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The Daily Clipper — Tauheed Epps Edition

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Clippers news might be a little slow at the moment, but we've got more than enough links to tide you over till gametime. Portland's secret to defensive success, Josh Smith, Jeff Green, and the Atlanta Hawks! Plus, Tity Boi and T-Pain!

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If you're lost and alone, and you're sinking like a stone... you need to follow Young Jeezy's 33 Steps to living the Good Life (and also because Shea Serrano might be the funniest person on the internet, next to Desus and Chuck C. Johnson). Let's get it!

Clippers

Doc Rivers was asked the other day about who on his roster might make the best coach someday. Click through, because the answer might surpr– ok, he picked Jamal Crawford and J.J. Redick. His rationale?

"There's no way they'd have the tolerance because they were so good," Rivers said. "Like Blake or D.J. or C.P., there's no way, because they see things that no one else could see and that would drive them nuts."

Rivers, who coached the Boston Celtics to a championship in 2008, said he thinks Crawford would make a good choice because of how he studies the game.

"His IQ and knowledge of the game is unbelievable," Rivers said. "I think he would be the guy who no one would think. And he has a great demeanor."

Doc also thinks one of the issues with the bench is the lack of pacing, and Spencer Hawes pointed out that poor defense often contributed to that:

"The second unit has no pace," Coach Doc Rivers said before Tuesday’s practice. "They don’t play with pace. The first unit, for the most part, tries. You keep working on it and trusting it. Pace is not running, it’s movement and quick actions."

"When we play the defense we’re supposed to, that can allow us to get out and run and play with pace and play with space," Hawes said. "When we’re not doing that, it puts a lot more pressure on our offense."

The loss of Darren Collison has definitely been felt by the Clippers. According to Redick, "The guy was an absolute warrior for us last year and was a big reason we won 57 games." His replacement hasn't been nearly as effective, bringing down the lofty reputation of backup point guards of recent memory. Maybe it's got something to do with his relationship with CP3?

Chris Paul said he had an active role in mentoring former Clippers' point guards Collison and Eric Bledsoe. "DC was like my rookie when he came in in New Orleans," Paul said. "Bled, I've known him since he was in high school."

Paul said that his relationship with backup point guard Jordan Farmar, however, is a bit different."Not so much mentoring him, I think we both try to help each other and tell each other what we see and stuff like that," Paul said.

Speaking of relationships, Matt Barnes is making the best of a bad situation in his. While he's still plagued off-the-court with his ongoing separation and taking care of his young twin sons, on the court he's able to escape that and just ball out.

How tough has it been to concentrate on being an NBA professional when you are going through the trials and tribulations of a separation and possible divorce? "Um ... very difficult," he said. "You know, especially when your ex is an attention seeker."

"I don’t know the off-the-court stuff, you know, I don’t want to get into that. But on the court, I think he’s playing extremely free," Rivers said during the recent homestand. "That’s what we need him to do."

The look on Barnes’ face when discussing the situation tells a story. There’s pain, yet strength. "I’m a father going through a situation, so I just thank my teammates and my coaches for really understanding what I’m going through and working with me through this. And knowing what I’m capable of and believing in me."

One thing’s certain, Barnes has learned a lot about himself during the ordeal. "Just that you’ve gotta stay mentally tough, man," he said. "Everybody goes through it. When I go through it or when we (pro athletes) go through it, it’s on a world stage, especially with my ex being a reality TV star. So just stay mentally strong, making sure my kids are always OK, first and foremost. And then when I have basketball, I have basketball. And then when basketball is done, I focus on the rest of the bull(bleep)."

NBA

The Secret to Limiting Threes and the Genius of the Portland Trail Blazers — Mika Honkasalo

Playing an ultraconservative style of pick-and-roll defense effectively limits the amount of help the Trail Blazers have to make every possession. What trickles down is that when the ball swings, their defenders have an easier angle and time staying in front of their man. The Blazers rank 29th in Helps per 100 Chances, just in front of the Pelicans, another name on the table above.

Playing a drop-down style of defense on pick-and-rolls doesn't guarantee success, of course. The Pelicans and the Celtics are in the bottom 10 (i.e., fewest) in both Helps per 100 Chances and Hedge%, yet they rank 25th and 13th in defensive efficiency, respectively. However, both are in the top 10 in fewest opponent three-pointers allowed, much like the Blazers were last season. And the Celtics being able to produce a top 10 mark with Jared Sullinger, Kelly Olynyk, and Tyler Zeller on the front line is a positive sign.

The Blazers defense represents a transformation: With the same roster sticking to a savvy system, you can build a great defense. Continuity is important not just offensively but defensively as well. Two of their top seven players in minutes are Chris Kaman and Steve Blake, neither a defensive savant, and Terry Stotts has yet to be given full credit for the job he has done.

The Curious Case of Josh Smith, the NBA's Most Unique Franchise Savior — Howard Beck

When it was suggested to Van Gundy that the clear pecking order in Houston helped clarify Smith's role, the coach replied, simply, "Correct."

"He was in a very successful situation in Atlanta," Van Gundy said, "and he's back in a similar situation now, where Houston can use his defense, his rebounding, his passing, his versatility. He doesn't have to carry the offensive load. And I think that's a better use of all of his skills."

Though Smith is branded as an analytics nightmare because of his shooting, Morey protests, "That's a misnomer," citing Smith's positive impact defensively and in other areas. "His three-pointers have been not the best in the league, but certainly something you can work with. And in the paint he's a really good player. And he can pass really, really well, which is another [plus]. ...And he can attack the paint, which we like. So there's a lot of things to his game that people have beat him up for and we think are underrated parts of his game."

Morey added, "We got him at a great time in his career. All he's worried about is winning."

Green Means Go: Why Memphis pulled the trigger on the Jeff Green trade — Matt Moore

Memphis didn't make this deal to rebuild. They did it to take their shot. Forget Green's value as a replacement player to what they gave up. They are attempting to do everything possible to win now because they have a window. Rebuilding projects are always hard. Sometimes it takes teams two or three different configurations to get the right combination to contend with. Memphis has one, and they are going all-in to win right now with a team that is very much good enough to do so.

Green is polarizing, which is really weird for a guy who is considered to be a quality teammate, has never had off-court issues, isn't full of braggadocio or smug, had to return from heart surgery and did so, and has never been depended on or thought of himself as the team's best player. But people feel very passionate about Jeff Green, mostly for the negative. His supporters like what he brings to the game, his every-once-in-a-while scoring adventures, his athletic gifts, his patience, and how smooth his game is.

His detractors obsess over his pitiful rebound rate, the fact that if you were to invent a basketball encyclopedia, his picture would be next to the term "tweener," and that he's not "good" in any one given area. Not a great defender, but a good one. Not a good rebounder. Not a gifted playmaker. Not a good shooter. A stretch four who doesn't stretch, an oversized three without a post game.

But here's the deal. Memphis wasn't trading for any surefire wing upgrades. They're not moving Prince and Pondexter along with a protected first for James Harden, or Klay Thompson, or even Tobias Harris. They had to find a player for a team willing to give him up, who has the ability to do what they need, and that wouldn't cost them any key pieces of what is already a stellar team.

There are always "ifs" attached to trades. If Prince had been able to knock down corner threes, he'd still be a huge part of what Memphis does. If Dwight Howard had gotten along with Kobe Bryant, he'd probably still be a Laker. That's a necessary component, there are no sure things when you take a player out of one environment and put him in another.

The Real MVP of the Atlanta Hawks — Evans Clinchy

First, a brief peek behind the curtain – every day at Hardwood Paroxysm, a group of us writers engage in an extensive "reply all"-style email conversation that consists of dozens of people chaotically firing off thoughts about a wide range of different topics, some basketballish and some not. Subject matters of people’s messages range from their latest NBA theories to their writing ideas to various other things going on in their jobs and relationships and lives. It can get weird.

Me being on the West Coast, I often check my email around 8 a.m. my time, 11 Eastern, by which time there’s typically about a dozen or so missives from my cohorts already in my inbox. And anyway, one day last week, I woke up and logged into my Gmail and found a little nugget from a fellow writer who shall remain anonymous, except I’ll reveal that he’s from the Atlanta area and his name rhymes with "Cho Burney." The topic of his email was simple and straight to the point: He believed that Jeff Teague, point guard and leading scorer of the red-hot Atlanta Hawks, was a darkhorse candidate for Most Valuable Player honors in the National Basketball Association this season.

This enraged me. I attacked this position quickly and violently, and my messages were often filled with capital letters and exclamation points.

Using Kevin Love, The League’s Most Perplexing And Divisive Weapon — Seth Partnow

This system already goes against Love’s strengths. Never the fleetest, Love has be noticeably ponderous this year, possibly as a result of the back issues which have forced him to occasionally miss time. Certainly, he is not as adept in a system requiring a post player to run multiple pick-and-rolls per possessions, preferring to spot up or fade to the arc after setting ballscreens. It’s not by mistake that the Cavaliers’ offense looked at its best when the quicker (and, importantly, more agile) Anderson Varejao was healthy. So while it seems a waste to relegate him to the role of spot up shooter, that is often where Love found himself.

The Craft: Rise of Andre Drummond — Rob Mahoney

Every little quirk in timing and technique helps. Given that Drummond is so massive and so quick, opponents will be inclined to overplay his every move to compensate. There's potential for Drummond to take advantage of that dynamic with footwork and trickery, though he's very clearly not to the point in his development where he can do so consistently. The confidence is there, as is a fluidity from the block new to Drummond's game. The endorsement of Stan Van Gundy, too, is invaluable. Drummond simply isn't yet hitting a high enough percentage on his hook shots to make his work from the block a more threatening endeavor.

Which, in a sense, feeds into the fact that what makes Drummond's future so daunting for other teams around the league is his obvious incompletion. Drummond is working, bit by bit, to resolve the holes in his game. Yet already he creates profound advantage by way of basic skill and productive instinct. How far might a steadier post game take Drummond? What might a bit more balance do for one of the brightest young bigs in the league and, in turn, the Pistons?

Utah’s Smart Approach to Offensive Boards — Ben Dowsett

The Jazz's length is often too much for opponents, particularly when Gobert is on the floor, and they supplement it with long, reflexive guys across the rotation who know that a tip or deflection can often be enough to cause an offensive board even if they can't get two hands on it.

But what's crafty about their prowess here is the method to their attack. Utah is just 22nd in the NBA for OReb Pursuit Rate, or the percentage of reboundable opportunities where a player moves out of his area chasing the board, at 48.79 percent—a curiously low figure for a team that can be so successful on the offensive glass. On the flip side, Utah is 2nd in OBlockouts per 100 Opportunities at 3.67, trailing only Portland. This distinction is of particular importance. Utah coach Quin Snyder has made transition defense a huge priority in his first year at the helm and knows full well that irresponsibly chasing unlikely offensive boards can lead to opposing numbers advantages on the other end when the gamble fails to pay off.

As a result, Snyder's group, and especially his bigs, are selective with their aggression. They'll pursue when they've got good position, especially when given a chance to actively box out a potential defensive rebounder, but will mostly back off if chasing the board requires jumping themselves out of position or leaving their transition defense at a deficit.

Other

2 Chainz went on air to defend marijuana legalization v. Nancy Grace (who referred to him on national TV as Tity Boi). There's really no winning against her brand of hyper-Baylessian debate, but he acquitted himself extremely well. It's worth watching just for the laughs.

Also, T-Pain put out a new song — Say the Word (I'm Gone), which you might want to find a couple of onions for to mask your tears. If you didn't already, go listen to his last song Stoicville, which was lowkey one of the best songs of 2014.

I can't follow that up. That's it for today.