1. Doc Rivers has an amazing telephone voice. Or at least an extremely persuasive one. When asked about their new coach, J.J. Redick, Jared Dudley, Darren Collison, and Byron Mullens all referenced personal calls from Doc as an important moment in their free agency decisions. Redick: “Doc is the reason I’m here. He’s somebody I’ve wanted to play for for a number of years” Collison: “Doc sold the job for me.” And it isn’t just the new guys. Matt Barnes said he had “a chance to go other places for a lot more money” but stopped fielding offers after talking with his new coach. (Also: who do you think was offering Matt Barnes more money?) At any rate, if you take these guys at their word, Doc has already had significant value, and practice hasn’t even started.
2. Media Day Drinking Game! Drink every time someone says “process.” Drink every time someone says “journey,” “approach,” and “first step” in the same sentence. Drink every time a bench player uses the phrases “understand my role,” “complement the core,” or “whatever the team needs.” [Disclaimer: No one could survive this. Hemingway’s liver would have shut down by noon.]
3. Doc’s priorities are clear. Spacing on offense, transition defense, and defending the three – again and again he came back to these three areas as ones he plans to emphasize. He seemed to imply that the defensive issues were as much effort as scheme. Twice he used the phrase “multiple effort” to describe the failings he saw in last year’s D. “Anyone can collapse. You need to make a multiple effort to get back out.” Regarding transition D, he called it “unacceptable” for a team “this athletic” to be so subpar getting back. (Interesting question no one asked: will Doc de-emphasize offensive rebounding as they did in Boston?) It was also the way Doc couched his criticisms, noting that the team was generally a good defensive team, but with “huge areas of struggle.”
4. The Clippers are going to La Jolla for training camp.
What a spot to Bed down for Clipper Training Camp. Media today and 2-a-days start tomorrow. pic.twitter.com/QnUXoKEoKk
— Ralph Lawler (@Ohmeomy) September 30, 2013
5. If Matt Barnes didn’t have a neck covered with tattoos, I think more people would have noticed that he’s one of the most thoughtful NBA interviews this side of Shane Battier, and downright wry. On Doc: “Doc likes us to get extra sleep, which I appreciate as someone with kids.” On his kids asking him why he doesn’t dunk more: “Daddy’s too old to dunk.” On DJ: “That’s like one of my kids. My seven foot kid.” And finally, Barnes had far and away the classiest moment of the day, going out of his way to recognize the way Willie Green handled a very difficult season: “I learned a lot from Willie. Sometimes he started, sometimes he didn’t know if he would play… but he was always ready.” Totally unprompted classiness.
6. Rick Fox’s smile is an untapped source of renewable energy.
7. A cold-cuts and cake buffet spread? Great idea. Setting it up in the narrow hallway between the entrance and the bathroom? Not so great. (Suffice to say that not all of us sportswriters are in “game shape.” And some of us have claustrophobia issues)
8. Brian Sieman, the radio voice of the Clippers, acted as press secretary, introducing the players and soliciting an “opening statement” before curating the Q and A. After introducing Doc: “As always – first question, Jim Hill.” I can’t tell you how happy this makes me. Jim Hill, the Dean of local sports casting, purveyor of the city’s finest combed mustache, and with a vibe so straight out of Anchorman that I kept expecting him to kill a guy with a trident.
9. Blake may still get the honorific final pre-game introduction, but there’s little question that this team felt more like “Chris Paul’s team” than Blake’s these past two seasons. That makes sense. In fact, the combination of the league’s premier point guard and Del Negro’s laissez faire offensive philosophy probably made it inevitable. I expect this team will feel a little more balanced between the stars, both in terms of on-court play-making and off-court leadership. Doc made a point to emphasize how impressed he’s been with Blake’s work ethic and developing face-up game. Blake talked both about the team’s over-dependence on Chris late in games, and the work he put in over the summer in preparation of being a “go-to player down the stretch.” The post-mortem VDN scuttlebutt was that Blake and DJ were Vinny’s go-to practice whipping boys; Doc showed every indication of treating Blake more like the established star he is.
10. Rejoice CBLers! DJ will be playing in crunch time. Doc said it, Blake said it, Chris said it… Matt Barnes said it kind of like he’s been saying it and saying it: “I always thought we were a better team in the fourth quarter with DeAndre on the floor.” When Doc was asked if DJ’s free throw shooting might make him a stretch liability, he snapped back by asking the questioner if he knew what Shaq’s or Bill Russell’s career free throw percentages were. Touché.
11. Byron Mullens, Jared Dudley, and J.J. Redick shared the podium in what was easily my favorite group availability. Here are some highlights:
- a. Mullens on feeling welcome in L.A.: “Everyone’s made me feel like family here. DJ, and Blake, they invited me over to their houses. I went to the fair with DJ.” Wait. What? Tell us more, Byron. “I stayed away from the rides. They did talk me into going on the “Drop Zone.” And? “There were no farm animals… that’s one thing I do miss.” OK, then.
b. J.J. Redick on the new Clippers’ alternate jerseys, a light-blue with mesh sleeves: “I don’t think they look good on white people. And I get paler as the season goes on.” He was worried, he said, that the cameras might not be able to pick him up. “I’m gonna be a wash out on TV.”
c. Jared Dudley on same: “The sleeves are tight on shooters.”
d. J.J. Reddick on the “L.A. lifestyle:” “My wife is obviously excited to be moving to Los Angeles over a cold, Midwestern city… I’m glad I came to Los Angeles as a 29 year-old married man and not at 22.” Tell us more, J.J.
e. Mullens on his role: “My role is going to be a big role.” Tell us more, Byron.
f. Mullens on going into a season with championship expectations: “I was in Charlotte… and basically, everyone knows about that.” Uh huh.