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Archive for the tag “Doc Rivers”

The Clippers And Grizzlies Traded Bad For Inconsistent

The trade deadline has not been kind to fans of the Memphis Grizzlies. They saw their best shooter get traded to the Charlotte Hornets and all they got in return was forward PJ Hairston (who has been inconsistent at best), veteran center Chris “Birdman” Andersen (he has been missing in action all season) and four second-round picks that probably will not amount to much. But just when you thought it could not get any worse for the Grizzlies, they made another trade that makes you scratch your head. The Grizzlies traded forward Jeff Green to the Los Angeles Clippers for the services of guard Lance Stephenson and a 2019 protected pick. And with that, the Grizzlies now have lost yet another offensive weapon while taking on another player that is still trying to find himself. All while the Clippers will get to see what they can do with Jeff Green more than likely being their starting small forward eventually. But in reality, what both really did is swap inconsistent (Green) for bad (Stephenson). And in the end, both could end up not being a factor for their respective teams.

In Memphis, the main ballhandler has always been Mike Conley Jr., The dynamic point guard has been the best perimeter player for the Grizzlies for a while now. What the Grizzlies have always lacked is that scoring ability and consistency from the small forward position. They honestly have not had great production from that position since they had the services of Rudy Gay. In Green, they had someone that was at least giving them a pulse at that position. But with him gone, the pulse again goes to a flatline as they try to audition people for that position. And in Courtney Lee’s spot, they will now audition Lance Stephenson potentially. In Stephenson, the Grizzlies get a guy that can play tough defense. But for the Grizzlies, they already have a tough defender in Tony Allen. Offensively, Lance will make them even worse. He has not learned how to play without the basketball yet and the only way he can help this team on the offensive end is if he gets the ball in his hands. If Coach Dave Joerger can allow Stephenson to control the ball some, then maybe they will get some more out of him offensively. If not, then you are looking at another guy on the Grizzlies that cannot knock down an open shot and looks lost off the ball on the offensive end. That will make the Grizzlies even uglier offensively, especially without big man Marc Gasol for a while.

The Clippers are essentially being hailed as the winners in this trade. With what they were getting at the small forward position with Paul Pierce, Stephenson and whoever they threw out there, is nothing compared to what they could potentially get from Green. The veteran forward is averaging 12.5 points per game this season. He can hit the open jump shot, take the ball to the basket and he can play solid defense. And to add to that, he has played for Doc Rivers before (played for Doc in Boston) and he can play the power forward position and you have a player that could help this team. You would think that this would be a move to solidify what they have going on this year. But if you have taken a look at the career of Jeff Green, it can be summed up in one word: inconsistency. Green can come out and have a great game where he scores 20 points and then come out the next week and score two points. And it is that kind of inconsistency that has driven the fans of teams he has played for crazy. With the Clippers, he will be counted on to shoulder some of the offensive load, especially with Blake out for an undisclosed amount of time. It will be interesting to see if he can find some kind of consistency with the Clippers, but he more than likely will not. And that kind of inconsistent play will make Clippers fans loathe him. But fortunate for him, he can hide a little come playoff time because of Blake Griffin being back.

Both Stephenson and Green have not exactly got the best feelings out of fans of the teams they have played for. Stephenson was banished from Charlotte after his play was awful and he has not been the same since he left the Indiana Pacers in free agency. And he more than likely will have Grizzlies’ fans throwing things at their television sets. As for Green, he has been a tease for his entire career. And he will definitely be one for the Clippers. It is only a matter of “when” and not “if”. The trade has being spoken of as a win for the Clippers, but they just traded bad for inconsistent. And there is no telling how that will turn out.

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The Impact Of DeAndre Jordan On The Dallas Mavericks And The Los Angeles Clippers

DeAndre Jordan is headed back to his home state after leaving the Clippers for the Dallas Mavericks. ( Photo courtesy of Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports)

DeAndre Jordan is headed back to his home state after leaving the Clippers for the Dallas Mavericks. ( Photo courtesy of Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports)

The battle for the services of center DeAndre Jordan came down to the Los Angeles Clippers and the Dallas Mavericks. The Clippers thought they had the better chance of the two teams. After all, he had been a member of their team since he first entered the league and the chemistry he had with the rest of his teammates on the floor was good. But with Dallas, there was an option for Jordan to be able to get a chance to be a key cog offensively while replacing Tyson Chandler. Presented with a five-year deal worth over $109 million from the Clippers, Jordan decided to take the route that many did not expect. The athletic center decided to take the four year offer from the Dallas Mavericks worth $80 million. Since he made the unpopular decision to most, there have been rumors of his supposed beef he had with Clippers point guard Chris Paul and that being the main reason he left. Whether that is true or false we may never know, but what we do know if Dallas has landed an upgraded version of Tyson Chandler while the Clippers have now been left with a huge void in the middle.

Dallas had lost the services of Tyson Chandler this offseason and it was rumored that if they lost out on Jordan, that they would send guard Monta Ellis to the Pacers in a sign-and-trade deal that would land them the services of Pacers center Roy Hibbert. No offense to Hibbert, but there was no way that he stacked up to the play of DeAndre Jordan. Hibbert would have also slowed down the Mavericks offense, which tends to be a little bit more uptempo. With Jordan now in the fold, the Mavericks get an incredibly athletic center that can block shots, patrol the paint and also finish on the fast break better than most big men in the NBA. But even with all his physical tools, Jordan will be fighting a stigma that has been with him since Chris Paul has been tossing him lobs in Los Angeles. DeAndre is viewed as an extremely limited offensive player. Despite his physical gifts, he has not shown to be a solid offensive player in his career. And the feeling is he will not develop those skills. He wants to be more of a focus offensively, but he may want to realize that his game is not to be the offensive focus of a winning team. His game is to play defense, grab rebounds on the offensive and defensive ends and finish on the fast break. With him as an offensive focus, that not only exposes his bad offensive skills but his bad free throw shooting. Jordan has been known to build a few homes from the free throw line during his time in the NBA. The Mavericks better hope he gets it together somewhat at the free throw line, because if he does not, then he could be sitting on the bench in crucial times because of how bad he shoots form the line. He is a very good defender and can make it happen for the Mavericks defensively, but he is someone that could definitely cost the team if they use him as the focus.

Losing Jordan to the Mavericks is not only damaging but discouraging for the Clippers. They offered him the most money and more years, but he still decided to leave. He apparently wanted to be more of a focus of the offense, but that was something that could not have been promised with the presence of Blake Griffin, Chris Paul and now Paul Pierce. And now without him, the Clippers have a huge hole in the middle and there are not many plans on how they will replace him. One thing the loss will do for the Clippers is make them a defensive team that will depend on their perimeter defense more. With newly acquired Lance Stephenson, he becomes even more important now because he is the second-best defender on the team now. There is now no one to cover up their mistakes on the back end in Jordan anymore, so they will have to be even more disciplined. But there is another option that’s out there for the Clippers and this player is as athletic as Jordan. The Clippers should take a chance and go sign center JaVale McGee. Sure, he has had issues in the past of losing concentration and making some head-scratching plays. But he is also a seven footer that can cover ground and can make up for mistakes defensively. The Clippers could get away with paying him not very much and get some good production out of him. Of course he is not as defensively intelligent and cannot finish as well as Jordan at the rim, but he would give the Clippers that athletic center they need to make their team work. And most importantly, he would give them the size they need to compete in the Western Conference. The Clippers defense will take a dip in production, but they will still be able to defend and make some things happen should they choose wisely how to replace Jordan.

Lob City died tonight with the loss of DeAndre Jordan. In a way, you could say he was the posterchild of Lob City with the way he finished at the rim when passes were thrown anywhere near the rim. But now he has moved on and will get to prove he is more than just a dunker, shot-blocker and finisher at the rim. He will now get the opportunity to show he actually has some game outside of the dunks. As for the Clippers, they have to move forward and make some moves to maintain some status in the Western Conference. They will undoubtedly lose some of the continuity and potential impact they would have had this season. But with Chris Paul and some of the crew still there, the Clippers still have a chance to make some things happen out West.

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Examining The Fit Of DeAndre Jordan With The Knicks, Mavericks And Clippers

DeAndre Jordan will be a very rich man after he signs his new deal in free agency. But where does he land? (photo courtesy of  Andrew Fielding of USA TODAY Sports)

DeAndre Jordan will be a very rich man after he signs his new deal in free agency. But where does he land? (photo courtesy of Andrew Fielding of USA TODAY Sports)

The Los Angeles Clippers had a disappointing finish. They were up 3 games to 1 on the Houston Rockets and some thought they were getting ready to make their first conference finals appearance in team history. But all that seemed to crumble right in front of their eyes when the Clippers fell three straight games to the Houston Rockets, including an embarrassing performance in Game 7. At the end of that series, there began to be questions in regards to how they would move forward. Would they blow up the team or would they try to make adjustments. Without having much salary cap to work with, head coach and president of the Clippers Doc Rivers has to make some minor miracles happen to better this roster. So far, he has shipped out power forward Spencer Hawes and starting small forward Matt Barnes for the services of Lance Stephenson. And that apparently is not the only move the Clippers are trying to make. Rivers is reportedly trying to bring Paul Pierce back home to the Los Angeles area to reunite with his former player. But all of these moves mean nothing if they cannot bring back center DeAndre Jordan. The freakishly athletic center is hitting the open market tomorrow with a ton of other free agents. The Clippers want to bring him back, but he also has some other teams that would like to obtain his talents like the New York Knicks and the Dallas Mavericks. Jordan seems to want to be paid a hefty amount of money to sign somewhere, but where is the best fit for his services?

DeAndre has been known to be a very good defensive presence over his career. And if a team is needing defense and rebounding, it is definitely the New York Knicks. Their big men could not get the job done on the boards and they did not have any intimidating forces inside to deter shots. With the addition of Jordan, they would have exactly what they need on that end of the floor. Jordan has the unique ability to make up for others on the defensive end because of his athleticism and his explosiveness. That alone would make Carmelo Anthony a better defender and raise the level of New York’s defense. But unfortunately, there are two ends of the court and you cannot sub Jordan out on the other end. For as good as he is defensively, he has yet to show some consistency on the offensive end. He has shown flashes of being able to use post moves, but he has often bricked some easy shots in the paint if they were not dunks. In the Triangle offense, the center needs to be able to either post up and make things happen in there or be able to hit the midrange jump shot. In the case of Jordan, he has not proven he can do either consistently. And despite the talk of New York making him a focus offensively, that would only lead to Jordan becoming something that he isn’t and that could end disastrously for New York. The gesture to be a focus on offense is nice and surely the money would be as well, but the Knicks are not any closer to winning the East by acquiring his services. And the team as it stands does not fit anything he does. Plus, do the Knicks really want DeAndre getting fouled and going to the free throw line?

Dallas may not be the home city for Jordan, but it is close enough to home for him. Jordan, who hails from Houston, Texas, would be going to a veteran team that is looking to add pieces to get Dirk Nowitzki that second ring. Last year, the Mavericks brought back center Tyson Chandler via trade and he was so-so for them. He made some good blocks and had some games where he was rocking the rim off alley-oops, but he was not the same guy when it came to the playoffs. Harden and the Rockets ate their lunch money and Chandler showed his age a little. In signing Jordan, the Mavericks would essentially be getting a younger version of Chandler with more explosive ability around the rim. Jordan would definitely be able to cover up for some of the defensive deficiencies of that team, but he would also be a liability offensively for the Mavericks. And with Monta Ellis opting out, the Mavs need more offense on their team. If they do not add someone on the perimeter to give them something, the signing Jordan would not do much for their chances in the West at all. In fact, they may take a step back by adding him and losing Ellis via free agency. And we must also remember Jordan’s struggles at the free throw line. Chandler, although he has not been a stellar free throw shooter over his career, would be considered Steph Curry when shooting free throws compared to DeAndre Jordan. Jordan shoots an anemic 39% from the free throw line. That alone would be something that could scare Dallas, especially with the Hack-A-Shaq rule still in play.

The team that Jordan should stay with is the Los Angeles Clippers. They were one win away from the conference finals and they are in the process of making changes to make themselves better. Of course, if he leaves, the changes will be all for naught. But the changes made helped make them deeper on the perimeter and better defensively. Of course this is not the only change that is supposed to happen in Los Angeles though. The Clippers are reportedly looking to move guard Jamal Crawford and they could have found a match in Denver. They are reportedly looking to ship the veteran guard to Denver for the rights to small forward Wilson Chandler. This change would give the Clippers someone that can be good on the defensive end as well as very efficient offensively. With Jordan back in the fold, this team would be even more solid defensively considering the additional piece. And the potential addition of Paul Pierce for the playoffs, the Clippers could gain that grit they needed when they lost to the Rockets. DeAndre could get paid the amount of money he wants while being put in a winning situation. Jordan also wants to be more featured offensively, but he has to ask himself if that is more important than being who he is and trying to win a championship. When he asks himself that, he would probably be inclined to go with the winning and money instead of wanting to be a featured guy. And like mentioned before, he has to get better at free throws to be more featured. Shaquille O’Neal and Wilt Chamberlain were terrible free throw shooters, but they were dominant post players where DeAndre isn’t. He should be happy being the caddy to Blake Griffin and the anchor of their defense. And who knows? It could pay off for him in the end.

Jordan has a tough decision to make and he does not have the biggest of windows. The more he waits, the more other teams try to move forward and make some other things happen in the free agency bonanza. He has to make a decision what he wants to be remembered for at this point. It should be interesting to see what he does, but if he is smart, he stays a Clipper. And if he returns to the Clippers, they could be a team to look out for next season in the West if they get the pieces they need via trades and free agency.

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Paul Pierce Has A Decision To Make Regarding Next Season In The NBA

Paul Pierce takes Toronto's Amir Johnson off the dribble. (Photo courtesy of www.SI.com)

Paul Pierce takes Toronto’s Amir Johnson off the dribble. (Photo courtesy of http://www.SI.com)

Paul Pierce has had an excellent career in the NBA. He has played for the Celtics and won a title along with playing for the Brooklyn Nets and the Washington Wizards. Going into this offseason, there was a question as to whether he would come back or not. He was clutch for the Wizards in the playoffs, hitting big basket after big basket for them. But he also was an older player in the NBA (37 years of age). As a result of his age, the Wizards seemingly paced him all year long to keep him fresh for the playoffs. He played a career-low 26 minutes a game and scored his lowest point total of his career. But the good thing about him playing for the Wizards is they did not need him to put up 18-20 points per game. The show belonged to guards John Wall and Bradley Beal as they were the main focus on the team. All Pierce was brought in to do was bring leadership and hit big shots. He definitely made an impact there, but the team did not succeed as much as they expected. The Wizards lost to the Hawks in the Eastern Conference Semifinals and went home earlier than they envisioned. And with that loss, Pierce was not sure he wanted to come back. There were stories out that Pierce had thought about hanging up the sneakers instead of taking his player option to return to Washington in the 2015-2016 season. But those rumors were quickly put to bed as it has been confirmed that Pierce will be playing next season. That announcement was good news for a team, but that team may not be the Wizards. It is said that he could come back to Washington. But there is also a chance that Piece could be heading to the West.

The Los Angeles Clippers have had a void at small forward for a while now. Last season, Doc Rivers used veteran journeyman Matt Barnes as his starting small forward. And even though Barnes was a tough defender and had a solid season scoring (10.1 points per game), he was nowhere to be found in the playoffs and capped that disappearing act off with an underwhelming performance against the Houston Rockets where he disappeared in the biggest game, Game 7. It was obvious to anyone that watched the Clippers play that Barnes was not the answer for them at small forward and they needed to upgrade that position this offseason. When the Clippers traded him to the Charlotte Hornets in a package deal for the services of Lance Stephenson, it was apparent the team wanted to make some changes at the small forward position. Paul Pierce has had his most success in the NBA under coach Doc Rivers and currently Doc is the head coach and team president of the Clippers organization. There have been rumors out there for a while that Pierce would love to play for Doc again and this seems like the perfect opportunity. If he is able to come to terms with the Clippers on a cap-friendly deal, he would definitely be a huge upgrade over the now-departed Barnes. The veteran small forward has been known for his veteran leadership for some time now. And that leadership could be something that could help the Clippers even though Chris Paul is a veteran in his own right. Another thing he could bring to Los Angeles is his clutch shooting. Pierce has hit many clutch shots over his lifetime and we all know he isn’t shying away from any shot that could help the team win. The biggest thing that Pierce could bring to this team is his championship experience. Pierce won his lone NBA championship under the leadership of Doc Rivers in Boston. And if you look at the Clippers roster as it stands, Pierce has gone the furthest in the playoffs. The championship experience he brings as a player would prove invaluable in getting the Clippers over the hump.

The Clippers option looks excellent for Pierce, especially since he would be coming back to an area in which he grew up. But playing for the Clippers and Doc Rivers aren’t the only option out there. Paul Pierce still has an option that has to be decided upon pretty soon. In that option, Pierce would be receiving $5.5 million if he were to pick up the option with the Wizards. It has been rumored that he has declined the option with the Wizards next season, but that has yet to be confirmed. Even with him potentially declining the money, it could still be possible for him to come back there. He has a good opportunity to win if he comes back to Washington. Some can argue that if John Wall does not injure his wrist, the Wizards would have beat the Hawks in the Eastern Conference semifinals. If he were to stay with the Wizards, the team would probably continue to play him less minutes while building on their progress from the 2014-2015 campaign. That would allow for him to be fresh during the playoffs and would also allow the Wizards to continue the development of young swingman Otto Porter, Jr. But along with him playing the same minutes, the team would have great continuity heading into next season. Pierce seemed to have a positive effect on Wall and Beal. Both would continue to grow under the leadership of Pierce. Eventually, the Wizards hope his leadership will be something that allows Wall and Beal to make consistent big plays down the stretch of big games without having to depend on Pierce to bail the team out. It would also give them a consistent shooter from the three-point range that could be counted on when they need him. That is essential when you have a playmaker with the ability of Wall and Beal. In fact, playing with Wall and Beal provides Pierce wide-open shots should they penetrate ore often. But the biggest thing, like what he would bring the Clippers, is championship experience. When some team has never won anything, it can be really tough for the opponent to handle the pressures that come from winning. And Pierce would help them check those emotions while focusing on the task at hand. Besides LeBron James’ Cavaliers, the Wizards have just as much hope as anyone next season to win the East. And quite frankly, the East would be an easier path for Pierce to go back to the NBA Finals.

Over the next few weeks, Pierce has to make some decisions. Does he leave for the Los Angeles Clippers or stay with the Wizards for his remaining time? It all depends on what Pierce wants to do. But in the meantime, it is down to the Wizards or the Clippers in this one. If he stays where he is, he could help the Wizards go to the next level. But if he goes home, the road to success could be more difficult.

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Lance Stephenson To The Los Angeles Clippers Could Be A Good Thing

Lance Stephenson is a Clipper now. What will he bring to this team? (photo courtesy of www.kid83.deviantart.com)

Lance Stephenson is a Clipper now. What will he bring to this team? (photo courtesy of http://www.kid83.deviantart.com)

The Los Angeles Clippers were almost to a place they have never been, the Western Conference Finals. They held a 3-1 lead over the Houston Rockets and many thought they had pulled it together at the right time. History was going to go the way of the Clippers finally right? Well, the Rockets decided they were not ready to go home and turned the series around quickly, erasing a 3-1 deficit and blowing out the Clippers in a crucial Game 7. The dreams of heading to the Western Conference Finals was over for Los Angeles. Fans of the game went from praising Chris Paul for coming up big in Game 7 versus the defending-champion San Antonio Spurs to wearing him out on social media for his performance in Game 7 versus the Rockets. Many took a look at the Clippers going into the offseason and wondered what all they could do. Obviously their main concern was signing center DeAndre Jordan back, but the team had more work than that to do in regards to improving their team. Well, on Tuesday night, the Clippers decided to roll the dice and make a move. The Clippers are trading small forward Matt Barnes and forward Spencer Hawes to the Charlotte Hornets for shooting guard Lance Stephenson. This trade sent shockwaves, as the Clippers are taking a chance on Stephenson to come through. As for the Hornets, they rid themselves of Stephenson, who was not very good for the Hornets, averaging an astonishing 8.2 points per game. This trade is something that makes many scratch their heads in terms of the Clippers. And it could definitely go either way in the grand scheme of things. But there are so many positives that can come out of this move.

Lance Stephenson is known as a volatile player at times. The main thought that some have is “why would Doc take on this guy”? Well, there are some positives to this one. Defensively, Stephenson is a physical defender. If you take a look at the Clippers last season, Chris Paul was their best perimeter defender. That may be good due to the state of point guards in the NBA, but you need that one wing defender that can make it happen versus guys like James Harden, Klay Thompson, Steph Curry, and Andrew Wiggins. No offense to JJ Reddick, but there is no way that he is guarding any of the guys that have been mentioned. And with Reddick there, opponents would be able to put pressure on the bigs of the Clippers. With Stephenson in the lineup, it gives the Clippers a guy that can handle his own while also allowing the bigs of the Clippers to control the paint. With a coach like Doc Rivers, Stephenson could be a dream for him. With the right focus and the right coach in his ear, Stephenson has shown that he can be a good player on the defensive end. For example, look at the problems he caused at times for LeBron James when LeBron was in Miami and Stephenson was in Indiana. Now imagine if Doc can get him to focus in like that for all of the game. Along with his defensive prowess, Stephenson also brings an added toughness to the perimeter defenders that the Clippers never had. Barnes has been a tough wing defender for them, but he doesn’t bring that dog in him that Lance can bring to a team. And with him added, the toughness level of the Clippers just went up. He and DeAndre

But the effect of Stephenson is not just felt on the defensive end of the court. Stephenson has grown as an offensive player over his time in the NBA. And when he went to the Charlotte Hornets, he was expected to take that next step in his development. Instead, he went to a team that had a guard that dominated the ball in Kemba Walker. That meant that Stephenson had to play more off the ball than he was used to in his career. And that ended up in the disaster that was his lone season in Charlotte. With the Clippers, he is not going to be asked to be the main focus offensively. Some may think it’s a bad thing that he is not the focus, but it will be what is best for his career. Stephenson is a good player when he is not the main perimeter threat. With Paul there, he will take some of that burden he had in Charlotte off his hands. And there will be times where he will have to make something happen when he is off the ball. But the main effect he will have on this team is when Paul is out of the game. The Clippers did not have a solid guy off the bench last year to take over the ball-handling duties. They put guys like Austin Rivers, Jamal Crawford and even let Blake Griffin play the point guard spot a little against the Houston Rockets when Paul was out due to injury. No offense to any of them, but Lance proved he can handle that position a little bit better than these guys can. He is a playmaker and the Clippers need another one of those coming in to play for them, whether it be in the starting lineup or off the bench. Either way, he would be a help to them and make their offense even more diverse than it was last season.

The biggest thing that will be good for Lance Stephenson coming to the Clippers is the leadership. In Charlotte, he was expected to be a leader. And if you know anything about Stephenson, he is not one that is ready to lead a team. He is still figuring out who he is and is considered by some not to be mentally there at all times. For a team as young as Charlotte was, there is no way that Stephenson should have ever been brought in to be a leader of that team. Sure, he is a talented player, but leadership is not one of his strong suits. With the Clippers, he is now in position to receive leadership. Doc Rivers is a guy that has been known to exhibit great leadership and be an example for his players. And many players that have played for Doc have loved every second they have played for him. His ability to focus and Stephenson will be a key ingredient in his success there if he is to have some. But not only will he be receiving leadership from Doc Rivers, but he will be receiving leadership from Chris Paul. Many have had jokes for Chris Paul over the years for his inability to make it deep in the playoffs, but the one thing you can never take away from him is his leadership abilities. Paul has a great ability to know when to push players and when to encourage them. His perfect mix of pushing buttons will be something that will help Stephenson mesh into this team seamlessly. Paul needs Stephenson there and he wants to win above all things, so he will do what needs to be done to get Stephenson up to speed.

The Clippers made a move that many did not see coming. They got younger on the perimeter while adding a guy that could have a better effect on both ends than Matt Barnes. But the biggest question mark for him is his personality. If he listens to Doc Rivers and Chris Paul, he can be a valuable assets to this team and help make them better. But if he does not listen to those two, then we could see knucklehead Lance make an appearance once again. The ball is in Lance’s court and he could potentially make himself some more money as he could potentially be a free agent after this year (Clippers hold the team option for him after the 2015-2016 season). Another bonus for the Clippers in this one is if Lance acts up, they only got rid of a backup big man they signed that failed to crack their rotation (Spencer Hawes) and a swingman that is getting long in the tooth in the NBA (Matt Barnes). The chips have been pushed to the table for Doc and he is gambling on being able to get the best out of Stephenson. This move, like the move he made last season to trade for his son midseason, will be one that will be closely watched all season long. And it will be interesting to see how it pans out.

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The Los Angeles Clippers Were Tragically Flawed From The Beginning

Doc, Chris Paul and Blake Griffin having a meeting of the minds. (photo courtesy of www.rappler.com)

Doc, Chris Paul and Blake Griffin having a meeting of the minds. (photo courtesy of http://www.rappler.com)

The Los Angeles Clippers were one game away from heading to their first Western Conference Finals. The task was going to be tough though. The Clippers, after giving up a 3-1 series lead to the Rockets, had to travel to Houston to win a Game 7. You would have thought that the Clippers would have brought one of their best games with the season on the line. But after watching them fall in Game 7 to the Rockets 113-100, the Clippers just seemed to lack that energy to get the job done. The hope they had of making history was gone just like that and the Clippers are joining all the other teams that have lost in the playoffs in the offseason. Plenty are already assessing the blame of this loss on players like Blake Griffin and Chris Paul. And others are blaming Clippers head coach Doc Rivers for the loss as well. But if you really take a look at this team, there were flaws with them from the beginning of the season. The team could have played better in Game 7 and that is understood. There were expectations that were there, but there were also many holes in this team and they were never really addressed by general manager and president Doc Rivers.

Looking at the Clippers, they had arguably the best point guard in the NBA. Chris Paul has been dazzling all of us with his play for his entire career. But in the playoffs, success has seemed to escape him. This year was the year that the pressure was mounting on him. Plenty felt he was going to make that jump as well with this current Clipper team. But if you take a look at their starting lineup, there has been an issue from the jump. Blake Griffin, Chris Paul and DeAndre Jordan were solid at the power forward, point guard and center positions. JJ Reddick was solid this season at the shooting guard position, even though he was somewhat limited in terms of all the things he could do. But when it comes to the small forward position, the Clippers were sorely lacking there. The team trotted out veteran wing player Matt Barnes as their starter this season. And although he had his moments starting for them, he was and is not a starter at this point in his career. The best thing for him to do is be a sub off the bench. In that position, he can come in and give energy, defend and make open shots. Moving him to the bench and bringing in a starting small forward would have been the ideal thing to do for the Clippers this season instead of depending on veterans like Hedo Turkoglu to be a backup off the bench. If you notice in this season, Hedo has not been the best coming in off the bench and he honestly is a guy that should not even be suiting up at this point. Barnes was severely exposed this series versus the Houston Rockets. His first game was great for the Clippers when he put up 20 points, but the rest of the series he was not very good. The veteran forward did not even crack double-figures the entire rest of the series and finished this series by not even scoring in the biggest game of the season. His counterpart on the Rockets, forward Trevor Ariza, had a way better series than he did. Ariza was in double-figures every single game and averaged 16.7 points. He was the perfect third scorer for the Rockets and he actually showed up in the big Game 7, scoring 22 big points and helping complete a big comeback versus the Clippers. The Clippers could have only hoped to have that type of production from Barnes, but they knew they could not depend on it at all.

Barnes starting at small forward was not the only issue the Clippers had. If you look at championship teams, everyone that comes off their bench brings something to the table. Even the teams with LeBron James and Dwayne Wade had pieces like Mike Miller coming in and shooting big shots along with other pieces as well. But if you look at the Clippers, it seems they did not have that piece at all besides Jamal Crawford. Crawford is instant offense, but he also has to put up a lot of shots to get his points. He shot under 40% for the series. But other than Crawford, the Clippers had absolutely no one they could count on consistently all season. Doc Rivers’ son, Austin Rivers, had some good games in the playoffs, but in the last few games down the stretch, he disappeared as well. And behind DeAndre Jordan, the Clippers really had no one to come in and make some plays for them. Doc Rivers barely played his free-agent acquisition, Spencer Hawes, when it came to this series and the previous series. And other than him, there was only Glen “Big Baby” Davis that was there to backup Jordan. On a championship team, these three are not enough to get it done. And in this series, they proved to be not enough. If you flip over to the team that they played on Sunday, the Rockets got contributions from every area off their bench actually. They got something from rookie big man Clint Capella, forward Terrance Jones, forward Corey Brewer and veteran point guard Pablo Prigioni. And this Houston team would have been even deeper if they had their starting point guard, Patrick Beverly, and their other big man, Donatas Montiejunas. The construction of that team was way better than that of the Clippers. And there were other teams that had better constructions of a team and bench than the Clippers, but they are the most recent to show their bench up. The bench really hurt the Clippers and it showed even more in Game 7. Over the season, they have been able to overcome the issues they had there, but it eventually caught up to them and it bit them bad at the wrong time.

Going forward, it will be interesting to see how the Clippers rebound from this loss. Center DeAndre Jordan is a free agent this summer and there is a possibility that he may not come back(even though he probably will be back in Los Angeles). Chris Paul just turned 30 and is not getting any younger. And Blake Griffin, who had been playing to an MVP level in the playoffs, decided that he would not come out with all his energy in Game 7. One solution to making the Clippers better may be to bring back Barnes and move him to the bench while finding a starting small forward. And while they are at it, the Clippers may want to take a look at sending JJ Reddick to the bench as well. He had a great season, but to expect him to duplicate that is asking a lot. Moving him to the bench while adding a bigger shooting guard (Reddick is 6’4” as listed) will make them a better defensive team and also will give their bench more pop. Doc Rivers will be on the clock for making this team better this offseason and he is definitely going to catching some heat for what he created in this team and this bench. Some say the Clippers may want to blow it up, but that may not be the case here. Some changes need to be made, but tearing this team up is not the answer. Making this team younger and more athletic at the shooting guard and small forward position along with making the bench better should yield better results for the Clippers. But as far as this team, they were tragically flawed and the hope in them went as far as their best players. But it died when you looked at the performances of their role players, which are needed to win a championship.

The Los Angeles Clippers Versus The Houston Rockets: The Battle Of The Inconsistents In Game 7

Dwight Howard will have to step up for the Rockets to win. Can he match Blake Griffin in production? (photo courtesy David J. Phillip from the Associated Press)

Dwight Howard will have to step up for the Rockets to win. Can he match Blake Griffin in production? (photo courtesy David J. Phillip from the Associated Press)

It was all good heading into the fourth quarter Thursday night for the Los Angeles Clippers. The team who had never been to the Conference Finals before only stood 12 minutes away from team history. All they had to do was hold to the lead they had worked so hard to build up. But unfortunately, the Clippers became the usual Clippers again. They were outscored 40-15 in the fourth quarter and ultimately lost the game. The scene went from pure joy in the third to frustration in at the end of the game. The faces of the team and the fans of the team were long from the frustration of losing a game they had in the palms of their hands. And along with the fall of the team in a series-clinching game, the Clippers now have to travel to Houston to take on a Rockets team that has a ton of confidence. The play of forward Josh Smith was outstanding in the fourth quarter and what was so amazing is they did this with their best player, guard James Harden, on the bench. As a result, the Clippers and Rockets will face each other one last time. The Clippers will face yet another Game 7 but this time against the Houston Rockets. Of course the blame game has been played with this team ever since the loss. Some are blaming Doc Rivers for not calling a timeout to slow down the Rockets’ momentum while others are blaming the team’s stars, Blake Griffin and Chris Paul, for not restoring order when the lead was quickly disappearing. But at this point, it does not matter who is to blame. The Clippers have to get ready for Game 7 on the road and there is nothing they can do about the results of Game 6 anymore. But which Clippers team will show up in Houston?

The Rockets, on the other hand, are getting it going at the right time. Ever since Rockets head coach Kevin McHale put Josh Smith in the starting lineup over Terrance Jones they have gone 2-0. Jones outperformed him coming off the bench in Game 5, but Smith was the catalyst in the Game 6 comeback, netting 14 of his 19 points in the fourth quarter. But the Rockets have not been the most consistent team this series at all. They were outplayed in Game 1 versus the Los Angeles Clippers and they would have lost Game 2 of this series if they wouldn’t have got it going late in the game. They were very fortunate to not be down by two games just that quick. Other than the last two games, it seems as if the Rockets have not been playing that well at all. Their MVP candidate, James Harden, has been putting up numbers (25 points and 8 assists per game), but has struggled from distance in the last two games (just 3/14). And along with that, he was in a funk in Game 6 and only shot 5/20 that game. But Harden has been nowhere near as inconsistent as Dwight Howard. The big man has been dominant in some games and non-existent in others. The foul shooting from him has been awful this series (38%), but that was to be expected. What some may have expected is for him to be better defensively this series. The Clippers are an excellent offensive team, but he was supposed to be the equalizer for them on the backline. Well, that has not happened as much and even though his numbers look good to the eye, those that have watched the game have been disappointed yet again in what they have seen. Dwight has been making the usual plays that make you scratch your head and he still cannot make two solid post moves in a row. But even with that, the Rockets don’t use him right anyway. They should put him in pick and roll situations that limit the post moves he has to make, but yet he camps out down low, looking to try and recreate himself at the wrong times. We shall see if Howard, Harden, Josh Smith and the rest of the Rockets show up in Game 7 or if they falter in front of their home crowd on the big stage.

Both teams are trying to go to a new level while searching for consistency during the playoffs. And they both are looking to take that next step that many said was not possible when the year began. But in order for them to do so, there needs to be someone step up and be consistent for this huge game. For Chris Paul and Blake Griffin, this game would be the biggest game in their career. They would be a part of making Clippers history. And for James Harden and Dwight Howard, this would be a chance for both to get one step closer to a return trip to the NBA Finals. It will be interesting to see which team rises to the occasion. Will the Clippers pay for letting Game 6 get away from them or will the Rockets wilt under the pressure of a Game 7? Only time will tell, but it will definitely be fun to watch who can be the more consistent team of the two.

Doc Rivers’ Labor Of Love Helping Propel The Los Angeles Clippers

Doc and Austin Rivers share a moment. (photo courtesy of www.espn.com)

Doc and Austin Rivers share a moment. (photo courtesy of http://www.espn.com)

Doc Rivers had a decision to make this season. Plenty in the Clippers organization felt it would not be a bad idea for him to trade for his son, but Doc had to think about it. He did not want it to appear like he was doing something to hurt his team. He thought about it decided to make the deal. After Austin Rivers was traded to the Celtics around the trade deadline, Doc made the move to get his son on his team. The Los Angeles Clippers, Phoenix Suns and Boston Celtics made a trade that brought together Austin Rivers with his dad and new coach, making NBA history being the first father to coach his son in the NBA. But this move was not met with the open arms and great, warm feelings that some thought it may have been. Doc was looked at as a man that had too much power with the organization by some. After all, he is the big basketball decision-maker in the Clippers organization and he was taking a chance on his son, who was a struggling guard that had not found his niche in the NBA. Many could not get over the fact that Doc did not make a move for a small forward the Clippers needed. But Doc made the decision to help his son and maybe save his NBA career.

Austin Rivers was a dynamite guard out of the Duke University when he was a freshman. Plenty looked at his ability to make plays and score the basketball and assumed he would be a good player in the NBA immediately. The then-New Orleans Hornets were one of the teams that were sold on his skills and they took him with the 10th pick in the 2012 NBA Draft. But instead of a great scorer or contributor, the Hornets got a guy who was inconsistent with his play on the court and his shooting. And at 6’4”, the Hornets felt he was a tweener on the basketball court. They just could not find a way to use him consistently on the court. And the numbers of the younger Rivers reflected the inconsistencies. He would never average over 10 points per game with the Hornets/Pelicans and he would also never live up to the promise some thought he had coming out of Duke. He needed a lifeline and a fresh start to his career. And that lifeline came in the form of his father, watching his son from a distance. The opportunity came about for Doc to revive his career and he took it. When Austin arrived in Los Angeles, many wondered how he would be. Would he come out of his shell and go back to the guy everyone saw as a freshman at Duke or would he continue to falter in his NBA career? At first, he seemed timid and would not shoot the basketball as much. It seemed like he was trying to fit in more from a distance than just playing basketball. At times, it seemed like Doc’s love for his son had conflicted his decision as a coach. And as the Clippers were doing well, it seemed he like he was still trying to figure out who he was as an NBA player. But little did we know that we would be in store for a coming out party for Austin Rivers in the playoffs.

Plenty had wondered not only what Chris Paul would do in the playoffs, but what would happen if he went to the bench during the game. There were not many players that were sold on the fact that Austin Rivers was the backup. There were concerns about his play and what he could do out there. But the younger Rivers put that to bed in the 1st round of the playoffs. Rivers had been solid for the Clippers when Paul went to the bench, but in Game 4 he definitely stepped up. The Clippers entered that game down 2-1 to the San Antonio Spurs and needed a win in the worst way. They needed someone to step up and play big and unexpectedly Austin Rivers showed up. The young guard from Duke had 16 points on 7/8 shooting and hit both free throws he attempted. It was evident that he was not ready to go home and he was ready to announce he could play in the NBA to the world. Ever since that game, it seemed like the hate and jokes that Austin Rivers received has started to fade away. And now he is not just known as Doc Rivers’ son, but as a basketball player trying to make his mark in the NBA. He cemented that he was a guy to look out for in Game 3 versus the Rockets Friday night when he spearheaded a great run by the Clippers. Rivers had 25 points and was on fire. His numbers have been getting better by the series. He only had two games of double-figures versus the Spurs in the 1st round and in this round, he has been averaging 17 points per game off the bench for the Clippers versus the Rockets. Undoubtedly he has been the shot in the arm that Los Angeles has needed and could be one of the big keys to them heading to the Western Conference Finals perhaps. Who would have thought what looked like a labor of love by Doc Rivers towards his son would be a move that could help propel the Clippers even further? Austin Rivers has finally arrived ladies and gentlemen. And the potential that all saw when he came out of college is finally getting tapped into. All it took was the words and coaching of his dad and the confidence of his teammates in his abilities.

The Evolution Of Blake Griffin

Blake Griffin and Doc Rivers Blake Griffin is definitely a specimen of a basketball player. Generously listed as 6’10”, he is one of the most explosive leapers in the NBA. And he has been known to posterize players. Who can forget what he famously did to center Timofey Mozgov in 2010:

All the highlight dunks were extremely exciting to watch, but they just were not enough. Blake and the Clippers have rode the Lob City moniker to through the regular season the last couple of years only to falter in the playoffs. Star point guard Chris Paul seemed to be the only consistent player on the court in the postseason, while Griffin and center Deandre Griffin became non-factors due their limited offense. And because of this fatal offensive flaw, some wondered what the future of this team had in store. But with a new coach and a new system, Blake may has definitely taken his game to the next level.

Once Doc Rivers stepped in as coach in Los Angeles, he began to construct this team in the image of what he felt they needed to be. He convinced Deandre Jordan to focus on being a great defender. Rivers told Chris Paul that he needed him to be more aggressive offensively and shoot the ball more. But his best bit of coaching was the things he told Blake Griffin he needed to work on. As previously mentioned, Blake has been more of a premier dunker than post player in the NBA for most of his career. But when Doc came in, he challenged Blake to become a better jump shooter. For the first few years of Blake’s career, he shot 32.5% and 27.7% respectively from 10-15 foot range. This year, he is shooting a career-high 40% from that range. In the past, Blake had awful form when shooting the jump shot. He would shoot the ball on the way down, have his elbow in odd positions and shoot with an uneven base. But this year, his form has really improved as evidence here:

Notice that Blake is on balance when he shoots this fadeaway jump shot. He also takes the time to gather himself and square his shoulders coupled with shooting the jump shot at the peak of his jump instead of on the way down. Here is another view of Blake’s improved jump shot:

Blake takes his jump shot out even further in this clip and again shows balance, perfect form, shoots at the peak of his jump and gathers himself before going up. This improvement makes Blake more dangerous and in turn helps the Clipper offense function better than before.

Another request from Doc Rivers was for Blake to be more of a playmaker. Most of his professional career, Blake has been a finisher at the rim and not a facilitator. Ultimately, that approach caused a ton of pressure on Chris Paul to do everything for the Clippers. But Rivers saw something in Blake that many had not seen. He saw the ability for him to not only be a finisher but a playmaker. Many times you would see Blake get a rebound, dish it to Paul or another guard for Los Angeles and run the floor. But this year, Blake has taken action into his own hands:

Doc Rivers has taken more to running the offense through Griffin this season and as a result, it has led to the growth in his game. He can be seen now setting up guards for big shots or, of course, throwing up the lobs to Deandre Jordan. He even has taken the liberty of gathering the rebound and pushing the tempo to set up his teammates for easy baskets. This Blake is a far better offensive player than the Blake we saw last season. The confidence in Blake to be a playmaker also helped the Clippers sustain while Chris Paul was out with a shoulder injury.

These two improvements in Blake’s game have made the Clippers a very dangerous team in the West. And this also speaks to the power of Doc Rivers, who has taken the talent that Blake has and fine-tuned his game a little more this year. Blake will undoubtedly get better as he goes along. He still has to improve at the free throw line and his defense still is coming along. But there is no doubt that with the skills and ability he has, he could be the most dominant power forward in basketball very soon.

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