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pageC4
Post Subject: Clippers Understand Roles, Expectations Post ID: 431299by pageC4 » Jan 21, 2014 - 09:19 AM PST
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Clippers understand roles, expectations


By Arash Markazi

DETROIT -- There was a familiar sight on the Los Angeles Clippers' sideline and in their locker room before and after Monday's game against the Detroit Pistons.

During the national anthem and shortly after the game, Chauncey Billups, wearing a designer suit, was standing amongst the Clippers' players and coaches, catching up with his former teammates.

It was a familiar sight, but thankfully for the Clippers, it was an image that is now in their rearview mirror.

As respected as Billups is, the truth is his presence and stranglehold on the starting shooting guard position (whenever he was able to play, that is) was never a solid long-term plan for a team that is trying to contend for the next five years.

That's not to say the Clippers failed to get out of the first or second round of the playoffs the past two seasons because of Billups, but the Clippers' insistence on depending on a 37-year-old guard who hadn't played more than 22 games in a season for a team since 2011 was always a recipe for disaster.

Billups started just 22 games for the Clippers last season after returning from a ruptured Achilles tendon. He started just 20 games the previous season before suffering the injury. Instead of moving on, the Clippers continued to wait for Billups to return to the player he was before the injury, which was never going to happen.

Injuries happen, that's part of basketball. No one knows that better than the Clippers, who are in the midst of playing without Chris Paul for six weeks after playing without J.J. Redick for six weeks, but that's different than helplessly waiting around on a player who should have retired and was never going to return to All-Star form.

The Clippers don't have a Billups problem on their hands this season. They knew Redick would return to form when he came back and Paul will eventually return to form when he comes back. They also aren't depending on veterans who are past their prime -- like Grant Hill -- to contribute off the bench. As good as Billups and Hill might have been in the locker room, the truth is both should have retired before last season instead of being counted on as key players on a contending team.

When Doc Rivers came to Los Angeles, one of his first moves was to get a prototypical shooting guard who could, well, shoot, unlike Billups, who was a true point guard and shot less than 40 percent from the field with the Clippers. The Clippers made a trade and added Redick, who is shooting better than 45 percent from the field this season, and Jared Dudley, who replaced Caron Butler, another aging veteran on the Clippers who was well past his prime.

"It's always nice to have a shooter who can move because it gives you a different kind of offense," Rivers said. "It also helps both bigs be able to play on the floor more."

Dealing with his players' roles and expectations has always been one of Rivers' better traits as a coach. It's the ability to tell Antawn Jamison, who was upset with his diminished role last season with the Los Angeles Lakers, that he wanted him to come to the Clippers not to be a major contributor but rather be a leader in the locker room. The ability to tell Willie Green, who started 60 games last season in place of Billups, that he wanted him to be part of the team as well but not as a starter.

It's a big reason Jamison and Green are two of the leaders in the Clippers' locker room despite rarely getting on the court. That's a big difference from Billups and Hill's roles last season when both were not only leaders in the locker room but depended on to contribute on the court when they simply couldn't.

"It is hard but in the veterans' case they knew what they were getting when they came here," Rivers said. "It's still no fun. Everybody wants to play. You grew up playing basketball to play basketball, not to watch basketball. I don't think that ever changes. I don't care what age you are.

"It's good to have a guy giving them positive information and not worrying about his playing time. A lot of the time you have veterans on the bench who are not happy about not playing and they don't handle it well. Fortunately for us, our guys have been great. Willie Green and Antawn have been absolutely tremendous in that way."

Green is 32 and has been in the NBA for 10 seasons while Jamison is 37 and has played 15 seasons. In their combined 25 seasons, the one common denominator between both players is neither has won a ring and that's why they are more than happy being the role of locker room veterans on the team who rarely see the court. In fact, neither saw the floor against Detroit on Monday and haven't played in the Clippers' past four games.

"My biggest thing is the overall picture," Jamison said. "The main reason I wanted to come here was to win. By me talking to DeAndre [Jordan], Blake [Griffin] and [Jared] Dudley when stuff is going on, I can let them see what I see and try to ease their mind a little bit and those guys are very receptive of what I have to say. They really take heed to it and that's the biggest thing I can contribute."

It hasn't always been easy for Green, who was a starter for the majority of last season for the Clippers, including during their franchise-record 17-game winning streak and was quickly pulled as soon as Billups was healthy enough to play.

"I respect my teammates and when I'm not playing, I'm not one of those guys that's moping and pouting and mad at the word," Green said. "I want my teammates to do well. I want to be out there with them and try to help them get that win but if not, I'm going to cheer them on and help them on and be ready. I've been in this league long enough to know that things happen and when they do, you got to be ready to step up."

Rivers made sure every player on the team from the stars to the reserves understood their roles before the season started. He met with each one individually and did the same with players he has added during the season, such as Hedo Turkoglu, who was signed last week. He knows he has a young team but they are all bound by one common goal and one simple fact -- none of them has won an NBA championship.

"The stars are going to be the stars," Rivers said. "The role players, we got to get them to be stars in their role. I think the sell of that is important. The veterans are over themselves. They're done with themselves. They've already had their day. They're not trying to establish anything. They're hungry and desperate to win. Young guys all say they want to win but they want their day and they really want to establish that. It takes time. With a young team, you have to convince them if you win, you will get your day." http://espn.go.com/blog/los-angeles/clippers/print?id=5770&imagesPrint =off



                
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WinningBasket
Post Subject: RE: Clippers Understand Roles, Expectations Post ID: 431304by WinningBasket » Jan 21, 2014 - 10:31 AM PST
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What a great article. Says a lot about Jamison and Willie's high character and respected veteran presence which is an asset to this team. Doc knows how to motivate his players and buy into his system and philosophy. Thanks for posting!

                
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cleepers
Post Subject: RE: Clippers Understand Roles, Expectations Post ID: 431305by cleepers » Jan 21, 2014 - 10:43 AM PST
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One of Markazi's better efforts.

Glad he brought up the Chauncey/stranglehold thing. It seems that once a player reaches a certain status in the league, the media refuses to say anything negative about them. As if the argument, "But dude, he was finals MVP" is a bulletproof coat.

Chauncey should never have started after he went down the first time. Unfortunately, with Vinny being a young, inexperienced coach, CP3's contract situation and his relationship with his "big brother" plus Vinny's own lack of job security, he was damned if he did, damned if he didn't - so he took the safe route and started Chauncey and it cost us.

(rock) Vinny (hard place)

Now that we have Doc, and CP3 is locked up, we should be seeing coaching decisions that are made with only coaching in mind.

                
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Icecoldclipper
Post ID: 431387by Icecoldclipper » Jan 22, 2014 - 09:44 AM PST
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Great points in the best case scenario Willie should of stayed the starter.

                
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pageC4
Post ID: 431390by pageC4 » Jan 22, 2014 - 10:23 AM PST
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Will was real hot at the end of the season, and Chauncey was barely coming back from sitting out due to injury. The decision to start Chauncey over Willie last year will go down as one of the decisions that possibly cost Vinny his job. Vinny made a call and as you correctly pointed out it was influenced by fear of upsetting Paul and possibly both costing Vinny his job. I have no doubt that starting Chauncey over Willie that year was the wrong call, but Vinny may not have made it because he thought Chauncey was the better choice. I suspect that he did have all those factors in his mind and used them to make his decision. I can see this scenario happening again to be honest with you. Only this time I have a hunch it will involve Jared Dudley. I think there will be a controversy over who to start at the SF come playoff time. Doc will be judged depending on what decision he makes and like Vinny he will go through the same criticism if he makes the wrong call...it lets you know the difficulty of being a coach.

                
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cleepers
Post Subject: RE: Clippers Understand Roles, Expectations Post ID: 431392by cleepers » Jan 22, 2014 - 10:42 AM PST
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^ Except that Doc will keep his job and the Clippers will keep CP3 no matter what.

Don't get me wrong, I'm glad things shook out the way they did. I've always touted Doc as being just a rung below Pop on the coaching ladder and I'm thrilled we got him, but if Vinny had benched Chauncey and we'd lost in the first round (or even in the second) he would have been canned. He opted to start Chauncey... and he was canned.

The deciding factor was CP3's comfort level in having his big brother alongside him in the backcourt, and of course he ended up re-signing. To my mind, Vinny took a bullet for the team. Maybe a bullet that had his name on it anyway, but his decision helped us retain Chris Paul.

Our small-forward dilemma is far easier for any coach to navigate. People may have their opinions on who is better, but there's not much in it. The gulf between a former finals MVP and a career bench player looks a LOT wider (on paper at least) than between two role-players. Plus, the ring on Doc's hand immediately gives him a "coach knows best" reputation. He may get a little criticism here and there if we don't perform well, but NOBODY in the media will dare suggest firing him for fear of being laughed out of their profession.

                
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pageC4
Post ID: 431396by pageC4 » Jan 22, 2014 - 11:33 AM PST
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that is the key difference. Luckily, Doc inherited a better situation than what Vinny had. CP3 is signed and Doc just started his contract. Vinny was in the last year of his contract and Paul was due to make a decision. perhaps the cards were just stacked against Vinny. But either way all those events led to this current roster and coaching staff, which I'm very excited about. still despite the stakes not being as high for Doc as they were for Vinny he will get criticism too. Coaching, even when done by the best, requires prompt decisions and these don't always work out in your favor. People won't call for Doc's firing, but he will get criticism, and in some ways he is more responsible for the direction of this team than Vinny was. Doc has had a lot of input on player acquisition, maybe more so than Vinny did.

                
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cleepers
Post Subject: RE: Clippers Understand Roles, Expectations Post ID: 431399by cleepers » Jan 22, 2014 - 11:57 AM PST
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^ Yeah, I'm hoping that Doc is that "next level" coach that everybody says that Vinny wasn't. He may not have all the right tools in his kit yet (roster-wise), but he has the security and freedom of decision-making that Vinny could only dream of.

Regardless of what happens from here on, I think Vinny should be remembered well by Clipper nation. He presided over the best regular season in franchise history, won a game 7 on the road against all odds, did everything he could to retain our biggest acquisition ever... AND swept the lakers.

He did great things for this ball club, initiating our journey from cellar-dwellers to respectability. He deserves us fans' gratitude and respect, and a special place in franchise history.

                
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pageC4
Post ID: 431403by pageC4 » Jan 22, 2014 - 12:12 PM PST
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great way to put it. Specifically the 4-0 record over the Lakers. That will go down as one of my favorite contributions from Vinny. I always have a appreciation for former Clipper players and coaches. even though I was in agreement for the firing of Dunleavy and Del Negro they each helped get the squad what it has today. Dunleavy in particular did a lot of good for this club. It was his decision to get Jordan and Griffin. Drafting Blake was not as easy a decision as people made it to be. At the time we were stacked at the PF position because Zach Randolph was our starter. Our greater need was to draft a point guard to take over a dissapointing season by Baron Davis. But Dunleavy makes the right call and shipped Zach out...that was a tough call to make because Zach was a 20-10 player and to this day remembers being shipped out by us to make way for Blake. that must have been a hard decision to make, but he made the right call

                
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