When the Los Angeles Clippers face the Utah Jazz in STAPLES Center tonight, they may have a few more bodies available. Or they may not. Given that this is the penultimate game of the pre-season and that opportunities to play together before the games actually count are dwindling fast, it would be a very good thing to get a look at the likes of J.J. Redick, Matt Barnes and Reggie Bullock. After all, none of them have played for the Clippers during the pre-season, and only Barnes has ever played for the team.
Redick and Bullock both returned to practice on Monday and Barnes practiced on Tuesday. All three are being called questionable for tonight's game. It's safe to say that coach Doc Rivers wants to get them on the court before the regular season starts -- he'll almost certainly play them either tonight or Friday night against the Kings, if not both.
Prior to Redick's return to practice there were entire sections of Rivers' playbook he had yet to implement with the team. There's not much point in working on sets designed to free a shooter running off a screen if you don't have the shooter available to take the shot. Having Redick back in practice gives the Clippers another weapon, and Rivers is more than ready to use that weapon.
And the Clippers need it. It's nice to know that Chris Paul can go for 40 points when he needs to, as he did against the Nuggets in Las Vegas on Saturday, but riding Paul for 42 minutes and 21 shots -- in pre-season no less -- is not something the Clippers want to be doing on a regular basis or they'll wear him down.
Paul and Darren Collison have scored well this pre-season, and Blake Griffin has been steady if unspectacular -- but beyond that the Clippers haven't really found a reliable source of offense. Jamal Crawford has had a few good games and will probably be fine in the regular season, but having another significant offensive threat in the starting lineup will be more than welcome once Redick returns. Likewise Barnes, though not a one on one scorer, should provide a scoring boost for the second unit with his activity and cuts to the basket. One imagines him scoring on the end of Collison passes as the two former Bruins dart around the court.
The Clippers have already beaten the Jazz handily once this pre-season and Utah has just one win followed by five straight losses. Already committed to a painful rebuilding year, the Jazz lost first round pick Trey Burke for a couple months when he broke his finger against the Clippers in the last meeting. With John Lucas III and Scott Machado playing point guard and only one starter left from last year's team, the Jazz are in for a very long year.