PLAYA VISTA It was said when the Clippers signed free agent big men Byron Mullens and Antawn Jamison that the reserve duo would help open up the floor for play-making guards like Chris Paul, Jamal Crawford and Darren Collison.
Through two weeks of practice, one preseason game and Wednesday's open scrimmage, there have already been obvious benefits to Mullens and Jamison being on the court together.
"They stretch the court," Chris Paul said prior to Thursday's practice. "It has to leave the lane open, because if not those guys can shoot it they can shoot it better than a lot of guards. I think it gives us that balance of having two big guys in Blake [Griffin] and DeAndre [Jordan] with Mullens and [Jamison] in."
Jamison, who throughout his career has been known as one of the most versatile scorer's in the league, has made at least 84 3-pointers in the past four seasons, while Mullens has proven more than willing to step out beyond the arc as a 7-foot center.
Both reserve big men made 3-pointers in Portland on Monday and Jamison hit two in Wednesday's scrimmage. On one play, Mullens after receiving a kick out from Darren Collison used a ball fake to get his closing defender in the air and dribbled into an easy
20-footer from straightaway. It was one example of the pressure a so-called stretch big man can put on a defense.
Clippers head coach Doc Rivers was asked how many shots Mullens must make from the perimeter in a game to cause an opponent to view him as "credible."
"I don't think you have to be that credible, even though I think he is," Rivers said. "His percentage has not been very credible, but I think that's more shot selection because he can really shoot the basketball."
Mullens shot 28.4 percent on above the break 3-pointers last season, but Rivers thinks that will change within the context of the Clippers' offense.
GRIFFIN (KNEE) SITS OUT PRACTICE
"I think if you can make one in a game, then you've become credible immediately," he added. "I really believe that. He will be a credible 3-point shooter by the end of this year. It's important for us that he becomes that because I think the three is good for us and I think it's really good at that position because most defenses have their five in a soft position in pick and rolls and you can't be in a soft position in pick and rolls if that big is popping. So, that's what we want to create."
Paul and Collison have talked about the space Mullens and Jamison help create as well as fellow 3-point threats J.J. Redick and Jared Dudley, but the relationship is reciprocal. For every inch of space the fleet guards gain, the shooters are earning more and more open looks.
"If I'm doing a pick-and-roll with Darren as the ball-handler, what do you do [as a defender]?" Jamison asked. "Having such a great one-on-one player come off [the screen] and my man doesn't help, I'm setting the screen so he's downhill. If he does help, I'm popping. It's a luxury."