built for – I’m not really built for a young team that’s trying to rebuild,” Dudley said. “Can I help with that process? Yes. But I can do more and be of more value on a winning team with all of the little things that I do. For me, to be on a championship-contending team where we’re expected to go to the Western Conference Finals or NBA Finals, that’s what’s it’s all about. And we’re a young team; it’s not like we have a small window where we have one or two years to compete. I mean, most of our best players are in their 20s. It’s a big window, and it’s a great situation for us.
“I’m a great team guy. I want to be a positive influence and I’m always someone that looks on the bright side. I’m going to get the gym early and work hard. I want to pass that on to others. On the court, I’m just doing all of the little things – helping on defense, knowing my spot on defense and holding guys accountable. I think people who have seen me play in the league know that I’m a smart basketball player, who plays the right way and plays unselfish basketball. I’m going to look to make the extra pass and the right play. When it comes to my shooting, I’m not here to average a lot of points and shoot 100 shots. If they’re going to leave me open then, hey, I’m going to shoot the ball, but at the same time I know that I’m here to help our stars out. My job is to make things easier for them. In the locker room, it’s easy when things are going well, but it’s harder when things are going off course and that’s where I want to help.”
While Crawford believes all of the offseason additions will help the team, he thinks the Clippers’ title hopes fall on Griffin’s broad shoulders. He believes the 24-year-old is going to have a breakout year as he enters his fourth season.
“We’re going to go as far as Blake can take us,” Crawford said. “I don’t want to put pressure on him, but he’s that good. Obviously, Chris is one of the top players in the NBA, but he’s unselfish and wants guys around him that can get it done. I think with myself and Blake, we have two of the better offensive players in the league. I think Blake is ready to take that next step. He’s our hardest worker. He’s always adding something different to his game. When he was playing in my pro-am, he was much more comfortable stepping out to the elbow area and knocking down shots. If he masters that, that’ll just open the court even more and it’ll demand double teams. Nobody can guard him when he’s knocking down that shot consistently. He’s so athletic, but he also makes great decisions and great passes. I think this will be a big year for him.”
This could be a big year for the Clippers in general, perhaps their best in franchise history. The Clippers have come a long way in recent years, changing the league-wide perception of the team and silencing their critics. However, there’s still work to be done if the organization wants to completely distance themselves from their dreadful past. In order to usher in a new era of Clippers basketball, the team must be successful and live up to the lofty expectations being set, internally and externally. That means Paul, Griffin, Rivers and company need to hoist the Larry O’Brien trophy in June, something that seems much more realistic than at any other point in franchise history.
Sixers Looking for Reserve Point Guard
The Philadelphia 76ers have over $14 million in remaining cap room and they have several open roster spots that they must fill before the start of the season.
While most teams have finalized their roster, the 76ers must make some moves in the coming weeks.
Philadelphia’s No. 1 priority is finding a veteran point guard who can back-up and mentor Michael Carter-Williams, according to sources close to the situation.
The rookie will be the starting point guard, but they don’t have a reliable reserve behind him. Tony Wroten is the only other point guard on the roster, and he’s not someone that can help Carter-Williams grow as a player and leader.
Philadelphia has expressed interest in Rodrigue Beaubois, Chris Duhon, Daniel Gibson and Jamaal Tinsley among others, according to sources close to the situation.
Philadelphia will likely sign one of these players on a veteran’s minimum deal.
It’s possible that the 76ers will invite other point guards to training camp. After all, general manager Sam Hinkie recently hinted that he wants to bring the maximum number of players (20) to camp.
Article printed from HOOPSWORLD | Basketball News & NBA Rumors: http://www.hoopsworld.com
URL to article: http://www.hoopsworld.com/nba-pm-a-new-era-of-clippers-basketball
Copyright © 2013 HOOPSWORLD | Basketball News & NBA Rumors
Part of the USA TODAY Sports Media Group.