Advice for Mr. Jordan

Clippers rookie DeAndre Jordan said after his breakout 23-point, 12-rebound game against the Lakers whether he knew he had that kind of performance in him.

“I’m just as surprised as you all,” he said with a laugh.

Not everyone was so blase.

Jordan’s monster dunks even seem to have caught the eye of the league’s reigning MVP.

“He has a lot of talent man,” Kobe Bryant said after the game. “He’s just got to keep on working hard to improve the other aspects of his game, shooting in particular. He’s got a lot of potential.”

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Mid-Season Report

CLIPPERS
RECORD: 9-31 (14th in Western Conference).
SCORING LEADER:Zach Randolph (23.1 points per game).
REBOUNDING LEADER: Marcus Camby (13.8 rebounds per game).
ASSISTS LEADER: Baron Davis (8.0 assists per game).

MVP: Without a doubt, Marcus Camby. While Baron Davis has been missing in action for large chunks of the season and disappointing as a leader, Camby has continued to lead by example no matter how dire the circumstances. He’s averaging a career-high in rebounds and scoring more than anyone knew was possible. If he hadn’t hurt his ankle on Saturday, the campaign for Camby to earn an All-Star nomination would be swelling.

TOP NEWCOMER: Rookie Eric Gordon is reminding everyone of a young Mitch Richmond. Already the team’s top perimeter defender, he began to showcase an electric offensive game once joining the starting lineup at the end of November.

BIGGEST SURPRISE: When the Clippers made their blockbuster deal for Zach Randolph in mid-November, guard Mardy Collins was regarded as little more than a throw-in. But with virtually all of the Clippers backcourt on the sidelines with injuries, Collins has flourished as a starter, averaging 13.4 pints and 6.6 assists in his seven starts.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT: It’s so hard to pick just one, with Ricky Davis getting hurt, then being suspended for violating the league’s drug policy; Chris Kaman’s injured foot keeping out of action since late November and Baron Davis shooting a career-low 36 percent, then missing 10 games due to injury. But considering the fanfare following Baron Davis’ free agent signing in July, this dubious distinction has to fall on him.

GUARDS: If not for promising rookies Eric Gordon and Mike Taylor, this would be, by far the team’s most disappointing area. Both Davis’ — Baron and Ricky — have posted career-worst seasons and veteran Jason Hart largely ineffectual. But Taylor was looking like one of the steals of the draft before fracturing his thumb; and Gordon looks like a future All-Star. Grade: D

FORWARDS: Second-year forward Al Thornton has had an up-and-down season, with moments of brillance and equal parts inconsistency. Zach Randolph was outstanding in the 14 games he played following his November trade, but has been hurt since December 22. Second-year man Steve Novak can shoot the lights out, but only done so a handful of times. Camby saves this group with is All-Star caliber play. Grade: B

CENTERS: Chris Kaman has been out since November 29 and was woefully inconsistent in the 15 games he played before that. Brian Skinner has proven to be a solid veteran and rookie DeAndre Jordan has shown potential. Kaman’s absence though, has hamstrung the entire team’s development. Grade: D-

COACH: Coach Dunleavy seemed to have trouble meshing his structured style with Baron Davis’ free-wheeling style early in the season, which landed the team in an early season hole. Then came the big trade for Randolph in November, further shaking up the lineup, and the injuries, which forced Dunleavy to play reserve players big minutes. Hard to evaluate at this point, but they do seem to be competing harder now than earlier in the season. Grade: D+

GENERAL MANAGER: On paper, Dunleavy and his staff have done an exceptional job of acquiring talent for virtually nothing from teams looking for salary-cap relief. That team though, has yet to take the court altogether. Also, the signings of Baron Davis and Ricky Davis and trade for Jason Hart haven’t worked well. Grade: C

LOOKING AHEAD: If the Clippers ever get healthy, they have the talent to get on a roll in the second-half of the season. That’s a big “If” though. None of their myriad injuries seems particularly bad at first, but they always seem to turn into long ordeals. The best the team can hope for is extended playing time for its young players like Gordon, Jordan, Thornton and Taylor and to get its full team back onto the court and building chemistry for next season.

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Camby: “I’m here for the long haul.”

He’s heard his name in trade rumors almost from the day he arrived in Los Angeles. And after Wednesday’s 97-80 loss to the Atlanta Hawks, he admitted the Clippers 12-game losing streak felt “more like 30.”

But Marcus Camby isn’t ready to jump ship just yet.

“I’m here for the long haul,” Camby said. “Health is our issue. Myself, Chris (Kaman), Baron (Davis), Zach (Randolph). That core right there we should make the playoffs.

“So I’m still feeling confident. Right now it’s a tough time for everbody. No one is playing at their best right now. We’re not having great team success, it’s frustrating at times. But for the most part, guys have really been in the ball games, they’ve battled, and they’ve competed with what we’ve got.”

Kaman, Davis and Randolph are all out with injuries and still at least a week away from returning. Kaman (foot) is likely out through the All Star break.

The Clippers have consistently maintained they have no intention of trading Camby, despite widespread interest around the league in the 6-foot-11 forward.

Camby, who will turn 35 on March 22, is averaging a career-high 13.8 rebounds this season, 12.1 points and 2.4 blocks a game.

Before the game, Clippers coach Mike Dunleavy said that there was “no question” Camby has been the team’s most valuable player in this injury-plagued season.

“He’s been pretty much our glue,” Dunleavy said. “Just because of his consistency. He’s a factor at both ends of the floor for us.”

Wednesday night he finished with 12 points, 18 rebounds and four blocks.

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Ricky Davis update

Clippers guard Ricky Davis returned to the lineup Wednesday night against the Atlanta Hawks after missing the last 24 games: 19 due to knee tendinitis and five due to a league-imposed suspension for violating the NBA drug policy.

Davis said he had apologized privately to the team and felt badly for “letting the guys down” due to his drug policy violation. He also indicated that he wasn’t surprised when learning he’d be suspended back on December 29.

“I kind of knew,” he said. “I wasn’t really surprised.”

When asked if he’d tested positive for a banned substance or merely failed to comply with the league’s drug program (either by missing a test or some other violation) Davis indicated that he’d tested positive but added, “No steroids.”

“It’s behind me,” he said. “We’re just going to keep going from here. …It’s tough, just leaving the team out there like that, letting the guys down. I talked to the guys though. It’s behind us.”

As for his sore left knee, Davis said that he felt about “90 percent” but that the debilitating pain he’d felt before was gone.

Davis last played on November 22. He was averaging just 4.3 points and shooting just 27 percent from the field when he was forced to shut it down and allow his injured knee to heal.

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Shaq-ovic!

Normally, the sight of Shaquille O’Neal at the free throw line, trying to convert a critical three-point play would be a good thing for the opposing team.

But these days, with the rejuvenated O’Neal having his best season in years, and suddenly, after 16 years of horrendous free-throw shooting, finding a winning stroke from the line, there are no breaks.

And so O’Neal, or “Shaqovic” as he’s dubbed himself, stepped to the free-throw line and converted a three-point play to help ice Phoenix’ 109-103 victory over the slumping Clippers Sunday afternoon at Staples Center.

O’Neal made all five of his free throw attempts Sunday, extending his current streak from the line to 12-for-12.

“I made that up,” O’Neal said of his new nickname. “If you go down the league, anybody with the last name (ending in) `vic’ is a great shooter. Radmanovic, Vujavic … all those Viches.”

In January, the career 52-percent free-throw shooter is shooting 80 percent from the line and averaging 21 points and 9.5 rebounds a game, prompting talk of him making a case for an All-Star bid.

“I just went back to my high school films, stopped listening to people,” said O’Neal, who had 15 points and 10 rebounds Sunday. “I was always a pretty good shooter in high school, but I tried to make it better rather than staying with what I know. Listening to people, changing the form, just trying a bit too hard.”

For the Clippers (8-29), who’ve lost 11 straight games, O’Neal’s newfound rhythm was just the latest piece of evidence in what some players have begun calling a “cursed” season.

“It has been really tough,” forward Al Thornton said. “It just seems like there has been a curse every game.”

Not that it was going to be easy to beat the Suns (21-13) without three of their four leading scorers (Baron Davis, Chris Kaman and Zach Randolph) once again.

Or, with a note in the Phoenix locker room warning the team not to underestimate the Clippers, who seem to be play hard enough to contend for a victory on most nights, but rarely have the gas left to finish off games.

“They’ve been playing people tough,” Phoenix coach Terry Porter said. “They’re short-handed right now, but even during this stretch (of losses), they’ve been playing people tough.”

Tough, but not tough enough.

After rallying from an 11-point fourth-quarter deficit to take a 98-95 lead on Thornton’s turnaround 15-footer with 4 minutes, 27 seconds remaining, the Clippers failed to get stops at the defensive end and were outscored 14-5 down the stretch.

Grant Hill, who had 21 points on the day, scored seven of the Suns final 14 points. Amare Stoudemire led Phoenix with 26 points and Jason Richardson added 21.

Marcus Camby had 18 points and 18 rebounds for the Clippers. Thornton had a team-high 23 points on 10-of-16 shooting.

“The other team has been making the big plays,” Clippers swingman Steve Novak said. “We just need to get in there and make big stops, make big shots. We’ve been doing those things in the course of the game, but really when it’s crunch time we haven’t been able to close it out. ”

O’Neal’s three-point play with 2:05 remaining extended the lead to 105-100 and the Clippers never seriously threatened again.

“It’s not like it used to be, when you could play straight up and take a foul and know that you could get one, maybe two misses out of the deal,” Clippers coach Mike Dunleavy said of O’Neal’s free-throw shooting. “To his credit, it’s a totally different deal with him now.”

Dunleavy was ejected with 6:00 remaining in the third quarter after arguing a non-call on rookie Eric Gordon. The Clippers were called for an unsightly eight offensive fouls on Sunday.

“I certainly didn’t agree with all of them, but most of them were right,” Dunleavy said. “We have to do a better job of reading those situations and avoiding those kind of opportunities.”

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Camby sticks up for Gordon

I meant to publish this the other day, but with all the stuff going on contract wise I held it for a lighter news day.

Anyway.

After the Pistons game on Sunday, I had a chat with Marcus Camby about rookie shooting guard Eric Gordon, who scored a then-career high 31 points against the Pistons, but took quite a pounding in doing it.

Camby, without much prompting really, thought a bunch more fouls should’ve been called on those plays, and took it upon himself to stick up for the quickly-budding rookie.

“I think Eric gets fouled a lot when he goes to the hole. I think the referees see how they see how big and aggressive he is, so he doesn’t get the benefit of the whistle.

“Yeah it’s a rookie thing. They may say it doesn’t exist, but it exists. Hopefully as we go on through the season, he can start getting that respect and have it carry over year after year, because I know he’s going to be in the league a long time.”

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Clearing things up

No, the Clippers aren’t that fickle. They didn’t just go and trade for Hassan Adams in the morning and waive him at noon for no reason. Well, they did, but it’s for a pretty good reason.

In between completing the trade for Adams, which basically cost them nothing (a conditional second round pick in 2015 so protected it’ll likely never change hands), and waiving Adams, the club learned that Fred Jones was healthy enough to play in Thursday’s game against San Antonio.

So the choice became Adams –a player the team liked, but who would need some time to learn the system — or Jones, who had played well for them before hurting his foot on Sunday and being waived Monday.

The team chose Jones. The team is expected to sign him to a 10-day contract in the morning and he should be on the court tommorrow night.

“We were just hedging our bets on Fred’s injury,” assistant general manager Neil Olshey said. “He’d played well for us, and if he was healthy, we felt comfortable putting him out on the court tommorrow.”

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Clips trade for Hassan Adams

The Clippers acquired guard-forward Hassan Adams and cash considerations from the Toronto Raptors Wednesday afternoon in exchange for a conditional draft pick.

The deal is very similar to the trade the Clippers made with Denver on Monday, where it acquired Cheikh Samb for cash considerations for a conditional second-round draft pick in the 2015 draft. The cash considerations essentially amounted to the remaining $418,000 on Samb’s salary.

A Clippers source said Wednesday’s trade had nearly the same terms as Monday’s trade, with the cash considerations amounting to the remaining portion of Adams salary this year, and the draft pick coming in 2015.

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Shaun Livingston, DeMarcus Nelson also waived

A couple interesting names hit the waiver wire tonight. Shaun Livingston was told after the Heat’s loss to San Antonio that he had been waived, and Golden State waived point guard DeMarcus Nelson

Nelson was the Warriors’ starting point guard on opening night, but he quickly fell out of favor with coach Don Nelson. He appeared in just 13 games with Golden State, averaging 4.1 points.

Livingston, of course, was the Clippers No. 4 overall pick in 2004 who was attempting a comeback from a catastrophic knee injury. He had played in just four games this season.

I’m not sure if either of these moves changes the Clippers thinking. I will check in the morning.

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