Clippers hope preseason woes stay in rearview mirror

There’s a good thing about the preseason for the Clippers: it’s over.

The Clippers aren’t happy with their 2-6 record, which concluded on Friday with a 99-89 home loss to Portland. There are several areas of concern, such as being outrebounded again, but those losses are the most troubling.

The frustration of those eight games can be erased for the Clippers when the regular season starts Thursday against Oklahoma City.

"No secret we got a lot of work to do," Chris Paul said. "Luckily now we start at 0-0 and not 2-6. We’ve got to be ready to go … Obviously, we wish (our continuity) would’ve been a little smoother. Our offense definitely needs to get a little bit better. Our defense (too)."

Nothing promotes confidence like winning, and while preseason doesn’t count, it sure stung.  

"We went 2-6, and there’s no way we should’ve went 2-6 in preseason," DeAndre Jordan said. "I don’t care if it was limited minutes, guys hurt, whatever it might be. With the talent we have on this basketball team, the veterans, the leadership, we should’ve been better than what we were."

Jordan is the NBA’s reigning top rebounder for the Clippers, but the rest of the team has work to do. Rebounding is the top problem Doc Rivers is targeting to fix if the Clippers are to contend for the Western Conference title.

After Friday’s game, Rivers held a team meeting which he said he planned before the game started. He said several players talked.

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"We need to play better," Rivers said. "It wasn’t about the way we played in the preseason. It’s just about where we’re going. We talked about the 82 games and how hard it will be playing in the Western Conference. Every night will be a hard night. There will not be many easy nights. You have to be mentally prepared for it. This can be a historic Western Conference this year."

And the Clippers must find a way to rebound if they’re to be part of that power conference chatter. It’s been a point of contention all preseason and yet, the Clippers were outrebounded in every game.

"We’re not going to win if we don’t rebound better," Rivers said. "… Bill Russell ain’t coming through that door. We actually have a Bill Russell (in Jordan). We need people to join in. DJ has been fantastic."

Added backup center Spencer Hawes: "We have got to stop talking about it and start doing something about it … You want to be in a situation where we’re fighting each other over rebounds. That’s how aggressive (we want) everyone going at it."

Jamal Crawford was the only regular who didn’t play Friday. He was held out for precautionary reasons for what Rivers thought was a hamstring issue. Crawford just said he was a little "banged up." Rivers said had it been a regular season game, Crawford would’ve played.

Crawford, who won the NBA’s sixth man of the year award, is such a positive fixture coming off the bench, and the reserves have struggled to find a rhythm in the three preseason games in which he didn’t play.

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Blake Griffin has found his rhythm in the preseason. He’s shown off that improved jumper and shot 51 percent from the field.

"I have worked on (the jump shot), but at the same time, I’m not a guard," Griffin said. "I’ll be in the post still … I don’t want to fall in love with shooting jump shots."

The Clippers want to fall in love with the regular season, and hope they can regain the swagger they had that got them all the way to the second round of the Western Conference playoffs last year. They’re happy to put the preseason in the rearview mirror.

"I don’t think it will be too difficult of a switch. Preseason is its own thing," Griffin said. "You want to win games, but at the same time that shift comes, and it’s an automatic thing. Not necessarily automatic, you have to work toward it and have the right mindset. Hopefully, it won’t be an issue."

Injuries weren’t really an issue, and Glen Davis is expected to return, if not for the regular season opener then soon after.

After this week’s news of Steve Nash’s back injury that will sideline him for the season, the Clippers found a silver lining in their health.

"I think we got out of it healthy, knock on wood," Paul said with a smile. "Everybody will be ready to go Opening Night, so that’s big.