NBA PM: The Growth Of The Clippers
Senior NBA & College Basketball Editor
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The Los Angeles Clippers can no longer be taken lightly. They’ve officially arrived as contenders, being acknowledged by the top teams in the league as such. The key to their rise to prominence has been some major roster changes, including the drafting of All-Star power forward Blake Griffin and the trade for Chris Paul, arguably the best point guards in the league. As we’ve come to learn, though, depth is just as important as star power and Clippers’ management added several proven role players this offseason, including Matt Barnes, who originally got his career started with the team back in 2003-04 when they finished 28-54.
“The locker room is nicer,” Barnes joked with HOOPSWORLD. “We have a practice facility now. The team is in a different direction. The organization has done a great job bringing quality players in and making this a destination for free agents.”
Barnes’ journey back to the Clippers is unique because before signing with them, he had questions about whether or not he was going to be picked up after an overblown, yet somewhat tumultuous, offseason. Then, a random pickup game changed everything.
“I worked out at the Clippers’ facility when they had open runs,” Barnes said. “Chris thought I was a Laker still and we talked about that. I told him I was a free agent and he said ‘Oh you need to come here’, and I was like okay, thinking they already had Caron [Butler] and Grant [Hill], but they pushed it and me looking at the big picture and knowing I could play multiple positions, I took a chance and it worked out great.”
While Butler and Hill will garner a lot of minutes at the small forward spot, Barnes’ natural position, having to fight for playing time isn’t anything he’s foreign to.
“In my career, it’s never been anything like ‘You’re a starter’ or ‘You’re the second guy off the bench,’” Barnes said. “I’ve had to work with everything. I knew this is no different than that. Really, when I talked to Vinny [Del Negro], I just asked for an opportunity. I didn’t need anything promised to me, I just needed the opportunity to compete and he’s given me that. It’s worked out well.”
With the potential far greater than it was the last time Barnes was a Clipper, he sees one thing the team needs to really focus on in order to live up to expectations and be serious contenders.
“Play defense,” Barnes said. “To me, it’s play defense. With Chris at the point and in transition, our offense will be fine. If we commit to the defensive end and close that paint up and slow people down in transition and limit their threes, we’re going to be hard to beat.”
The Clippers will have several good tests early on to gauge themselves against some of the league’s best as they take on the Los Angeles Lakers, San Antonio Spurs, Brooklyn Nets, Oklahoma City Thunder and Miami HEAT during the first month of the season. All of those, except the game against the HEAT, will be on the road.
Dirk Not In A Hurry: After doing everything he could to avoid it, Dallas Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki accepted the inevitable last week and underwent arthroscopic knee surgery to help his ailing right knee. The surgery was not major and something a lot of players who have played as many minutes as Nowitzki has over his 14 year career receive, but it will still keep him out anywhere from 3-6 weeks.
While Nowitzki did not want to miss any time at all, he’s not going to rush back to the court too early because after all, the whole point of the surgery was to avoid hurting all season long.
“I need plenty of practices, so it’s going to be a few weeks,” Nowitzki said to ESPN Dallas. “But is it going to be three, four, fix, six? I have no idea.”
Nowitkzi’s adamant attitude regarding his return date stems from coming back too early from a similar injury two seasons ago. His conditioning wasn’t up to par and he struggled as a result. He doesn’t want that to be the case this year, especially considering how much the Mavericks are going to rely on him with an almost entirely new supporting cast than the one he had grown so accustomed to and won a championship with recently.
“It stinks,” Nowitzki said. “There’s no other way to put it. But, we’re not going to have to do it, and before I come back, I’m going to do a bunch of practices. It’s not like two years ago when I had one practice and came back. This year, we’re going to make sure I’m ready to go.”
Grizzlies Sale Up For Vote: The Memphis Commercial Appeal is reporting that the NBA’s Board of Governors are meeting this Wednesday and Thursday in New York and amongst the items on the agenda are Rob Pera, a 34-year-old wireless entrepreneur, and his ownership group’s bid for the Memphis Grizzlies.
Pera agreed in June to buy the team from current owner Michael Heisley for a reported $350 million. If he receives three-fourths of the Board of Governor’s approval, the last thing he’ll need to do is finalize the deal Heisley.
Pera’s ownership group contains several people of notoriety including several local businessmen, former Memphis Tigers Elliot Perry and Tim Hardaway, actor Justin Timberlake and Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning along with his wife, Ashley, who is a Memphis native.
Several Cuts Made Around the League: As team’s look to trim their roster to the 15-player minimum by the start of the regular season, cuts have started to occur around the league. Here’s a look at who was recently let go as of Tuesday evening:
- The Grizzlies waived Michael Dunigan and Kyle Weaver.
- The Spurs waived Eddy Curry and Derrick Brown
- The Celtics waived Micah Downs and Rob Kurz
- The Brooklyn Nets waived Stephen Dennis.