Defense wins championships, they say, but good rebounding sure doesn’t hurt.
Three games into the preseason, the Clippers have found that there’s plenty of work to do in the rebounding department. They’ve been outrebounded, badly, in every game — Opponents own 46.3 percent to 31.7 percent advantage.
They have the best returning rebounder in the NBA in DeAndre Jordan (who averaged 13.6 per game in the regular season and 12.5 in the playoffs) but Doc Rivers believes rebounding needs to be a team effort.
"Obviously, I’m doing a poor job," Rivers said. "If I knew, we’d fix some of that. Honestly. Sometimes, I think they just assume DJ is going to get it. You can see that on film. A shot goes up and everybody is gone except for DJ. It’s like, ‘DJ will get it.’ Well, he can’t get them all. We have to be a better rebounding team … If we want to really be serious about talking about winning a title.
"You’re not winning a title being a bad rebounding team. The only team that’s done that in the last 30 years is Miami. They also had some special people. That’s the only team, I think in the last 20 years for sure, that hadn’t been in the top 15 in rebounding."
This is the most pressing concern for Rivers. While many are wondering who will start at small forward and whether Matt Barnes will come off the bench or not, Rivers has said that hasn’t come up in staff meetings.
"That’s an issue. If you guys want to talk about an issue, that’s what you all should be focusing on instead of the 3-spot," Rivers said. "We’ve proven we’re not a good rebounding team. We have to be a great rebounding team, and we can be that. We have to be better at that. That’s our No. 1 issue, to me."
Asked about the rebounding issues, Paul said: "Is it bad? Probably. We had the league’s leading rebounder in DeAndre last year, but it takes a team. It’s not about any one individual. All of us have to get in there and help him out."
It’s not just the guards who need to help in that effort, but Rivers thinks their play can set the tone in terms of better team rebounding.
"For everybody," Rivers said when asked about getting guards in a rebounding mindset. "I’ll tell you what I’d like to instill in the guards to be a better rebounding team is to keep the ball in front of them. Really. That, to me, is what I think is the reason we’re not rebounding well. So much guard penetration. Our bigs are helping all the time. Now they’re off the body of their big, and now their big has a free run to the basket.
"The best way to be a better rebounding team is to eliminate dribble penetration. We haven’t done that."
The preseason is to work out kinks, and the Clippers have five more games in which to get their rebounding act together, although it might be a work in progress during the season.
"Yes, they always are (a concern) especially because we were 26th last year," Barnes said. "That was one of our Achilles’ heels. I think we’re going to get it together. The guards need to come back and rebound more. A team effort."