The Los Angeles Clippers lost their All-Star power forward Blake Griffin to a staph infection on the right elbow last weekend. That injury will keep him off the court over the course of a stingy 20-game stretch that has the team facing 15 teams with winning records.
“I think teams do this all the time,” J.J. Redick said, “where an integral part of the team goes down and then everyone is asked to do a little bit more. I think that the important thing is that guys need to stay within their roles, but to star in those roles and to be confident in their roles. Then when Blake comes back, he is such an easy guy to play with that hopefully it is seamless when he gets back in there.”
Head coach Doc Rivers has found a way for the Clippers to compete with the tough titans of the Western Conference. As shown in their 110-95 victory over the Houston Rockets on Wednesday that took them to the All-Star break, sharp shooting from their guards becomes their best way of attack.
By going more guard oriented a la Phoenix Suns with All-Star point guard Chris Paul scoring and facilitating to sharp shooters Jamal Crawford and J.J. Redick. With those three on the floor, the ball movement is crisp, swift and on point.
Against the Rockets, Paul got 12 points and assists while both Redick and Crawford had 20 points apiece. That’s a theme that Rivers and the Clippers can get used to.
“It depends on the team,” Rivers said. ” We were fortunate enough that the two teams we played [since Griffin’s injury] like going small. When teams go small against us; that benefits us. That allows us to put those three on the floor.”
The upcoming 20-game stretch containing 15 teams with winning records may seem like a death march for the Griffin-less Clippers, but only five of the teams are big-oriented. That means they can throw in that small, sharp shooting lineup and be successful in Griffin’s absence. They still score 100 points at will regardless of who is missing. It’s almost a travesty.
Speaking of travesty, DeAndre Jordan got his third 20-20 (points-rebounds) game in eight nights on Wednesday and is on top of the NBA in rebounds and field goal percentage. Yet is still not on the Western Conference All-Star roster.
With all the chances for the NBA and commissioner Adam Silver to properly award Jordan a spot on the All-Star roster, it’s ridiculous that the sixth-year man out of Texas A&M continues to be left out.
But don’t take my word for it. Here’s Doc’s diagnosis on the All-Star snubbing.
“DJ should be on it. We all know that,” Rivers said. “I think it’s a travesty. I really do — a guy who’s getting 20s and 20s is not on the team. You play both sides of the floor. Just one end of the floor keeps getting all of the credit,” Rivers said, “but the other side is more important. “There has never been a team that won a championship without being a decent defensive team or a great defensive team. The defensive side is always forgotten in the All-Star Game. I think every year they should include the best defender. They include the best offensive player every year. They should include the best defensive player every year from the Eastern Conference and the Western Conference. That will solve it.”
The All-Star Game itself is a bit of a travesty. There is no real defense being played at all. Both teams treat the exhibition game like the NBA version of a Harlem Globetrotters show. The score always runs up to that of D-League status, which isn’t a problem at all, but the game is simply horseplay during an unofficial game of horse.
Jordan is not an All-Star because his game does not fit what the All-Star Game is about. He is one of the last prototypical centers in the NBA by playing defense and rebounding. So while the popular players play around in Madison Garden, Jordan will simply rest and relax while putting his nonsensical snub behind him.
“That is alright,” Rivers said, “he knows we are playing for bigger things than the All-Star Game.”
“Next year I just have to average 20 points a game,” Jordan said.
The only real All-Star Game worth watching is in baseball, where there are actual stakes and the players don’t hold anything back or coast their way to celebrity.