The Los Angeles Clippers had their Media Day on Friday at the team training facility before taking off for training camp at UC Irvine:
Some things to know going into training camp:
– PG Chris Paul is 30 years old now, and he is entering his 11th NBA season. He played in all 82 games for the first time in his career last season, and he’s never averaged fewer than 33 minutes per game. It sounds like head coach Doc Rivers wants that number to come down, and Paul is a poor bet to appear in all 82 games this season.
– Rivers also made it a point to refer to the positional versatility of the roster, saying that teams shouldn’t be able to figure out who is playing what position at times. “We can stay big if we want to,” Rivers said. “And we can go small if we want to.”
– Injuries are the expectation in the NBA, no matter what. Everyone feels sorry for players when they go down, but the reality is, every team needs to be prepared. To the Clippers’ credit, they have done well managing extended absences from PF Blake Griffin last year (15 missed games) and Paul the year before (20 missed games). That said, Rivers mentioned the potential for injuries as another reason why the Clippers went after the players that they signed this offseason.
– The first game against the Dallas Mavericks can’t come (and go) soon enough. It’s clear that Rivers, C DeAndre Jordan, Paul and Griffin are over that whole situation. Jordan even had to remind people, “I’m not from Dallas, I’m from Houston.”
– Jordan and Griffin did address the reported tension on the court. They downplayed it, of course, but they also tempered expectations that whatever observers saw in previous seasons won’t exactly be curtailed just because people talk. “There are times where we bump heads on the court,” Jordan said. “Five minutes later, it’s all good.”
– Griffin also acknowledged that, while the team is deeper, they will have a lot of work to do to in order to optimally perform. There are a lot of moving parts at work with the roster, and it’s foolhardy to think that it will be a smooth start initially.
– SGs J.J. Redick and Jamal Crawford seem to have the most urgency of anyone on the roster. Redick is still lamenting about the way the last two seasons have ended: “You don’t know how long your window is open … to squander opportunities is very frustrating.” Crawford mentioned his time in New York (the Knicks’ nadir period) when discussing the rumors regarding his roster status, and he suggested that he’s fine with how things went this summer with the team.
– Speaking of communication, it’s all SF Paul Pierce, Redick and Crawford talked about. These guys aren’t here to sugarcoat, obviously.
– PF Josh Smith, entering his 12th NBA season, said this is the deepest team he’s been on. Of course, anyone who saw Smoove’s Atlanta Hawks teams get bounced by mid-May for six straight years knows the bar isn’t set that high. But it’s still a notable comment coming from a player who had a big part in ending his new team’s season last year.
– At least Smith’s teams have made the playoffs. SF Wesley Johnson has never been on a team that won more than 27 games. But he may be starting for this Clippers team, depending on how October goes.
– This may not mean much, but PG Austin Rivers was on with Smith, while SF Lance Stephenson was paired up with C Cole Aldrich. If you’re looking for an initial pecking order in the rotation, it looks like Young Rivers has a head start on Born Ready going into camp.
– PG Pablo Prigioni is the oldest player on the team at 38 years old. He’s like the Argentine Andre Miller.
– Even the Clippers’ training camp invitees are old(er). 2002 lottery throwback PF Nikoloz Tskitishvili, who hasn’t played in the NBA since the 2006 playoffs, is 32 years old now. (He did have a 52-point game playing in Lebanon in January.) PF Luc Mbah a Moute is 29, and he actually started 61 games for the 76ers last season. We discussed 32-year-old PF Chuck Hayes last month. It will be interesting to see what these guys look like.
– On the flipside, 2nd-year SG C.J. Wilcox and rookie PF Branden Dawson shouldn’t be considered locks to make the team. They’re on the bottom of the totem pole, and they can’t be quiet. That said, there could be a place for both. Wilcox must shoot the ball well, and Dawson just has to replicate his Summer League production, where he was a double-double machine.
– The Clippers will be at UC Irvine until September 30. They get a head start on camp due to their trip to China next month with the Charlotte Hornets. The Boston Celtics (Europe) and Orlando Magic (Brazil) also had Media Day Friday due to international preseason trips. The Clippers open the preseason at Staples Center against the Denver Nuggets on Friday, October 2.