NEWS OF THE MORNING
No. 1: Rivers wants Clippers to pull together — The addition of Doc Rivers to the Clippers’ bench as their new coach was widely seen as one of the biggest moves of the NBA’s offseason. No doubt, the Clippers are counting on Rivers’ history of deep playoff runs with the Boston Celtics to translate to L.A. and take a crew known mostly for regular-season highlights further in the postseason. USA Today‘s David Leon Moore caught up with Rivers and the rest of the Clippers and found the the new coach is embracing the high expectations and hopes for a playoff run that are present in Clipperland:
The hype is loud for a team with two perennial All-Stars — point guard Chris Paul and power forward Blake Griffin — along with a title-winning coach and a deep and talented roster.
Rivers and the Clippers aren’t backing away from it.
“I always thought I’d rather be with a group with high expectations,” the 52-year-old coach says. “Are we ready for that? I don’t know yet. That’s what this journey will be about. I think we are. I think we have a chance to do something. That excites me. If we can look at what’s on paper and get that on the floor and keep it healthy, I think we can be a special team. That excites me.”
What needs to be changed from Del Negro’s regime?
Rivers wants to shore up the transition defense, guard the three-point line better and turn underachieving 6-11 center DeAndre Jordan into a candidate for defensive player of the year.
But there is a bigger goal, Rivers says. “Become a team,” he says. “I was a player. I was in locker rooms, and I understand that part of it. I know how important the locker room is. That’s something we need to improve here — our locker room.
“We just need to grow as a group. We have to embrace ‘heart’ all the time. That’s an area we need to be strongest in. Instead of splintering when things go wrong, we need to pull together.”
No. 2: Rondo may be in contact drills soon — Celtics All-Star point guard Rajon Rondo last played in an NBA game on Jan. 25, 2013 against the Hawks. It was in that game that Rondo injured his knee and shortly thereafter, had a torn ACL and was done for the season. Rondo has been rehabbing steadily since his surgery and might be ready for the next step in process to return to the court, writes Mark Murphy of the Boston Herald:
Rajon Rondo watched last night’s 107-97 Celtics exhibition win over a Brooklyn scrub team with the same calm the rehabbing point guard has brought to every other game this fall.
That’s because while Rondo won’t get specific about a timetable, he acknowledged last night that the next step in his recovery from ACL surgery — contact — may not be far off.
“I’m getting fitted for my first brace, and I don’t think contact will be too far from there,” the Celtics point guard said. “I just have to get cleared by my doctors. I know it’s getting stronger each week. When I’m able to jump off my right leg and dunk, that’s probably when I’ll be ready to play.
“Feeling great, working out every day. I’m doing more as far as compound workouts. I’m doing one workout a day, so I’m doing more as far as working on my leg. It’s getting better each day.”
No. 3: Jennings healing up, expects to return to Pistons soon — Detroit’s new starting point guard, Brandon Jennings, had surgery to repair an issue with his wisdom teeth a few weeks ago. He’s understandably been mostly quiet since the procedure, but the Pistons are thinking he’ll be ready to go by early next month, writes Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free-Press:
Brandon Jennings hasn’t had much to say — it’s tough to talk when your mouth is immobilized.
That’s what the Pistons’ public relations staff has reminded media members who have requested to interview Jennings, who returned to the practice facility this week after a brief absence because of an impacted wisdom tooth and hairline fracture of the jaw.
He hasn’t returned to full practices yet, but his light work and good spirits appear to be good signs that he will be able to return quickly when he is re-evaluated in two weeks. Jennings might play by Nov. 5 against Indiana.
“He’s been a part of everything with the exception of running,” coach Maurice Cheeks said Wednesday. “He’s able to watch film, being on the practice floor, he has been a part of it. Whenever he gets his situation taken care of, we will put him in there and see what he’s got.”
Jennings wore a protective mask Wednesday while taking shots, but it’s still to be determined if he will wear it when he returns.
No. 4: Report: Suns, Bledsoe talking extension — The Suns wrapped up their preseason schedule last night with a victory against the Nuggets that was paced by point guard Eric Bledsoe‘s 21-point effort. Bledsoe finished the preseason as Phoenix’s leading scorer (just 13.0 ppg, but that’ll likely be higher during the season) and has had a pretty smooth transition from Chris Paul‘s backup with the Clippers to his new role as a go-to guy with the Suns. As such, writes Andrew Gilstrap of ArizonaSports.com, the Suns and Bledsoe are trying to hammer out a contract extension before the Oct. 31 deadline:
The Phoenix Suns are currently in talks with newly acquired guard Eric Bledsoe on a long-term contract extension. If the two sides can’t reach a deal by the end of the month, the 23-year-old combo guard would become a restricted free agent at the end of the season.
The Suns are in an interesting spot because they’ve only seen the Kentucky product in training camp and a few preseason games, and it’s still uncertain that he will become the star many project him to be.
Nonetheless, general manager Ryan McDonough, while on Arizona Sports 620’s Burns & Gambo show Wednesday, agreed that Bledsoe does figure into the team’s long-term plans. McDonough said contract talks with the fourth-year player have gone “pretty well” to this point.
“If we’re not able to work out a deal (by Oct. 31), we would start next summer with Eric as a restricted free agent, but obviously we’re hoping to get something done before that,” the general manager said.
“With Eric, there’s more projection. Some would say there’s more risk, but I’d also counter that there’s more upside,” McDonough, 33, said. “He does some unique things athletically. I think he’s the best shot-blocking guard in the league. If he plays extended minutes, which he will for us, I think he might lead the league in steals. He has a unique potential.”
SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: In his farewell Board of Governors dinner, David Stern was immortalized in bobblehead form. Where can we get one of those? … The Jazz are reportedly bringing veteran point guard Jamaal Tinsley back into the fold … The Nets, understandably, are expecting big things from Deron Williams this season …
ICYMI Of The Night: Jazz rookies can’t seem to get a break. Yesterday, we had rookie Justin Holiday getting his welcome-to-the-NBA moment (from Xavier Henry of the Lakers). Today, we’ve got Rudy Gobert getting his welcome thanks to Blake Griffin of the Clippers …