Clippers continue fine-tuning as opener nears
LOS ANGELES – There was an obvious sense of relief for the Clippers on Wednesday night at Staples Center.
Not that they came from behind to beat the Utah Jazz 103-99. It was that the game represented their second to last contest before the end of the preseason.
"Amen," coach Doc Rivers said.
The Clippers are ready, or as ready as a team can be before beginning the long six-month grind of the NBA's regular season.
"I'm excited," guard Chris Paul said. "One more game then I'm ready for them to start counting."
That will be Tuesday night at Staples when the Clippers open their season against the Lakers. The Clippers play their final preseason game Friday night at home against the Sacramento Kings.
"I don't know if we're ready," Rivers said, "but I'm ready to get going."
Wednesday's win marked the Clippers debut of shooting guard J.J. Redick, who missed most of training camp and the first six games because of a partially torn left quad muscle. Redick started and played almost 20 minutes but conceded he needs more conditioning.
Even so, he and Paul seemed to find a rhythm early, with Redick working around screens to receive passes from the Clippers point guard for open jumpers. He finished with 14 points but made just 4 of 12 shots.
"It felt good to play," Redick said. "It felt good to be part of the game. I have a little ways to go cardio-wise. Essentially being sedentary for two weeks definitely affected my cardio, but I'll get that back quick."
Paul had 14 points and 10 assists in 27 minutes.
"It felt good to have J.J. out there," Paul said. "It's tough after sitting out as long as he has been. Practice is one thing, but the game is tough. He's one of those guys, he doesn't make excuses. He pushed through. I told him he had to be dead tired, but it's good to see what it's going to look like a little bit."
No more banners
The Clippers played their second game with massive images of their players covering the Lakers' NBA championship banners and retired numbers. Rivers said the notion came to him last season when the Boston Celtics, the team he coached, were in the process of being routed by the Clippers.
"For me, (it happened) last year when the Clippers were blowing us out," he said. "I was sitting with Eddie Lacerte, our trainer in Boston, and he taps me on the leg and says, 'Look at that.'
"I wanted to look at anything at that point – we were literally down 30 points – and I look up and you see all the banners. And he said, 'Man, I would never have that.' I thought, wow, he's right."
When Rivers joined the Clippers, he wanted the banners covered. Management agreed.
So now Clippers fans can see images of Blake Griffin, Redick, DeAndre Jordan, Jared Dudley, Paul, Jamal Crawford and Matt Barnes. And no more championship signs draped on the wall.