Clippers open training camp in Las Vegas (Yahoo Sports)

LAS VEGAS (AP) — With their offseason of controversy behind them, the Los Angeles Clippers got back to the business of basketball Tuesday, opening a four-day training camp in a city known for its temptations and distractions.

View full post on Yahoo Sports – NBA News

Los Angeles Clippers Media Day: Has Blake Griffin Surpassed CP3 as No. 1 Guy?

With the Donald Sterling controversy behind them, the Los Angeles Clippers enter this season with high hopes as they look to capture an NBA title. How big of a year can we expect from Blake Griffin and Chris Paul?

Kevin Ding weighs in from Clippers media day in the video above.

Read more NBA news on BleacherReport.com

View full post on Bleacher Report – NBA

Could Chris Douglas-Roberts Be Dark-Horse Small Forward Answer for LA Clippers?

Chris Douglas-Roberts and the Los Angeles Clippers sort of need each other. 

The player, a 27-year-old journeyman who’s drifted in and out of the NBA since first entering it as a 40th overall draft pick in 2008, is coming off a statistically unimpressive breakout season with the Charlotte Hornets.

Douglas-Roberts did not post career-high per-game numbers last season. He wasn’t the third-, fourth- or fifth-most important player on his own team, and he didn’t score a single point in nine of the 49 games he took the floor. 

But the latter half of that campaign was far and away the most significant stretch of Douglas-Roberts’ pertinacious career.

He grew into one of Charlotte’s most efficient players, specializing as a three-point marksman who seamlessly fit in as a noticeable cog for one of the league’s more consistent defensive units. And for this, the Clippers, a team with championship-or-bust expectations, snatched him up on a one-year, league-minimum contract. 

Los Angeles is already loaded on the wing (Reggie Bullock, Matt Barnes, C.J. Wilcox, J.J. Redick and Jamal Crawford all figure to see time on the perimeter), but the 6’7” Douglas-Roberts may provide the defensive effort and three-point shooting that just hasn’t materialized for Los Angeles on a consistent basis. He can really help. 

In a September interview with The Source, Douglas-Roberts spoke about a recent conversation he had with Clippers head coach Doc Rivers and what is expected from him this season: 

I spoke to Doc. Doc believes in me. He told me how underrated he felt I was. He couldn’t understand why my journey has been so rough but none of it matters now. He said he picked me and wanted me in LA. It feels great to be wanted by a team of this caliber. He wants me to be aggressive on both ends of the floor. Be that wing player/defender that he sees me as. He told me their goal is a championship and I’m definitely with it.

If you can consistently knock down a deep open shot, have especially long arms and the slightest hint of athleticism/defensive awareness, well, just about every team in the league is interested. Douglas-Roberts embraced the three ball last season, shooting 38.6 percent on nearly five attempts per 36 minutes (just over 50 percent of his total shot attempts). 

It was an effective and trustworthy—albeit seldom used—element in the Hornets’ attack, and it allowed him to showcase a new, transformative skill. In his first two seasons, nine out of every 10 shot attempts came inside the three-point line. The Clippers are paying Douglas-Roberts to make sure that version of himself permanently stays in the past. 

Unlike when he was a super-efficient scoring machine alongside Derrick Rose at the University of Memphis, Douglas-Roberts has never been great at attacking NBA defenses by himself. He rarely lived outside Charlotte’s offensive system last season, proving isolation isn’t really his thing. Neither is creating for others, as his 2.6 assists per 100 possessions suggests. 

All this is fine, though. The first thing a role player needs to do is find his role, and Douglas-Roberts finally discovered one he can thrive in. Synergy Sports (subscription required) listed Douglas-Roberts as the 10th-most efficient player in the league last season. He impacted Charlotte’s offense by knocking down spot-up shots, running the floor, filling lanes and attacking the basket in transition.

In his first and only 70 minutes experiencing the playoffs, Douglas-Roberts posted an impressive 68.8/50/85.7 shooting line. That accompanied an 18.9 player efficiency rating and 85.7 true shooting percentage.

The sample size here is tiny (he only attempted eight threes), but coming against the then-two-time defending world champion Miami Heat, Douglas-Roberts showed he can handle competing against the best of the best on a stage that matters, which is necessary on the title-contending Clippers.

Elsewhere, Douglas-Roberts is also a committed defender. He genuinely cares and hustles, putting forth maximum effort on a possession-by-possession basis. Three-point shooting is great, but this is one area where he has the potential to separate himself from L.A.’s other wings and crack Rivers’ starting lineup. Aside from Barnes, who’s 33 years old and slipping on both ends, Los Angeles has no above-average perimeter defenders. 

The tools and physical dimensions are there for Douglas-Roberts to become one, and he’s already shown he can be especially effective chasing his man through a maze of screens, artfully going above or below before almost always getting a hand in the shooter’s face. He fights to contest, a glamourless but essential task.

According to Synergy, Douglas-Roberts defended 49 plays last year where his man came off a screen to attempt a shot. He was merciless here, holding opponents to just 0.57 points per play, good for third best in the league. A couple examples:

After being waived four times by three teams since 2012, Charlotte granted Douglas-Roberts the opportunity to figure out who he is as a productive basketball player. He completely understands the responsibilities Los Angeles will let him have.

If Douglas-Roberts can replicate last year’s production in stable playing time and excel in his role as a three-and-D contributor beside insanely talented players like Chris Paul and Blake Griffin, the Clippers may have found an ideal and affordable small forward to join their starting lineup.

 

All statistics are courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com or NBA.com unless otherwise noted. 

Michael Pina covers the NBA for Bleacher Report, Sports on Earth, FOX Sports, ESPN, Grantland and elsewhere. Follow him on Twitter @MichaelVPina. 

Read more NBA news on BleacherReport.com

View full post on Bleacher Report – NBA

Is It Time for Blake Griffin to Take Charge of Los Angeles Clippers’ Fate?

PLAYA VISTA, Calif. — The Los Angeles Clippers‘ media day brought with it a predictable peppering of questions concerning the team’s fourth-quarter collapse in Game 5 of last season’s second-round series against the Oklahoma City Thunder.

What went wrong? What could they have done differently? What did they learn from that heartbreaking—and, ultimately, championship chase-ending—experience?

“I understand last year we had a great opportunity, and Game 5 was horrible,” Chris Paul recalled. “It’s no secret why we lost Game 5, but I think this year gives us an opportunity to get right back there.”

Presumably, Paul will be the one to lead the way. After all, this Clippers team has been his since he first arrived in the fall of 2011. Among the team’s talented trio, including Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan, he’s easily the most veteran and the most accomplished, with enough All-Star appearances (seven) and All-NBA (six) and All-Defensive nods (six) to comprise an impressive resume.

What he lacks, of course, is a trip to the conference finals, much less a Larry O’Brien Trophy. As it happens, those fateful few minutes in OKC, the ones the Clippers spent the summer simultaneously contemplating deeply and trying to forget, could prove instructive as Paul and company look to take the Clippers into uncharted territory.

Lost amid Paul’s poor play, in his attempt to do it all for the Clippers in crunch time, was the absence of any meaningful contributions from Griffin. The four-time All-Star didn’t make a single shot from the field in that fourth quarter and didn’t so much as attempt one during the final five minutes of play.

His lone contributions in the clutch? A pair of rebounds, a block and one made free throw, with another miss during his trip to the stripe.

This, from a guy who finished third in MVP voting, behind only Kevin Durant and LeBron James. This, from one of the faces of the franchise.

“It shouldn’t fall on one person,” Griffin said of this particular shortfall. “You hear this all the time, but one guy can’t win or lose on his own. It’s not fair to put any type of blame on anybody, because we were all out there playing.”

They’ll all be back in 2014-15, with a greater need than ever for Griffin to be The Guy.

Part of that has to do with Paul. He’s 29 now, with the big 3-0 awaiting him in early May. He’s fought through more than his fair share of injuries over the years. And as great as it can be and often is to watch him take over games down the stretch, there are those times, as in Game 5 against OKC, when his performance suffers under the weight of tired legs and tough defenses. According to NBA.com, Paul hit just 40.6 percent of his attempts in the clutch (i.e. the final five minutes of a game, with a margin of five points or fewer) during the regular season and saw that number slip to an even 40 percent in the playoffs.

But those CP3-centric concerns merely open the door for another star to step in as support. Griffin would seem as ready, and as obvious a choice, as any Clipper to do just that—certainly after the campaign he put together in 2013-14.

“Blake was terrific,” Doc Rivers said of his power forward’s prolific campaign. “I thought he got better and better as the year went on.”

On the whole, Griffin took on more offensive responsibility than he ever had. The Oklahoma native registered career highs in points (24.1), field-goal attempts (17) and usage rate (29.0), all of which doubled as tops on the team.

Some of those increases stemmed from the month Paul missed with a shoulder injury. During that time, Griffin averaged a whopping 27.5 points (on 55.4 percent shooting) and 4.4 assists while leading L.A. to a 12-6 record.

With or without Paul, Griffin was no longer the late-game liability he’d been under Vinny Del Negro. The 4.6 points he averaged in the fourth quarter were nice, but it was Griffin’s free-throw shooting that opened the most eyes. He hit 71.5 percent of his freebies during the regular season, including 74.8 percent in the final frame, and upped the ante to 74 percent and 76.5 percent, respectively, in the playoffs.

Those aren’t exactly earth-shattering numbers, but for a guy who’d made just 61.1 percent of his foul shots during his first three seasons as a pro, those percentage points constitute a considerable difference in both accuracy and trustworthiness. And it’s possible, if not probable, that Griffin will continue to improve in this regard after another summer spent working closely with his shooting coach.

There’s much more to Griffin’s game than just shooting free throws, though. And there’s certainly more to winning games and competing for championships than having a particular set of skills. The secret about basketball, as Hall of Famer Isiah Thomas relayed in Bill Simmons’ The Book of Basketball, is that it’s not about basketball; it’s about relationships and personalities, managing egos and demonstrating leadership, among other things.

“As far as leadership goes, I think we all three lead in different ways,” Griffin said, referring to Paul and DeAndre Jordan, both of whom sat to his right onstage. “For me, it’s about trying to lead by example, doing things. I’m not always the guy that’s going to be talking a lot in the huddle, but every game I want to be a guy the guys can depend on down the stretch and depend on to work hard and take care of myself and do the things I need to do.”

The idea of Griffin being the strong, silent type doesn’t comport so easily with his public persona. To those whose exposure to him is limited to car commercials and YouTube clips, Griffin comes off as a gregarious goofball. To those who know him, though, Griffin is far from William Wallace

“It’s hilarious to see Blake on SNL and doing sketch, you know, because if you just seen him in the locker room, you wouldn’t even think that this is who he was,” explained Chris Douglas-Roberts, whose relationship with Griffin dates back to well before CDR’s arrival in L.A. this summer. “He’s very quiet, very reserved. You have to really get to know him to understand that he’s really a funny guy.”

Not that Griffin hasn’t changed, that he hasn’t grown more comfortable in the spotlight now that he’s been in it for as long as he has.

“I don’t think people understand that Blake had so much so fast that people think he’s 30,” said Matt Barnes. “Blake’s 25, if I’m not mistaken [Note: He's not mistaken], so he’s had a lot on his plate from the beginning, and I think being a leader is something that’s obviously in you but you have to learn as well, and I think he’s doing a great job of that.”

Fortunately for Griffin, he doesn’t have to step outside of his comfort zone in this regard in order for the Clippers to thrive. He can lean on Paul and Jordan, both of whom serve as seminal voices among the players, to do the talking.

“You can lead in your own way,” Griffin went on. “You just have to be comfortable with it, because at the end of the day, it’s not the guy who’s going to talk the most or who’s going work out the hardest or yell at everybody. It’s the guy that guys want to follow.”

Griffin just might be that guy this season. He’s already one of them, and if Blake takes that all-important next step—from productive star to crunch-time killer, from quiet leader to bona fide ringleader—the Clippers could be well on their way to leaving their failures, recent and distant alike, well behind them.

As Barnes put it, “We go as far as he takes us.”

 

Follow me on Twitter for all your Clippers coverage!

Read more NBA news on BleacherReport.com

View full post on Bleacher Report – NBA

Chris Paul and the Clippers Begin New Era Mindful of Hard Lessons Ahead

PLAYA VISTA, Calif. — As a little man who has become great in a big man’s game, Chris Paul has consistently challenged those bigger and stronger than him.

Those moments often feature Paul getting knocked down but scrambling to stand up for himself and fight back before he can even process if he might be hurt or failing.

For all his skill and fashion and commercials and baby face, his real style is to scrap.

And long after his five-turnover debacle in Game 5 of the Western Conference semifinals, followed by the Los Angeles Clippers‘ elimination in Game 6 back home against the Oklahoma City Thunder, Paul still wants a piece.

“It would be nice if we could just start the playoffs tomorrow,” he said Monday at the Clippers’ media day event. “But we’ve got a lot of work to do before that.”

It was a telling comment by Paul, whose inability to win more than a single playoff series in a season has become a legit stigma.

Paul has had plenty of bright spots in his postseason career, but the truth is that playoff opponents can game-plan against him and minimize him because of his size. There’s the additional concern that his body is vulnerable to injury—he missed 20 games last season, and folks have long wondered about the cartilage removed from his left knee in 2011—which means he may not be as capable as other top players of being at peak power in the spring.

To his credit, Paul understands his playoff woes are ripe for criticism. “It’s the truth,” Paul said. “It doesn’t matter if it’s fair or not.”

But if allowed to fast-forward to the 2015 playoffs, it’s not hard to see the Clippers having the best time of this franchise’s life.

The players are downright proud to bring up the name of energetic new owner Steve Ballmer. The days of corporate sponsors running in fear of Donald Sterling are long gone, with Kia’s logo situated next to the Clippers’ on the media-day backdrop and Red Bull’s brand name all over the microphones. So many media members showed up for the media-day introductory event that they overflowed the parking area…and overflowed the overflow parking area too.

The Clippers carried real team chemistry into the locker room from the summer, when they were group-texting like a clique of schoolgirls. Jamal Crawford, who brought the team together for his offseason wedding weekend in Seattle, was moved to think that having a core group together for so many years compares these Clippers to the old-time Celtics and Lakers.

Even though there’s no Larry Bird or Magic Johnson, Matt Barnes called the Clippers “arguably the most talented team from top to bottom in the league [with the] best coach in the league.” The offensive weaponry only increased with Spencer Hawes’ free-agent signing, and Doc Rivers’ defense is ready to advance from running guys off the three-point line to guarding them diligently after that.

Blake Griffin is the only player in the league who can challenge LeBron James and Kevin Durant for all-around, ultimate dominance, and Griffin grew his game again over the summer with more diligent shooting work and scrutinizing video to learn what small details could be improved to unleash even more power.

Put it all together, and it’s clear that even though Paul didn’t have enough help before to win a second, third or fourth playoff series, he can hope he does now.

And his limited playoff success tells us that Paul, 29, needs significant help to win. He just hasn’t been able to find it yet.

“To be quite frank, we’re all getting older in terms of the core group of guys” said J.J. Redick, 30. “You never know how many opportunities you’re going to get to be on a team that has a legitimate chance to win a championship.”

Rivers is blunt about his belief that the Clippers do not necessarily have a clear edge on anyone despite winning more regular-season games last season than every team except San Antonio and Oklahoma City.

“About 10 other teams in the West” are thinking things can break right for them to reach the 2015 NBA Finals too, according to Rivers.

Emerging from that pack will require a team-wide understanding that it cannot race ahead the way Paul dreams he could after a long offseason in which he stewed in lament and “tried to work at” his mental toughness.

Paul needs to know by now that championships, or even second-round successes, are not achieved by rushing teams toward maturity.

“Last year as a team, we sort of learned what the process was,” Paul said of the Clippers’ first season under Rivers. “This year as a team, we’re sort of going to have to fall in love with the process.”

 

Kevin Ding is an NBA senior writer for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter, @KevinDing.

Read more NBA news on BleacherReport.com

View full post on Bleacher Report – NBA

3 new assistants join LA Clippers staff (Yahoo Sports)

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Doc Rivers is adding three new assistant coaches to his Los Angeles Clippers staff for the upcoming season.

View full post on Yahoo Sports – NBA News

With Donald Sterling gone, Clippers relaxed and ready

It was back to basketball and having fun as the team gets ready to begin training camp

      
 

 

View full post on USATODAY – NBA Top Stories

Clippers return focus to team post-Sterling (Yahoo Sports)

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Doc Rivers loves nothing more than talking basketball. And with the scandal involving former Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling beginning to fade into the background, Rivers welcomes returning the focus squarely to the team and its performance.

View full post on Yahoo Sports – NBA News

Clippers ready, relaxed in post-Sterling era

It was back to basketball and having fun as the team gets ready to begin training camp

      
 

 

View full post on USATODAY – NBA Top Stories

Ballmer doesn’t want Clippers employees using Apple products

L.A. Clippers owner and CEO Steve Ballmer may have stepped down from his post at Microsoft, but he’s still a share holder, and extremely loyal. According to Reuters’ Mary Milliken and Eric Kelsey, Ballmer doesn’t want any Clippers employees using Apple products.
 Ballmer left the board of Microsoft last month but is still the largest individual shareholder, with about 4 percent of the company worth $15.7 billion. It should come as no surprise, then, that the Clippers will be a Microsoft organization. The son of a Ford Motor Co manager, he’s always been a company and product loyalist, banning his own family from using Apple’s iPhones. “Most of the Clippers on are Windows, some of the players and coaches are not,” Ballmer said. “And Doc kind of knows that’s a project. It’s one of the first things he said to me: ‘We are probably going to get rid of these iPads, aren’t we?’ And I said, ‘Yeah, we probably are.’ But I promised we would do it during the off season.”
I can understa

View full post on Yardbarker: NBA

Next Page »