Butler pressed into larger role with Clippers

When the Clippers lost guard Chauncey Billups for the season with an Achilles’ tendon injury, the team knew they’d miss his leadership in the locker room and on the court. But what the Clippers weren’t prepared for, though, was the effect it would have on other players.

Forward Caron Butler got off to a hot start this season, hitting open jump shots on the weak side of the offense, but without Billups playing, he’s become more of a focal point.

“We need him to score, and we need to get him the ball in areas where he can be effective,” head coach Vinny Del Negro said. “He’s so important to the overall success of the team. When he plays at a high level on both ends of the court, there’s no question that we’re a different team.”

Butler had been living in the corner of the court, hitting open jumpers as they came. But in February, his scoring dipped almost five points a game, and Tuesday, he was just 1-of-10.

Still, Butler knows his role on the team.

“I have to just do a great job of playing of off Chris (Paul) and Blake (Griffin),” Butler said. “Those guys, right now, it’s their time. They’re in the prime of their careers and doing great things. I just look at it as an opportunity. I have an opportunity to capitalize and finish plays from the weak side.”

NOTES, QUOTES

   –The Clippers’ bench doesn’t have a lot of scoring depth, and when Mo Williams isn’t scoring, the team isn’t going to get it from somewhere else.

Williams scored eight of the Clippers’11 bench points in the team’s 12-point loss to Minnesota Tuesday at Staples Center.

Minnesota’s bench, led by Derrick Williams and Michael Beasley, scored 72 points.

“We need everybody,” Clippers head coach Vinny Del Negro said.

Williams, who continued his struggles from the floor, though, won’t be given the red light anytime soon.

“We need him to score the ball,” Del Negro said. “That’s what he can do and it’s his role. I don’t worry about his shooting too much. Mo will find his shot. I’m not worried about it.”

   –The Clippers signed veteran swingman Bobby Simmons to a 10-day contract Monday. Tuesday against Minnesota, Simmons played 17 minutes, but he didn’t score.

QUOTE TO NOTE: “We were taking the ball out of the net the whole time. We couldn’t get a stop.” — Clippers guard Chris Paul, on the team’s defensive struggles in the fourth quarter. Minnesota scored 36 points in the final quarter of their 109-97 win over the Clippers.

ROSTER REPORT
PLAYER NOTES:

   –F Blake Griffin had 18 points in the first quarter, one off the team-high for a quarter this season. Griffin finished with 30 points.
   –G Chris Paul finished with 27 points. Paul also dished out six assists in the loss.
   –C DeAndre Jordan scored 14 points and grabbed 14 rebounds Tuesday. Jordan also blocked four shots.
   –F Caron Butler struggled, shooting just 1-of-10 from the field. Butler finished with just two points in 28:45.

MEDICAL WATCH:
   –G Chauncey Billups (left Achilles’ tendon) underwent surgery in mid-February to repair his Achilles’ tendon. Billups is out for the remainder of the season.
   –F Kenyon Martin (bruised rib, back spasms) played over 16 minutes Tuesday in the Clippers’ loss to Minnesota. Coach Vinny Del Negro said the team would continue to monitor his minutes.

ROTATION:
   Starters:
   –Point guard Chris Paul
   –Shooting guard Randy Foye   
   –Small forward Caron Butler  
   –Power forward Blake Griffin
   –Center DeAndre Jordan
   Bench:
   –Guard Mo Williams
   –Forward Bobby Simmons
   –Forward Kenyon Martin
   –Forward Reggie Evans
   –Guard Eric Bledsoe
   –Forward Trey Thompkins
   –Forward Brian Cook