Posts Tagged ‘Jared Dudley’

L.A.’s roller coaster came to weary end

By Jeff Caplan, NBA.com


VIDEO: Doc Rivers speaks after the Clippers’ Game 6 and series loss

LOS ANGELES — Through all the ugly, unwanted daily questions that started with the name Donald, Clippers coach Doc Rivers maintained a sense of humor to the end.

In the postgame news conference moments after his team succumbed for the last time to the Oklahoma City Thunder in Game 6 of the Western Conference semifinal series, Rivers was informed of the latest, jaw-clenching news of the day that broke shortly before tip-off: Banned-for-life Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling asserted he will not pay the $2.5 million fine levied last month by NBA commissioner Adam Silver and vowed to fight the league’s intention to force him to sell the team.

Seated at the dais in front of a microphone, Rivers threw up his hands: “I’m not paying my $25,000 fine either,” he deadpanned.

Rivers was fined by the league Thursday morning for his criticism of the referees following the controversial call at the end of Game 5, a game L.A had in its back pocket before a calamity of errors allowed a seven-point lead to evaporate in the final 49 seconds.

The standing room-only crowd of reporters burst into laughter. Rivers, his suit coat long gone and his tie and top button of his white dress shirt loosened, flashed a fatigued smile just as his players in the adjoining room slumped at their lockers in painful silence.

Sterling had not been permitted inside the Staples Center since the first round. But his specter never left the building.

“The locker room was not very good after the game, in a very sad way,” Rivers said. “Just watching our guys, it just felt like all of this stuff that they’ve gone through, they kind of released all of their emotions. That was tough. That was tough for me to see as one of their leaders. I wish I could have done more for them.”

Rivers, in his first year with the Clippers following the rare coaching trade that released him from Boston’s rebuilding job, has been hailed as the perfect man for such a uniquely dispiriting turn of events. Throughout the playoffs, Rivers spoke openly and honestly about how he and his players were feeling and thinking without once losing his cool during the daily drudgery of such an unexpected mission.

His blowup after Game 5 might have been less about a call that didn’t go his team’s way than it was a month’s worth of emotion bubbling to the surface.

“I’ve said this before, and I’m not trying to show humility or anything like that,” Rivers said. “I think any coach in this system would have been the right coach, the right man. I just think you had to be. It’s not like we had a choice in it. None of us was chosen for this. None of us signed on for this. But this is what happened. The way I looked at it, it was my job to do everything that I thought was right.”

Soon after the Sterling audio was released, when emotions were at their rawest, Rivers said he didn’t know if he could coach the team next season if Sterling remained as owner. On Thursday night he made it clear that he will be back.

“I have no plans of going anywhere, as far as I know,” Rivers said.

For point guard Chris Paul, another season ended without advancing beyond the second round. His series of costly miscues in the final 17 seconds of Game 5 ate at him intensely. He wasn’t shooting it well in Game 6, but he was doing everything else as the Clippers maintained a lead until the end of the third quarter when an OKC burst tied it, 72-72.

Paul’s jumper with 7:59 to go tied it at 80-80, but the Thunder bolted on a 10-0 run and never looked back. Paul’s 14-point quarter accounted for more than half the Clippers’ points in the period, but it wasn’t enough.

The seven-time All-Star never pointed to the officiating after Game 5, only shoveling blame on his own shoulders. And when it was all over, he didn’t even lay the team’s exhaustive second-round loss at the feet of the disgraced owner, only at his own shortcomings.

Asked in the postgame news conference for his thoughts if Sterling is still owner by the start of next season, Paul shook his head and decided he was better off not answering at such an emotional moment, only to say that Sterling — who Paul and teammate Blake Griffin addressed only as “him” — is being paid too much attention.

“He’s the spirit of our team. Right now his spirit is broken,” Rivers said of Paul, who averaged 22.0 ppg, 12.0 ast and shot better than 50 percent. “He’s going to have all summer to work and get ready for next year. But he’ll be back. He’ll be ready.”

Most of the 2013-14 Clippers that won a franchise-best 57 games, will be back. The club has nearly $72 million tied into Paul, Griffin, DeAndre Jordan, J.J. Redick, Matt Barnes, Jared Dudley and Reggie Bullock. Sixth Man of the Year Jamal Crawford is under contract next season for $5.45 million dollars, but the full amount is non-guaranteed.

Even with Paul missing six weeks of the season with a separated right shoulder and Redick limited to less than half the season with multiple injuries, the Clippers earned the No. 3 seed in an ultra-competitive Western Conference.

Rivers predicted the coming summer to be “messy” as the Sterling fight enters the next phase. For now, it appears the Clippers’ coach and players are content to allow that drama to play out on the periphery while they focus in on a brighter day and renewed goals come next October.

“We had a really, really good team, a great team,” Paul said. “Before the game, Doc talked about it. I told somebody at halftime, ‘It’s crazy, you play all season long, and the last few games we really started to figure out who our team was and how to play.’

“And it’s crazy that it’s over.”

Did Pacers suffer from a post-Granger trade hangover?

By Jeff Caplan, NBA.com


VIDEO: GameTime’s crew breaks down the Pacers’ small forward depth chart

DALLAS — Did the Indiana Pacers suffer from a psychological hangover after trading Danny Granger? It’s not a question that Granger exactly dismissed without some consideration Thursday night.

“It may have,” Granger said after his new team, the Los Angeles Clippers’, rallied to beat the Dallas Mavericks last night. Granger left the game in the fourth quarter with Granger left in the fourth quarter with a strained hamstring.

“You mess up the … it’s not messing, you change the chemistry of the team. It can have different effects that are unforeseen. I think that may have had something to do with it. The fact they added two new players, it’s hard to come in in the middle of the season with a new team regardless of how good you are, that’s very difficult to do.”

Since the Pacers traded 6-foot-9 Granger, a shining light for the franchise through some dark years, beloved by his teammates, the Indy fans and team president Larry Bird all the same, a cold wind had been blowing leading into Wednesday’s critical win over the Miami Heat.

An 11th hour deadline deal on Feb. 20 sent Granger to Philadelphia for Evan Turner, and suddenly a significant piece of the Pacers’ fabric was ripped away. In these weeks since the trade, it’s almost as if the clocks has been striking midnight on a Pacers season with so much invested.

A team that didn’t lose it’s seventh game of the season until Jan. 8, is just 11-7 since dealing the former All-Star. They’ve ranked 26 in offensive efficiency and sixth in defensive efficiency, allowing 100.3 points per 100 possessions, up from 93.9, No. 1 in the league, prior to the trade.

Granger also noted improving teams in the East making life a bit more difficult. Three of those seven losses came against scrappy Charlotte, New York (which was on a seven-game win streak)and the always-difficult Chicago Bulls. Four losses came against teams in the more rugged Western Conference.

“We took advantage of the fact that the East was awful in the first half of the season,” Granger said of the Pacers’ 17-2 start. “We were just blowing through everybody. But those teams got it going. Brooklyn started playing better, New York, Toronto started playing better, so the East is a little more competitive toward the end of the season.

“They’ve been struggling a little bit, but I think they’ll be fine.”

Granger also believes he’ll be fine after leaving Thursday’s game with a strained left hamstring.

“We did tests and it was strong and everything, just had pain in it,” Granger said, which convinced him it was better not to try to return to the game. “I was walking around on it. I feel optimistic about it. It is [frustrating], but it is what it is.”

Granger’s season with Indiana and Los Angeles as been up and down. The Sixers made the deal in order to dump Turner’s contract and had no intention of holding onto Granger. He was waived and after waivers, signed with the Clippers on Feb. 28. He quickly moved his wife and 20-month-old twins, Jaxson and Jade, from Indy to L.A.

His statistics are nearly identical in backup roles with both teams. In 12 games with the Clippers, he’s averaging 8.0 ppg and 2.3 rpg in just 16.2 mpg, about six fewer minutes than he was getting in Indiana. He’s shooting 42.9 percent overall and 35.3 percent from 3-point range. He’s scored just 11 points in his last three games after scoring in double figures in six of the previous eight.

“He’s been up and down, honestly,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. “He’s had some really good games and he’s struggled in a couple as well. I just think he’s getting used to playing every night, he’s trying to get used to our defensive system and the way we play. But overall he’s been good. He’s been a great teammate, that’s the first thing you really want, a guy that just wants to fit in and he’s done all those things, so it’s good.”

The Pacers know all about Granger as a good teammate. But he wasn’t brought him to L.A. to do that and fill its needs on the wing. J.J. Redick has been injured much of the season and his return is uncertain as he mends from a bulging disc in his lower back. Jared Dudley lost his starting job, and largely a rotation spot, with the always emotional Matt Barnes handling the starting duties.

Now the Clippers can only wait on Granger, 30, to get back on the floor after this latest injury issue with his hamstring. He doesn’t think it will be long and says he’s confident he can deliver when it counts, in the playoffs.

“I’m always confident,” Granger said. “I still know what I can do and what I can give as long as I have the opportunity to show it. I definitely feel comfortable.”

Clips Need Dudley’s 3-Ball To Heat Up


VIDEO: Jared Dudley steals and passes to Blake Griffin for the finish

HANG TIME SOUTHWEST – When the Los Angeles Clippers engaged in a three-team trade that netted J.J. Redick from Milwaukee and Jared Dudley from Phoenix, it seemed like a great idea. The Clippers needed floor-spacers and accurate 3-point shooters around Chris Paul and Blake Griffin.

Then it became clear that Redick and Dudley, both mostly career backups, would be starters for a team with title aspirations. The 6-foot-4 Redick is essentially a one-trick pony, a sharpshooter, who was hitting just 35.9 percent of his long balls before fracturing his right hand. He played in 17 of the Clippers’ first 32 games and is expected to miss another two to four weeks.

Dudley has never averaged more than 12.7 ppg and his best statistical seasons from beyond the arc came as a 26-minute-or-less bench player with the Suns. So far as the Clippers’ starting small forward — he replaced the aging Caron Butler —  he’s slogging through the worst shooting of his career — 43.6 percent overall and 34.1 percent from beyond the arc. He’s averaging 8.6 ppg, 2.1 rpg and 1.5 apg, numbers that rank near the bottom in every category for a starter at his position.

While the league’s general managers voted both Redick and Dudley as two of the most underrated moves during the offseason, Dudley also finished in a tie for third in the category: Which player makes the most of limited natural ability. If Dudley’s long ball isn’t falling, then his contribution to the team is going to be limited.

In the last five games, Dudley has logged more than 28 minutes once and is 4-for-19 from 3-point territory. The Clippers rank 26th in 3-point percentage (33.2) despite ranking seventh in the 3-point attempts per game (23.6).

“I don’t know why he’s not playing well, but we need him to play well,” Clippers Coach Doc Rivers told the Los Angeles Times. “That [small forward] spot right now, it’s been hurting us a little bit. But Jared is still not healthy. He’s getting healthy. We’ve got to get him in better shape.”

Dudley is playing through tendinitis in his right knee, although it hasn’t caused him to miss any games. He told the Times that he’s playing at about 85 percent, but that he’s markedly better than the first 15 to 20 games.

He also knows he just hasn’t been playing well. A rough shooting stretch during the middle of the month, Dudley, a active and fan-friendly user on Twitter, actually apologized to Clippers fans:

During four consecutive wins from Dec. 16-22, Dudley knocked down 22 shots on 39 attempts and was 13-for-23 from downtown. In the last four games he’s just 9-for-26 from the floor. He has just eight points in the last three games, including being shut out at Portland.

The Clippers’ offensive efficiency is the same with Dudley off the floor as it is with him on the floor.

“When you’re a role guy, there are games when you’re not going to shoot that much,” Dudley told the Times. “One game I shot eight 3s. Some games you’re not going to shoot a 3, depending on the defense. You’ve got to be ready.”

As the starting small forward, and especially with Redick shelved for a few more weeks, Dudley’s point production from beyond the arc is critical for a team in a dead heat with Houston for the all-important fourth seed in the West.

Mild-Mannered Hornacek Infusing Suns With Just The Right Amount Of Fire


VIDEO: Jeff Hornacek talks about learning the ropes as an NBA coach

It took until the end of the second week of the season, five minutes into the second half of a game against the visiting Pelicans. It took five sloppy turnovers in the space of just three infuriating minutes.

It was, in fact, all  Jeff Hornacek could take. As he signaled for a timeout to apply a tourniquet, he whirled, raised an exasperated fist and slammed it down hard on the court side press table.

“Oh yeah,” said guard Eric Bledsoe as he thought back to the moment. “That got our attention. That was the first time I had ever seen him get that mad. You’re thinking to yourself, ‘Oh, he does have that in him.’ “

It was one of the questions that loomed from the time the 50-year-old Hornacek took over as the Suns coach in May following Phoenix’s 25-win season of 2012-13, the fewest wins in franchise history since the expansion season (1968-69). Was Hornacek simply too nice of a guy to do the heavy lifting required by the job?

“You can see where people might get that impression from the outside,” said small forward P.J. Tucker. “Because for the most part he’s always the same. He doesn’t have those emotional swings that you see from a lot of coaches. I know you hear a lot of coaches say they don’t intend to be that way. Then you watch them and see them losing it.

“From the first day that he got together with this team, all Jeff has been focused on is getting us to play with emotion, play hard, play aggressive. He channels his energy into us.”

“It important that the coach can stay calm, especially on a young team like this one,” said guard Goran Dragic. “When players are going through bad minutes on the floor, you need someone that can keep his confidence. It allows you to move forward. I will say that he is a nice guy as long as you don’t take advantage of him. If you do, he can bring you back to the ground.”

It was hardly the ideal situation to have your coaching baptism. After the misery of last season, the Suns went into an almost total rebuilding mode, purging the roster of most of their veteran players. Luis Scola, Jared Dudley, Michael Beasley, Jermaine O’Neal and Wesley Johnson were moved over the summer. Marcin Gortat, Kendall Marshall and Shannon Brown were traded to the Wizards just before the season opener.

So who was left? Veterans Dragic and Channing Frye to mix with Bledsoe, Tucker, Marcus and Markieff Morris and a No. 1 draft choice in Alex Len (who needed ankle surgery and has played just token minutes in four games). It was a roster picked by most experts to finish rock bottom in the rugged Western Conference and Las Vegas oddsmakers posted the over-under on Suns wins for the season at 21.5. The Suns and their coach getting his first crack at being the man in charge could have been offended.

“No,” Hornacek said. “Obviously this team won 25 games last year. We traded away a lot of our veteran guys who helped them win games last year. So we understand how it looks. But we went into this season and training camp tell our players, hey, you’re gonna read all that stuff, hear all that stuff. But if we play hard, we believe you guys are good players and if we play together and play hard we’ll win our fair share of games. I’m not going to put our a number on it or anything like that. But we’ll win our fair share and so far that’s what’s happened.”


VIDEO: Bledsoe fuels Suns’ victory in Houston

So the group went out and made Hornacek the first coach in Suns history to win his first four home games. They kept every game within a five-point margin in the final five minutes for the first three weeks of the season. After a home win against Toronto on Friday night, they stand at 11-9. They are doing it with an offensive style that wants to run when it can and a defensive approach that is always attacking on the perimeter. Hornacek is making the most of the guard tandem of Dragic and Bledsoe that many thought create duplication and conflict.

“Look, I’m only a rookie in this league myself, but I’ve had a lot of coaches at other levels of the game,” said center Miles Plumlee, “and I think what we are is a reflection of Jeff’s personality. What I know of him during his pro career is a guy that used no excuses, took no shortcuts and got the most out of his ability.”

All the while he’s been doing it by keeping a lid on those outward displays of emotions.

“I slip every once in a while,” Hornacek said. “They could drive you crazy. That’s part of it. Not everything’s gonna go perfectly. I think all coaches get frustrated when they see the same errors over and over. If they see something new, OK, maybe haven’t seen that. But the guy makes a mistake and does the same thing and does the same thing that’s when you’re gonna pound your head and say ‘OK, we talked about that.’ That’s the way it is.

“We’re also pretty young except for a couple of guys, Channing and Goran have been around. Everyone else is playing minutes that they’ve never played before. So we hopefully learn, but that’s a big part of it. I think it’s also part as an ex-player to want to be out there. You see things happen and you can give these guys all the preparation and talk about reads, but they actually have to do it out there … Maybe as ex-players, you see, ‘This is gonna develop.’ But they’ve got to figure that out.”

So far, Hornacek is giving his Suns enough room and push to do that.

New-Look Suns Getting It Done


VIDEO: Suns keep rolling, drop Pelicans

HANG TIME SOUTHWEST – Of the 16 players that suited up for the Phoenix Suns last season, 12 are gone.

Then there was the ultimate short-timer Caron Butler, a Suns player this summer just long enough to model the franchise’s new uniforms at a Scottsdale mall. In all, eight players are new to the roster, and straight from the feel-good department is Channing Frye returning from a scary heart condition that robbed him of the entire 2012-13 season. Frye is the Suns’ longest-tenured player, signed as a free agent way back in 2009, before current general manager Ryan McDonough had celebrated his 30th birthday.

The Suns’ starting five includes two players from last season: P.J.Tucker and Goran Dragic to go with Frye, Miles Plumlee and star-in-the-making Eric Bledsoe.

And here they are, a team that figured to lose games at a rapid rate is 5-2 and leading the Pacific Division. So how is it possible for an organization that hired a new GM, hired a new coach, cleaned house and then traded its talented starting center Marcin Gortat to Washington a week before the season started (for an injured one who might not play at all) to have already secured one-fifth of its win total from all of last season?

(more…)

Back And Forth With Bones: Rockets-Clippers

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY – Back and Forth With Bones is an e-mail exchange between NBA.com’s John Schuhmann and NBA TV’s Brent Barry during a Monday night game. This week, they sat down (Schuhmann at home in New Jersey with his leftover Halloween candy, Barry in the studio in Atlanta with Matt Winer and Dennis Scott) to watch the big Western Conference matchup between the Houston Rockets and Los Angeles Clippers.

Pre-game

Schuhmann: Hey Bones, we got Rockets-Clippers tonight. Here are some early numbers…

The Clippers lead the league in offensive efficiency and rank last in defensive efficiency. Chalk it up to small sample size (one game against Steph Curry and another against the carefree Lakers), but they’ve allowed their opponents to shoot 48 percent from 3-point range (29th) after ranking 26th in 3-point defense last season. And of course, they have three games against two of the most dangerous 3-point shooting teams in the league – Houston and Miami – this week.

The Rockets, meanwhile, are the only team in the top 5 in both offensive and defensive efficiency thus far. They’re a minus-1 in 34 minutes with both Omer Asik and Dwight Howard on the floor together, great defensively, but bad offensively. With only one of the two on the floor (and with Francisco Garcia shooting 10-for-20 on threes off the bench), they’ve been terrific on both ends. And obviously, it’s a long-term question if they’re better off keeping Asik or shopping him for someone who better complements Howard and James Harden.

What will you be watching for tonight?

Barry: I’m interested to see how Doc Rivers uses Blake Griffin while Houston plays big. Tough for them to cover stretch fours, but Blake is not that. So let’s see if he uses quick moves or takes comfy Js.

Clips bigs must stay out of foul trouble or else Mullens might get some run to stretch the lineup.

I’m not sure how Harden gets defended, but I would hope guards press up a bit since they are not good at the line. It’s a bad matchup for the Clips if they think they can outscore them.

Schuhmann: Griffin is 1-for-9 from outside the paint through the first three games, so yeah, he’s not going to make Dwight think twice about hanging out in the paint.

1st quarter

The Clippers shot 16-for-23 in the opening 12 minutes, scoring 42 points on 27 possessions. J.J. Redick led the way with 15 and Jared Dudley found himself wide open beyond the arc as well. Even Blake Griffin got in the act, hitting a pair of jumpers. Dwight Howard, meanwhile, picked up two fouls by the 6:24 mark and had to sit. He returned late in the period, but then picked up his third less than a minute later. The Rockets’ offense found a rhythm with just one big on the floor, but a hole had already been dug.

Schuhmann: J.J. Redick is hunting shots early and making Harden work on D. Clips have scored 15 points on 10 possessions.

Barry: Fouls and hot start forces Chandler Parsons switch.

Barry: Houston, coming off the Utah game, does not look to be nervous about being down but this is NOT the Jazz and this point guard does not like to lose.

Classic foul trouble disrupts rhythm.

2nd quarter (LAC leads, 42-25)

The Rockets’ cut the Clippers lead from 17 to six by scoring 22 points on their first 10 possessions of the quarter, with their third center – Greg Smith – scoring eight of the 22. The Clippers steadied themselves when their starters returned and led by 12 at the half.

Schuhmann: Last year’s LAC second-unit gave them great D with Eric Bledsoe, Matt Barnes, Lamar Odom &  Ronny Turiaf, and Jamal Crawford scored enough to build on leads. This is one of my big questions with them this year.

Barry: Agreed. Much different complexion of the bench and Barnes takes a ton of chances on D that hurt their schemes.

Barry: Barnes not healthy either, aggravated injury there. Starters prepped for pace but 2nd unit not up to speed.

Schuhmann: CP with 10 dimes in 12 minutes and I can’t say that he’s had to work hard for them. They can come easy with so many weapons who are willing to run the floor and move without the ball.


Barry: Both J.J. and Jared taking practice shots.

Halftime (LAC leads, 78-66)


Schuhmann: That was a ridiculously fast pace. 56 possessions each in the first half. I would think that Houston would be the team that would prefer to slow it down, to get Dwight involved both offensively and defensively.

Barry: Doc said he wants pace before the game, interestingly enough.

3rd quarter

With the Rockets going back to their twin-tower lineup to start the third, the pace slowed. They got Howard into the game offensively, but were unable to cut into the lead.

Schuhmann: As much as I love the Rockets’ pick-and-roll, the Clips bigs are pretty poor defensively in the post. DeAndre Jordan offering no resistance to Howard there.

Barry: And I don’t like, other than CP3, who they have come to double down.


Barry: No big lineup for the Clips. Mullens doesn’t count.

4th quarter (LAC leads, 104-89)

Scoring on their first five possessions of the period, the Rockets cut the deficit to nine and had the ball back. But Garcia missed a three and Jordan took a nice feed from Jamal Crawford to push the lead back to double-digits. Paul then took over  - 10 points and three assists in 3 1/2 minutes – and the Clippers put the game away.

Schuhmann: Harden has 15 & 5, but has been pretty terrible tonight, especially defensively.

Barry: Pretty much mentally out of it. Clips with no control of pace without Paul has hurt them tonight.

Schuhmann: Downside to Dwight post-ups: As much as he’s killing them down there, it’s too easy to just foul him.


Barry: Clips’ D not very disciplined yet. Rotations and awareness not together.

Schuhmann: Yep, just takes a ball reversal to give Omri Casspi a lane to the basket.

Final: Clippers 137, Rockets 118

Barry: When Clips reach a point in the year when it looks easy for the collective unit to operate, they will have arrived. They are good but can be really good if they stay the course and find it.

Schuhmann: Yes, and they can’t just rely on their offensive firepower to get them through the season. I think that’s what the Knicks’ problem was last year. They were too good offensively for their own good.

I don’t know that Jordan/Griffin will ever be a reliable defensive frontline and I do know the Clips aren’t getting any D from their bench. Still, their offense is a thing of beauty. Looks like Paul/Griffin side pick-and-roll with Redick or Crawford coming off a pindown on the weak side is their go-to play.


Thoughts on Houston after tonight? Tough to evaluate when they get a stinker from Harden, but his defense probably isn’t going to get better.

Rockets pace & efficiency through Monday

On floor MIN Pace OffRtg DefRtg NetRtg +/-
Asik + Howard 47 92.2 87.1 100.1 -13.0 -18
Only Asik 47 104.4 115.0 92.3 +22.7 +23
Only Howard 83 99.9 116.1 104.0 +12.1 +13
One of the two 130 101.5 115.7 99.7 +16.0 +36

Pace = Possessions per 48 minutes
OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions
DefRtg = Points allowed per 100 possessions
NetRtg = Point differential per 100 possessions

Barry: You have to wonder what Asik can get you in the market (D-oriented stretch 4) if they feel they can play without a back-up. But they are a dangerous team that can keep pressure on you at any point in the game. Issue is if you don’t get intimidated, you can get back at them too.

If you have the “best” 2 and the “best” 5 you should be a home-court qualifying team for the playoffs.

Plus, no Patrick Beverley tonight. That adds something to their point pressure.

One Team, One Stat: Starting Clips Didn’t Defend The Arc

From Media Day until opening night, NBA.com’s John Schuhmann will provide a key stat for each team in the league and show you, with film and analysis, why it matters. Up next are the Los Angeles Clippers, who have as bright a season outlook as they’ve ever have.

The basics
LAC Rank
W-L 56-26 t-5
Pace 93.6 19
OffRtg 107.7 4
DefRtg 101.0 9
NetRtg +6.7 4

The stat

41.6 percent - Clippers opponent 3-point percentage with Willie Green and Caron Butler on the floor together last season.

The context

That 3-point defense would have ranked last in the league by far, almost three percentage points worse than the Bobcats. But with neither Green nor Butler on the floor, Clippers opponents shot just 33.3 percent from 3-point range, a mark that would have ranked second in the league, only behind the Pacers.

As the starting wings, Green and Butler were defending better shooters (and better shot creators) than their second-unit teammates. But 41.6 percent is pretty awful and overall, the Clips ranked 26th in 3-point defense, a number that held them back from being as good as they could have been. Their opponents shot a remarkable 45.4 percent from 3-point range in their 26 losses.

Clippers opponent 3-point shooting

On floor Opp3PM Opp3PA Opp3PT%
Butler + Green 151 363 41.6%
1 of the 2 210 521 40.3%
At least 1 361 884 40.8%
Neither 266 798 33.3%
Total 627 1,682 37.3%

The Clippers basically had two different teams last season, a starting lineup that was great offensively and a bench that was much better defensively. Green and Butler weren’t the only defensive questions with the starters, of course. The first unit (with Green starting 60 games and Chauncey Billups starting 22) was below average as a whole, and the need for Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan to improve on that end was addressed in this space early last month. Without the bench bigs they had last season, the Clippers need their starting frontline to improve defensively if they’re going to contend for a championship.

But the departure of Butler and less playing time for Green (as long as J.J. Redick is healthier this season than Billups was last season) should also help. Green often got caught on screens and Butler often got caught ball-watching or over-helping, as some of these plays, from games where the Magic and Lakers combined to shoot 11-for-16 from 3-point range with Green and Butler on the floor, show…


The Clippers defended the basket well. Their opponents attempted just 30.9 percent of their shots from the restricted area, the fifth lowest rate in the league. And their opponents shot 59.7 percent there, the 11th lowest rate in the league. They actually ranked second in defending 2-point shots and were a top 10 defense overall.

But they can get better by not fouling so much – they ranked 29th in opponent free throw rate – and defending the 3-point line better.

Phoenix opponents shot 37.2 percent from 3-point range with Jared Dudley on the floor last year (there’s some Michael Beasley influence in those numbers), and Orlando/Milwaukee opponents shot 34.6 percent with Redick on the floor. Doc Rivers‘ Celtics, meanwhile, ranked in the top five in 3-point defense each of the last six seasons. So a new scheme and more focus on that end could make a big difference.

Pace = Possessions per 48 minutes
OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions
DefRtg = Points allowed per 100 possessions
NetRtg = Point differential per 100 possessions

Lob City … Alive And Kicking?




HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Blake Griffin said Lob City was dead.

He lied.

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 HollinsByron 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!

Clippers Wise To Challenge Lakers Now





HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – What do you do when the bully is wounded, down on a knee and struggling to gain his equilibrium?

You pound on him. You take every shot you can to keep him down, to gain whatever measure of satisfaction you can. It’s the law of the jungle, as they say, the way it’s done in the cutthroat world of professional sports.

That’s why the Los Angeles Clippers are wise to strike their Staples Center hallway neighbors now. The Los Angeles Lakers are in a holding pattern with Kobe Bryant fighting his way back from a devastating injury, Dwight Howard gone and guys like Nick Young and Robert Sacre joining Steve Nash and Pau Gasol.

The Clippers had the upper hand last season, when Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan and the rest of Clipper Darrell‘s favorite team won the Pacific Division. They served as the most exciting team in the Southland — though the Lakers still won the headlines battle because they generated the most drama in SoCal this side of the Kardashians.

Adding front office ace/coach Doc Rivers, sharpshooter J.J. Redick, utility man extraordinaire Jared Dudley and others bolstered the Clippers’ situation over the summer. Rivers helped make sure Paul’s free-agent frenzy ended before it got started, and that led us to this point:

The Clippers covered up the Lakers’ championship banners and retired jersey numbers at Staples during a preseason game Friday night, a move initiated by Rivers. And that dials up the energy in the battle for Los Angeles to new levels:

“He can do that?” Young said after Lakers practice Sunday, the team’s first since returning from China. “For real? That’s disrespectful. We got to talk to Doc. He can’t have that. We got to do something about that.”

The Clippers revealed their Staples Center redecoration during a preseason game Friday, as they plastered giant posters of players Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan, Jamal CrawfordMatt Barnes, Jared Dudley and J.J. Redick over the Lakers’ 16 championship banners and 10 retired uniforms.

“That’s a lot of pull y’all are giving Doc,” Young said, somewhat facetiously. “I think he shouldn’t come in and have so much pull like that. He’s got to earn his keep.”

I’m not saying what the Clippers did is right or wrong, but it is certainly understandable when you are battling for the hearts and minds of millions of Angelenos. The Clippers don’t have decades of credibility to lean on in this fight. They have a sliver of an opening to exploit while the Lakers are in flux. They have to go for the jugular.

Bypassing the Marquess of Queensberry Rules for the UFC playbook makes perfect sense. If you can’t win a fair fight (the Clippers are down 16-0 in the titles category and decades behind in the credibility department), it’s time for the by-any-means-necessary approach.

Rivers knows what he’s doing. He understands what it takes. He’s been a part of the only franchise that can rival the Lakers in terms of all-time success. He has a keen insight on how this works.

He knows that maintaining that elite level is just as pressure-packed a situation as trying to get to that level.  So while covering up a few banners and retired jerseys might seem like a stunt to some, it’s much more calculated than that from this perspective. The Clippers are firing shots at the Lakers. They smell blood. They are on the attack.

We’ll find out if they have what it takes to follow through on all of this or if the Lakers have what it takes to fend them off. Either way, fans of both franchises, in Southern California and around the world, will be the biggest winners. Because this sort of contempt only cranks up the level of competition. Just the way it should be.


Beasley Will Walk Thin Line With New Suns

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HANG TIME SOUTHWEST – Ryan McDonough, the 33-year-old rookie general manager of the Phoenix Suns has been on the job for some 80 days and already he’s showing some moxie.

Since drawing some blank stares as if his pick of Maryland big man Alex Len at No. 5 was a desert mirage while Kentucky 7-foot center Nerlens Noel, long projected to go No. 1, or Kansas scoring guard Ben McLemore stood in plain view, McDonough has now begun to rattle the thin roster he inherited.

He turned solid, if unspectacular, guard-forward Jared Dudley and a second-round draft pick into potential All-Star-quality guard Eric Bledsoe and veteran forward Caron Butler. Now, McDonough is on the verge of unloading fast-declining forward Luis Scola, an ill-fit in new coach Jeff Hornacek‘s favored up-tempo offense, in a trade with Indiana that will reportedly net lanky and athletic journeyman Gerald Green and project center Miles Plumlee, plus a lottery-protected first-round pick.

Not that those trades will launch the Suns into playoff contention, but the additions fill two key areas on McDonough’s list as he remakes the roster: athleticism and a fundamental work ethic. Which delivers us to the doorstep of the one player on the roster [note: my speculation only] McDonough would love to jettison if only he could: Michael Beasley.

Asked during the Las Vegas Summer League if he believes the always tantalizing, but troublesome 6-9, 235-pound power forward can be a positive force during this important transitional season, McDonough answered with a team-wide message — one that should resonate loudest between Beasley’s ears.

“I guess what I’ll say generally about that is we’re going to treat everybody the same,” McDonough said. “There won’t be any special treatment for anybody on the roster and as Jeff [Hornacek] and I told all the guys coming in, we don’t care how much money you’re making, where you were drafted, how long you’ve been in the league, what, if anything, you’ve been promised in the past. We’re going into this as an open competition, and when training camp comes, guys who buy in and play the right way and play hard will play, and those who don’t, won’t.”

In a league brimming with bright, young talent, Beasley, 24, has been far more raging headache than headstrong virtually since the day the Miami Heat drafted him second overall in 2008. Last summer, inexplicably, the gracious Suns, Beasley’s third team, handed him a three-year, $18 million deal. Still, Beasley ignored the cue that this was his big shot at a second chance, an opportunity to turn around his selfish and tiresome act, as well as his floundering career.

Former Suns coach Alvin Gentry benched the unproductive Beasley last season in fourth quarters as early as December, and finally stripped him of his starting job. Following the fired Gentry, interim coach Lindsey Hunter had no answers for Beasley’s inattention to defense or just about anything else.

Imagine if the Chicago Bulls had selected Beasley No. 1 over Derrick Rose? The Heat at No. 2 could have drafted No. 4 Russell Westbrook, No. 5 Kevin Love, No. 6 Danilo Gallinari, No. 7 Eric Gordon or No. 10 Brook Lopez.

If Beasley doesn’t answer this wake-up call, he won’t be afforded another chance. He is fortunate the NBA is not the non-guaranteed-contract world of the NFL, where a player can be cut and his contract flushed in a moment’s notice. It’s the only reason he has a job today.

Beasley averaged career lows across the board last season. His poor play and worse attitude drained a club that was already outmanned on most nights. But it’s not just on the court that Beasley will be expected to reform. His inability to stay out of hot water off remains troublesome. In May, police were investigating Beasley in connection with a report of sexual assault at his home.

The 2013-14 Suns will need a lot to come together fast to contend for the eighth seed. But under Hornacek’s guidance and with blue-collar players like P.J. Tucker along with twins Marcus Morris and Markieff Morris — all three of whom played on the Suns’ summer-league squad — and the additions of the up-and-coming Bledsoe and a tough-minded, respected veteran like Butler, Phoenix will play hard.

Beasley will either take this last, flashing-neon-sign-of-a-hint that his career is on the line, or, as McDonough said, he won’t.