- Though not as frequently featured on highlight reels as some of his teammates, Luc Mbah a Moute has had a significant impact on the Clippers, writes Jason Jones of the Sacramento Bee. Head coach Doc Rivers agrees, offering some bold praise about the 30-year-old veteran. “He is one of the best defensive players in the league, bar none, but because he’s not a scorer, no one really notices, but that’s his value to a team.”
Clippers forward Blake Griffin is showing signs that he is getting closer to a return, tweets Dan Woike of The Orange County Register. Griffin went through a “pretty extensive” pregame workout today without a brace or sleeve on his injured right knee. Griffin had minor surgery on the knee in December, and a report on Friday said he could be back in action by the end of the month.
- The Clippers may soon have rookie power forward Brice Johnson back on the court as well, according to Woike (Twitter link). The 25th pick in the 2016 draft has been playing one-on-one games and is close to being ready for “true on-court activity,” says coach Doc Rivers. Johnson suffered a herniated disc in his lower back in October and hasn’t played yet this season.
Coach Doc Rivers and his Clippers teammates are encouraging sixth man Jamal Crawford to shoot his way out of his slump, Dan Woike of the Orange County Register reports. Over the last eight games, he’s averaging 9.0 points while shooting just 29% percent from the field and 19% from long range. But Rivers says he needs Crawford to be a scorer on the second unit. “Jamal’s so talented that he’ll start being a passer and setting people up because he doesn’t feel it,” Rivers told Woike. “And we need him to shoot.” Crawford indicated to Woike that the other players are thinking all the same lines. “All my teammates are saying, ‘Be more aggressive.’ Doc’s saying, ‘Stop thinking. Just play,’” Crawford said. “That definitely makes you more comfortable, having that support.”
In other news involving the team:
- Blake Griffin could return to action later this month, according to an Associated Press report. Griffin was projected to miss 4-6 weeks after undergoing minor right knee surgery on December 20 and Rivers indicated that timetable still applies. Griffin, who can become a free agent after the season if he declines his $21.4MM option, has missed the last 13 games.
- DeAndre Jordan‘s interior presence has allowed Rivers to successfully employ small-ball lineups in Griffin’s absence, Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times reports. The Clippers are holding opponents to 96.4 points a game, 40.4% shooting and 27.6 % on 3-point attempts during their current five-game winning streak. “It makes your job easier because you can really get into the ball, be aggressive and get up into guys because you know you have a big shot blocker back there,” guard Raymond Felton told DiGiovanna. “When a guy is as athletic as he is, when he can move laterally and backwards with a guard coming at him downhill, it only helps me to really get into the ball and be able to pick up 94 feet.”
- Kevin Garnett, hired as a consultant this week, has begun working with Jordan and other Clippers big men, DiGiovanna writes in the same piece. “I don’t know if he has a defined role except to work with the bigs and to just give knowledge to whoever wants it about being a teammate, about winning,” Rivers said.
Kevin Garnett, who visited the Clippers during training camp, was in attendance again today at the team’s facility, having officially joined the club as a consultant, per Bill Oram of The Orange County Register (Twitter link). Garnett is expected to work with the team’s big men this season.
“He’s hired in here as a consultant,” Clippers assistant coach Mike Woodson said of Garnett (link via Andrew Han of ESPN.com). “So I’m sure he’ll be in and out when it presents itself for him to work with our guys. And I think when he’s here, it’s important for our bigs to take advantage of him being out here on the floor. Because he brings so much to the table, has so much to offer for the game of basketball, it’s not even funny.”
During his time with the Clippers today, Garnett worked with DeAndre Jordan individually prior to the club’s practice. The veteran center was enthusiastic about KG’s new role with the team, calling it “amazing,” per Han.
“He’s a great spirit and a great basketball mind, a Hall of Fame guy,” Jordan said. “Someone I looked up to coming up and even playing against. So any pointers he can give me, or tips, it’s great. I just want to be a student when he’s here.”
Although Garnett is acting as a consultant with the Clippers, it seems that Los Angeles isn’t the only team with which he’ll work. Darren Wolfson of 5 Eyewitness News reports (via Twitter) that Garnett, who has launched an “elite consulting business,” will assists the Bucks as well. Wolfson adds that some members of the Timberwolves would love to see KG help in Minnesta as well.
When Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical first reported in October that Garnett was talking to clubs about a consulting role, he noted that the future Hall-of-Famer may end up being hired by multiple teams. In that scenario, KG would make “periodic stops” into various NBA cities to work with certain players. In Milwaukee, players like John Henson, Greg Monroe, Miles Plumlee, and rookie Thon Maker could benefit from working with Garnett.
Matt Barnes has become a veteran leader since signing with the Kings in July, but he entered free agency expecting to return to the Clippers, relays Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe. Barnes spent three years with the Clippers before being traded to Charlotte after the 2014/15 season. Ten days later, he was shipped to Memphis in another deal. Even though coach Doc Rivers opted to get rid of him, Barnes was expecting a reunion this summer. “I thought it was a done deal, I was going to the Clippers,” Barnes said. “The day before I was supposed to meet with Doc, they decided to go in another direction with Wesley Johnson. That was obviously my first choice at the time, to be close to my kids. Golden State was always a choice; they just didn’t have very much money. I’ve always been the guy to take less money to play on a better team, but the price gap was too far on this one.”
- Chris Paul‘s return has boosted the Clippers‘ confidence as they try to fight back from their recent six-game losing streak, writes Broderick Turner of The Los Angeles Times. Paul believes he is finally over the left hamstring problems that sidelined him for seven of the past eight games. “I want to hoop, regardless,” Paul said. “But the toughest thing is when you can’t. Ain’t no point coming out there and not being you and hurt the team.”
The Clippers may be turning the corner, at least as far as their health is concerned. Superstar point guard Chris Paul has missed seven of the last contests but is expected to be back in the lineup uninhibited on Friday, says Dan Woike of the Los Angeles Daily News.
A return from Paul, coupled with news that rookie Brice Johnson has been cleared for contact, will give Clippers head coach Doc Rivers that much more confidence heading into the middle portion of the season. Johnson is a power forward out of North Carolina that Los Angeles drafted with the 25th overall pick last summer.
Additionally, Woike writes that Blake Griffin is expected to make his own return to the Clippers later this month.
- Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer details how the Clippers are finding success without Blake Griffin in the lineup and the scribe wonders if the team should trade the oft-injured power forward. O’Connor notes that Griffin’s contract, which expires after this season, could dissuade rival teams from giving up valuable assets for the him, as he could simply walk in free agency.
- Recent injuries to Chris Paul and J.J. Redick have sidelined the Clippers‘ starting backcourt at a time when the team is already without Blake Griffin. Still, even as the injuries pile up, head coach Doc Rivers prefers to look on the bright side, as Broderick Turner of The Los Angeles Times writes. “I always say, there’s something good in this,” Rivers said. “We’ll find something out. I don’t know what it is, but I always think you find a diamond in any of this stuff when it happens.”
- In a piece identifying three noteworthy players who could get traded before the deadline, Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer makes a case for why it might make sense for the Clippers to move Griffin — and why it might be too late to get fair value.
Here are Monday’s D-League assignments and recalls from around the NBA, with the latest moves added to the top of the list throughout the day:
- The Clippers have assigned rookie center Diamond Stone to the Salt Lake City Stars, according to the team’s website. He previously played four games with Santa Cruz, as the Clippers don’t have a direct affiliate in the D-League. The 40th pick in this year’s draft, Stone has appeared in four games for L.A.
- The Kings have recalled Skal Labissiere and Georgios Papagiannis from Reno, tweets James Ham of CSNBayArea. Labissiere was activated for tonight’s game, but Papagiannis was not.
- The Grizzlies have assigned Troy Williams to Iowa Energy, the team announced on its website. Up to this point, the undrafted rookie has played 24 games for Memphis and started 13 of them.
- The Nets sent Chris McCullough back to their D-League affiliate today, the team announced in a press release. McCullough, who is playing in the Long Island Nets’ afternoon game, could be recalled prior to tonight’s contest between Charlotte and Brooklyn, which would allow him to suit up for both Nets teams today.