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Clippings: The Clippers need to make quicker decisions on offense

Overdribbling has cost the Clippers early in the season.

NBA: Cleveland Cavaliers at Los Angeles Clippers Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

One of the memorable anecdotes to come out of Clippers training camp was Ty Lue pulling Luke Kennard after he failed to take an open shot, and then making a point to tell the team what exactly Kennard did wrong.

Lue did that to remind Kennard that he has to be more aggressive in hunting his shot; if a good look is available, he needs to take it. It’s a conversation that dates back to last season, and it’s a topic that is newly relevant for Clippers other than Kennard. The second-year Clipper may have gotten more comfortable attacking quickly — 83 percent of his shots this season have come after one dribble or less — but over-dribbling is a phenomenon that has now afflicted his teammates.

“I thought the flow was nasty for us offensively, I thought we did a lot of over dribbling,” Lue said after the team’s loss to Cleveland. “We didn’t do a good job of sharing the basketball and making the right play. I thought we over-dribbled a lot.”

The Clippers should be passing the ball more in the absence of Kawhi Leonard, using ball and player movement to compensate for the drop in talent when Leonard isn’t playing. Instead, they’re trying to do too much one-on-one creation, thus dribbling the air out of the ball instead of working together to create better shots.

Nicolas Batum picked up on that trend in the team’s first two games, so much so that when he was inserted into the starting lineup against Portland, he made a deliberate attempt to only pass and not shoot in order to generate more flow.

“We had big leads, we were up 10 against Golden State and up 13 against Memphis and we stopped moving the ball, start playing one-on-one, that’s how I think we lost the first two games,” Batum said Wednesday. “That’s why by myself I took only two shots, because I try to overplay maybe too much, and because we needed that, we needed to make the ball moving.... I may overdo it, for sure, clearly, but that’s what we you need to do.”

The Clippers struck the right rhythm on offense against the Blazers, assisting on 37 of 44 made baskets. But in their three losses, they have assisted on 56.9 percent of their field goals, lower than the team’s assist rate in 2020-21, when the Clippers were already an isolation-heavy team thanks to Leonard.

Extra dribbling isn’t going to help the team’s shooting percentages, either. Field-goal percentages tend to decrease as the number of dribbles increase, and for a team that has gone cold to start the season, Lue would prefer they attempt more catch-and-shoots rather than jumpers off the dribble.

Offense is down to start the season, but the Clippers’ offensive rating is down 14 points per 100 possessions from where it was a year ago. Perhaps a little more movement, and a little less dribbling, can help get the Clippers back on track. The offense certainly can’t get much worse.

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