As the Clippers head out of a hectic few days that saw a major trade and match-ups against the two best teams in the league, let's take some time to look at a few of the minor details that might have not gotten the attention they deserved:
- The Clippers miss Austin Rivers. Love him or hate him, Austin serves an undeniable purpose on this team as the only backup guard who can give Chris Paul a break against the good, quick point guards who are everywhere in this league. Pablo Prigioni is crafty and brings stability to the offense when Paul sits, and Crawford is able to take some of the scoring and shot creation load off of Paul's shoulders, but Rivers is needed as well to take on defensive assignments and make Chris' life a little easier. Rivers is reportedly ahead of schedule as he recovers from a broken hand, and said on the 18th that he could be back within 10 days or two weeks--which would put him on schedule to return for the Clippers' big game on March 2nd against the Oklahoma City Thunder.
- The Clippers also signed Alex Stepheson to a 10-day contract yesterday, which means he'll be eligible to play in each of the Clippers' next four games--all against favorable opponents (vs Phoenix, vs Denver, @ Sacramento, vs Brooklyn). Hopefully he'll get a chance at some minutes so he can try to earn a second 10-day deal. The Clippers are looking at him as a potential third-string center for the stretch run. The 28-year old LA native has averaged 16 points and 14 rebounds a game in the D-League this year, but he's incredibly raw offensively--and a 49% free throw shooter. Last night against Golden State he got his first NBA action, pulling down a rebound and going +10 in just about 90 seconds played.
- Don't think that the two points above are unrelated--if Rivers was going to be out a while longer, the Clippers might have taken some looks at guards on 10-day deals instead of signing Stepheson.
- Jeff Green played poorly last night in his first game. I'm not going to blame him for coming in after one day and not knowing much of the offensive or defensive system, but I envision a far different role for him long-term than we saw on display against Golden State. Doc used some unusual lineups to combat Kerr's small-ball, and we didn't see much of Green with the Clippers starters' offense due to J.J. Redick's foul trouble. Hopefully in this next stretch against poor teams, Green can get into a rhythm--the Clippers need another contributor.
- Going off of original estimates, Blake's return from his broken hand could be as early as sometime in the next 2-3 weeks, around mid-March, but that's optimistic. We haven't received word that his quad injury is completely healed either. After he is cleared to play, Griffin will have to serve a four-game suspension. He could potentially miss the whole month and return in April without much time for him and the team to re-acquaint themselves on the court before playoff time. The adjustment as the team transitions back from playing with four perimeter players, and the sharp adjustment to Jeff Green's assimilation, could be somewhat troublesome, so it would be ideal for there to be a regular-season window to resolve any issues.
- I don't expect the Clippers to be big players in buyout season this year. They've already added Jeff Green to the roster, and Doc has plenty of players that he likes and trusts on the team. In years past, the Clippers have been searching for an upgraded starting small forward AND desperately needed depth--this year, they just acquired said forward at the deadline, and they have a cluster of players on the bench who have earned rotation spots. If the right name emerges, look for Doc to add a veteran and look for veterans to want to come here--but presently, names like Kevin Martin, David Lee, and J.J. Hickson don't look like good fits or upgrades over the Clippers' current players.