HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Blake Griffin said Lob City was dead.
And that might actually be a good thing for the Los Angeles Clippers.
That obituary highlighted here and elsewhere at the start of training camp was a tad bit premature. The Clippers remain a highlight show waiting to happen under Doc Rivers, courtesy of Griffin and plays like this one (sorry Rudy Gobert). I’m not complaining, mind you. I loved everything about the Clippers’ Lob City routine. When you are a team in the midst of the transformation the Clippers are in right now, a clear-cut identity is a good thing to get a handle on.
And when you possess the parts the Clippers do — Griffin, a masterful architect in Chris Paul, a fellow high-flyer in big man DeAndre Jordan and others — playing to those strengths, at least offensively, makes perfect sense.
The Clippers have the personnel to run several different styles. Versatile talents like Jamal Crawford, Jared Dudley, J.J. Redick (who made his preseason debut in Wednesday night’s win over the Utah Jazz), Matt Barnes, Ryan Hollins, Byron Mullens, Darren Collison and others give Rivers an assortment of player to choose from on any given night.
Continuing the Lob City movement would be no problem, if that’s what Rivers wanted to do. Rivers, of course, has already made it clear he has something else in mind. He wants to upgrade the toughness of this crew and make sure they are don’t fall into the trap of thinking highlight plays will deliver them deep into the playoffs.
It’s going to take more than a month to teach, preach and truly embed his philosophy into the collective psyche of this bunch.
But Paul is the ideal leader to spearhead Rivers’ effort. He bought in immediately, before free agency began in July. So Rivers has already solidified the initial bond with the principles needed to run whatever system he needs. Griffin and Jordan are his biggest projects and, according to Ramona Shelburne of ESPNLosAngeles.com, they’re all in as well:
“Actions speak louder than words. You can say this or that, but then you get out there and it doesn’t really happen,” Griffin said when asked why he has responded to Rivers’ approach so quickly. “I think that’s the biggest reason. He says it, and then you see it in action.”
As the senior vice president of basketball operations, Rivers has the power to trade any of his players. That’s something of a double-edged sword for a coach. That power isn’t always a good thing. But in Rivers’ case, so far at least, it has helped his relationships with the two players who are crucial to the Clippers’ championship aspirations.
From the jump, he looked both in the eye and said he believed in them.
“As soon as [Rivers] got here he told me, ‘We’re going to do it here with you,’ ” Jordan said. “He looked me in my eyes and I knew he was telling the truth.
“I respected that on a different level once he told me that up front.”
It was exactly what he needed to hear after two seasons of feeling insecure about his place in the organization’s plans, and a summer of reading his name in trade rumors.
“This summer, I just felt like he had to be here for us to be what we want to be,” Rivers said. “And he’s done it. He’s really played terrific basketball. His defense has been unbelievable.
“You guys can’t hear his talk, but I can. His talk on the floor has been terrific. I didn’t know DeAndre so I didn’t know if he could or would do that. But he’s been just off the charts.”
All of that precious Ubuntu-esque chatter can’t obscure the obvious. The Clippers, at least through the preseason, are still relying on the same things they did before Rivers arrived. Lob City is alive and kicking.
Chances are the Clippers will need to lean on that familiar mode of operation at times throughout this season, even as they pledge to continue digging that early grave for Lob City!