Collison’s offseason departure still leaving void on Clippers bench

It’s no secret the Clippers bench has struggled this season. 

And that Darren Collison’s presence, namely on the defensive end, was a big key to their success last season.

The Clippers are 24-12 through 36 games, which is one more victory than they had last season through the same number of games in the franchise-best 57 victories. 

Jamal Crawford — the NBA’s reigning Sixth Man of the Year — is the one constant, successful player on the bench.

Collison, who signed with Sacramento in the offseason, not only played well off the bench but filled in well for Chris Paul when he was injured.

"We miss his versatility," Doc Rivers said on Friday. "The one thing I think we miss is his pace. I thought he set the pace for the second unit, and we don’t have a great pace. They’re playing better, but we still don’t have the pace like the first unit. Our second unit was faster, sometimes, than our first unit. This year, we’re slower. I don’t like that.

"The biggest thing to me, what people missed, was he guarded point (guards) a lot and allowed CP to guard 2-(guards)," Rivers said. "It gave CP rest, but CP, his weakside defense, with his hands and ability to get steals is off the charts, so we like him off the ball. This year we haven’t had that ability."

Collison, who signed a 3-year, $16 million deal with Sacramento last summer, helped lead the Kings to a 98-92 win on Nov. 2, which was the Clippers first loss of the season. Collison scored 14 points and added five rebounds and four assists in that game.

Collison told reporters: "… you have to play with a team that really wants you."

The Clippers signed Jordan Farmar as their backup point guard, and he’s still trying to find his way with a consistent presence. Farmar is averaging 4.6 points per game and 1.9 assists. 

Last season, the Clippers played through injuries to J.J. Redick and Paul and still didn’t miss a beat.

"It also goes to show you how good DC was for us last year," Redick said. "He did whatever was asked of him. At times he played the 2, at times he went small. I can remember games, down the stretch, he’s guarding 3s and battling them in the post and getting steals. The guy was an absolute warrior for us last year and was a big reason we won 57 games given the injuries we had."