Danny Granger signing proves Doc’s a risk taker, Clippers top destination

Forward Danny Granger joins the Clippers with the postseason around the corner.

Brian Spurlock

PLAYA VISTA, Calif. — Danny Granger may or may not be the answer to the Clippers’ prayers at small forward, but his official signing by the team on Friday is especially noteworthy for two reasons.

It confirms that coach Doc Rivers, who is also the team’s senior vice president of basketball operations, isn’t afraid to mix and match players this late in the season, even if it means risking chemistry and flow.

It proves that Los Angeles is still a prime destination among NBA free agents, but not because of the Lakers.

"The whole concept and idea of the Clippers has completely changed," Blake Griffin said Friday. "I don’t think people look at it nearly the same way. So why shouldn’t this be one of the best destinations?"

It is, and the proof became clear this week with the signings of Glen "Big Baby" Davis and Granger. Both picked the Clippers over other possible destinations.

"It’s still kind of surreal honestly," Granger told Clippers.com. "I’ve been in Indiana my whole career. I’ve always seen ‘Granger 33’ with Pacers on top of it. So, it’s going to be a change, but I’ll be happy."

Davis, who made his debut Wednesday night against the Houston Rockets, gives the team an imposing inside presence who can score and defend the paint. Granger could well be the answer at small forward, where the Clippers have been unable to find a consistent scorer and outside shooter.

Rivers was taking care of a personal matter Friday and did not attend practice, but he had already made it clear he was interested in signing Granger. In fact, it was Granger who made the first contact and eventually chose the Clippers over such contenders as the Miami Heat, San Antonio Spurs, Chicago Bulls and Houston Rockets.

One reason might be the fact that he will get significant minutes almost immediately and could even start once he becomes familiar with Rivers’ system. The Clippers haven’t been settled at small forward all season, with Jared Dudley failing to find a consistent shooting touch, and Matt Barnes, who has started the past 17 games at the position, better suited to coming off the bench.

When he’s healthy, Granger is an effective scorer, averaging 17.6 points in his career and shooting 43.5 percent, including 38 percent from three-point range. The Clippers are short on long-distance shooters, with guard Jamal Crawford nursing a calf strain, and J.J. Redick out indefinitely because of a bulging disk in his back.

That makes it likely that Granger could have an immediate impact, perhaps as soon as Saturday when the Clippers face the New Orleans Pelicans on Prime Ticket at Staples Center.

Integrating players isn’t always easy, but there’s a belief throughout the locker room that the goal isn’t just making the playoffs but going beyond the first round. That means players must accept their changing roles.

"At the end of the day, with our team we understand that it’s all about winning games," guard Chris Paul said. "We’ve dealt with injuries and things like that, so depth, especially at this point of the season, is very crucial."

The ability to attract players is something that’s new to the Clippers, whose reputation as an NBA wasteland has been cast aside with their success the past few seasons.

It changed with the long-term commitment to Griffin, with the acquisition of Paul and his decision to re-sign at a max contract, and with the hiring of Rivers, who is among the league’s most talented coaches.

"We’ve got guys that guys want to play with — CP and Jamal and these guys that have been playing for a long time," Griffin said. "They’re guys that are well respected around the league. Also, with our coaching staff. People want to play for a coach like Doc and the coaching staff we have."

And, as Paul said, there’s no overlooking the Southern California weather, despite the recent downpour.

"Other than these next couple of days with all this rain, this is a beautiful place to be, a beautiful destination," he said. "Along with the attractions that L.A. already brings, with our great coaching staff and the great guys we have on this team, I don’t see why you wouldn’t want to play here."