No Paul, no problem: Collison filling in nicely

PLAYA VISTA, Calif. — No one is marking the days off on a calendar or wringing their hands with worry over the absence of Chris Paul. At the Clippers’ training facility, everyone is marching forward.

Four games have come and gone since Paul suffered a separated right shoulder and the Clippers are 3-1. In some ways, it’s a testament to the ability of backup Darren Collison to seamlessly blend in with the starting unit.

Collison understands he’s just a placeholder for Paul, but as the team’s fill-in point guard, he has upped his scoring and kept his strong defensive presence, both of which have the approval of coach Doc Rivers.

"It’s been good," Rivers said Monday. "We have other guys that can pass, and D.C.’s doing a good job moving the ball as well. He’s different. He can put ball pressure for the entire time on the floor. That makes us a different and in some ways better defensively up the floor. You just adjust."

The Clippers are constantly adjusting. They lost Paul for six weeks but got back shooting guard J.J. Redick, who returned to the team Saturday night after missing 21 games because of a broken right hand and a torn ligament.

All of that has meant changes for Collison, who became a member of the starting unit and now is working with Redick in the backcourt. But his approach is all about simplicity.

"I just try to keep it simple, just play my game, and whatever happens after that happens," he said. "I know I’m a good defender, so as long as I continue to play defense and be the head of our defense, anything can happen after that.

"It’s pretty simple. Just play your game and play off one another."

Collison’s contributions have been on the offensive side as well. He’s shooting 67 percent in the new year, and the Clippers are 5-1 in that time. He has made 30 of his past 41 shots from two-point range and is making up for some of Paul’s scoring punch.

Part of the reason is that opposing defenses are focusing on Redick and Blake Griffin, which means Collison is getting open looks at the basket. And he’s making his shots.

"You’ve just got to continue to pick and choose your spots," he said. "Those shots are going to come. For me, as a point guard, it’s making sure other guys get touches. I know I can get my touches, so for me, it’s not forcing the issue but just playing within the game and playing within the system."

And it’s working quite well.

"Darren’s playing very well," Redick said. "Even before Chris got hurt, you could tell Darren was starting to feel more and more comfortable shooting the basketball, attacking defensively, all those areas. I’m not surprised in Chris’ absence that Darren has really stepped up."

Collison said it’s not as if Paul has disappeared. He’s still on the bench, sitting next to the coaches and offering advices in ample doses.

"He’s still a coach," he said. "He’s a coach on the floor, he’s a coach off the floor. When he’s on the bench, he’s still seeing things and telling us what’s real helpful. Chris is always going to be Chris. I’m thankful to be in that position to have him by my side."

On the road again

Rivers said he doesn’t ever remember a road trip longer than five games in his playing or coaching career, but starting Friday the Clippers will begin their second seven-game, two-week trip of the season. They’ll make stops in New York, Indiana, Detroit, Charlotte, Chicago, Toronto and Milwaukee before returning home Jan. 29.

Surprisingly, Rivers said he had no issues with the first long stretch away from home, which came in early December.

"I actually liked the trip. I liked the seven games," he said. "I don’t know why, I just did. It’s a good team builder. You’re out there all by yourself and there are some positive things you can take out of that, and I didn’t know that before."

Feeling better

Redick said his right wrist felt fine after he scored 19 points in 23 minutes against the Lakers in a 123-87 Clippers win.

He’s still putting ice on his wrist and working through some residual soreness, but it’s nothing that concerns him.

"The wrist feels good," he said. Then, joking, he added, "Any soreness that I have is in the shoulder. Fifteen shots in 24 minutes, that’s getting them up."