When the Los Angeles Clippers parted ways with Trey Thompkins yesterday, a player they had kept around for almost two full seasons in the hopes that he might one day develop into a viable stretch four, it seemed to indicate that they were planning to use that roster spot to sign someone else.
It didn't take long to find out who that someone else was.
With several days off available for practice time and several players banged up and unavailable to practice, the Clippers have brought in small forward DaJuan Summers on a 10 day contract from the D-League. Summers was a high second round pick, 35th overall, by Detroit in the 2009 draft and stuck around with the Pistons a couple of seasons. He spent part of last year with the Hornets, and was one of the last cuts of the Bobcats during the pre-season this year. He has been playing in the D-League with the Maine Red Claws.
At first glance it seems strange to bring in a small forward, a position where the Clippers go three deep with quality players in Caron Butler, Matt Barnes and Grant Hill, and where they will sometimes play Jamal Crawford in smaller lineups. But with Butler currently nursing a sore elbow and the team forever cautious of Hill's 40-year-old knees, I'm guessing this is first and foremost a practice gym signing. It allows coach Vinny Del Negro to hold Butler and Hill out of the most intense portions of practice and still go full speed with full teams.
Summers is having a good season in the D-League, where he's averaging 18 points and 7.6 rebounds. A decent three point shooter in a small sample size with the Pistons, he's currently in a horrendous slump from beyond the arc, having made just 9 of his last 46 three point attempts. Those rebound numbers in Maine are impressive for a three, but it should be noted that he was far below that level in his NBA career, averaging just 3.5 boards per 36 minutes.
It's not likely that Summers will see anything other than garbage time for the Clippers -- he may not even make it onto the active roster, as the notoriously tough Butler reportedly wanted to play on Wednesday but was held back. For the Clippers, he's an insurance policy, a healthy body while they have some extra time in Playa Vista, and a sneak peek at a prospect, bearing in mind that Barnes will be a free agent and Hill is likely to retire after this season. Whether the Clippers decide to splurge and keep Summers and their other 10 day contractor point guard Malik Wayns for the playoffs remains to be seen.