No change here

No change here

 

First, Chris Paul admitted the Clippers’ 116-90 home loss to San Antonio was humbling, but merely a blip in a long season.

But it hasn’t changed his opinion that the Clippers remain a championship-caliber team no matter who stands in the way.

“Let me tell you right now, if I didn’t feel like it was, I wouldn’t be playing,” Paul said. “I don’t play just for fun, we’re playing to win a championship.

“We have the defensive capability. We have the scorers. We have the big shot makers. We have what it takes, now we just have to put it together.”

 

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Talk is cheap

Del Negro said the dearth of trade options made conversation with the players irrelevant as they resumed practices on Tuesday.
“There was nothing really there,” he said. “Names were thrown out there that weren’t accurate and if there was something, that would have been something we would have addressed with them. We had good practices and the guys are in a good frame of mind. It’s part of the business as we know, but as you can see nothing happened.”

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Dance with who brought ya

For those thinking that Kevin Garnett, or anyone else for that matter, might be suiting up for the Clippers Thursday as the NBA trade deadline passed, that ship sailed. Quietly.
The Clippers returned to Staples Center intact on Thursday night, ready to start their push to the playoffs over the final 26 games.
Coach Vinny Del Negro had a simple explanation for the Clippers not being involved in any deals, blockbuster or otherwise.
“Because there was no trade to be made. There was nothing there,” Del Negro said before the Clippers tipped off against San Antonio. “There were all these reports and all these talks and everything else. There’s things out there that you can’t even do under the collective bargaining (agreement) that aren’t even accurate. We’re always looking, like any organization, to make our team as strong as possible.
“We’re very comfortable, I’m excited about our opportunity.”
When the Clippers left off, they were showing off their full roster for the first time all season, with Chauncey Billups fully in the fold, Grant Hill ready to contribute consistently off the bench and, of course, Chris Paul’s bruised knee a thing of the past as he displayed in Sunday’s All-Star game.
So the Clippers that entered Thursday as the third-best team in the West is the group that has Del Negro curious to see what heights it can reach.
“”It’s the first time all season we’ve been healthy, hopefully we can stay there,” Del Negro said. “Chauncey is still on a minutes restriction, Chris is feeling a lot better. He had a great weekend, Blake (Griffin) played extremely well.
“We have to stay healthy and see what this team can achieve.”

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Clippers: Heat check

By Phil Collin

Meanwhile, the chase resumes. The Clippers (39-17) likely can’t catch San Antonio (43-12) for the best record in the Western Conference, but they can turn some heads tonight at Staples Center by beating the Spurs.
Both teams have won four games in a row, but the Clippers have another concern: Memphis is only a game behind the Clippers in the loss column. Currently third in the West, the Clippers would probably like to avoid a second-round matchup with San Antonio that a fourth-place finish could produce.

http://tinyurl.com/Spurs-on-guard

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Clippers: Deal or no deal?

By Phil Collin

Kevin Garnett arrived in L.A. as a Celtic and he’ll apparently stay that way. With his no-trade clause, he holds the final word on any deal, let alone one to the Clippers.

http://tinyurl.com/Clippers-or-no-trade

Boston came out of the All-Star break with two consecutive losses and swirling rumors over potential deals, but a sense of humor hasn’t been lost.
“All right, we’re going to trade them all now,” Celtics coach Doc Rivers said.

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Clippers: Billups announces his arrival

By Phil Collin

 

His game-by-game scoring totals were starting to look like the beginning of a phone number — 769-78 …

And then Chauncey Billups officially announced his return to the Clippers on Wednesday. Two 3-pointers in the first quarter, two more in the second and after the Clippers polished off Houston, Billups had 19 points on nine shots with no turnovers in 20 minutes.

As much as it might have been a luxury to have Billups has a player liaison on the bench as his Achilles’ tendon healed, taking his leadership to the court with that kind of production can only make the Clippers more dangerous.

In fact, starting alongside Chris Paul, it’s like the Clippers have two points guard and two off-guards on the floor at the same time.

“It takes pressure off everybody,” Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro said. “He can get Chris off the ball a little bit, Chris can get more live dribbles. He makes great decisions, he spaces the court. He knows time and score.

“When he shoots like he did tonight, it gives us another weapon so it was great to see him out there. He didn’t turn the ball over in almost 21 minutes. He knows how to play, he’s been there, done that. It’s great to have him back.”

Billups was a game-time decision with a sore lower back, so whether he can return to the lineup tonight against the Lakers remains to be seen. He’s still working his way into game shape.

“I’m waking up muscles that haven’t worked in a long time,” Billups admitted afterward.

 

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Clippers Grant Hill: The 40-year-old defensive stopper

NEW YORK – Grant Hill was sitting on the bench, minding his own business, watching New York Knicks superstar Carmelo Anthony going off on the Clippers just like everyone else at Madison Square Garden for most of Sunday afternoon.

Then Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro summoned Hill from the bench with 3:21 remaining in the third quarter – and with Anthony sitting on 38 points – and asked him to do something about it.

That’s a tall order for anyone, let alone a 40-year-old veteran like Hill, whose battled injury issues all year as he tries to establish a role with the Clippers.

Only Hill isn’t your regular 40-year-old, and as the Clippers discovered Sunday he still has enough savvy and guile to be a factor.

With Hill pulling out every trick in the book, he hounded, harassed and denied Anthony the remainder of the game. The result: Antony took just two more shots and scored only four more points as Hill and the Clippers got things under control in a 102-88 victory.

Afterward, his impressed teammates marveled at Hill’s contribution.

“I tell him all the time I will not be 40 years old and playing in this league,” Clippers guard Chris Paul said. “I wish I could but I can’t. And it just shows so much about Grant, just his heart and his determination and always staying ready.”

Hill understood the nearly impossible challenge of stopping Anthony, but he relied on past experiences and veteran guile to try and disrupt him as much as possible.

“You just try to do things to make it difficult and you have to have selective memory because he hits shots,” Hill said “You have to be able to move onto the next play. He’s a great player and I enjoy the challenge.”

It’s nothing unusual for Hill, whose spent his entire career typically drawing the opponent’s best scorer.

His teammates are well aware, having gone against him enough over the years to understand how many problems he creates. When Hill was in Phoenix he’d typically guard Paul. He did the same with Chauncey Billups as well.

“Steve Nash never guarded me. Grant Hill did,” Paul remembered, “And Chauncey told me when he was in Denver Grant did a great job on him.

“He’s just smart. He never rests. He’s just always bothering you and messing with you,” Paul continued. “He understands how you can’t give a guy – especially the best scorer in the league – a steady diet of the same defense.”

vincent.bonsignore@dailynews.com @DailyNewsVinny

 

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SOME CLIPPERS NOTES

By Vincent Bonsignore

MIAMI – Like it or not, Clippers guard Eric Bledsoe has 13 new coaches pulling him in all sorts of directions now that he’s been selected to participate in the Slam Dunk at the NBA All-Star game in Houston.

Bledsoe was officially added to the six-player field on Thursday night, and by Friday he pretty much heard from all 13 of his Clippers teammates, all of whom have some guidance on what he should do.

“Everybody’s trying to give me some advice,” Bledsoe said. “Everybody has some pretty good ideas so we’ll see how it goes.”

Some suggestions are better than others, of course.

For instance, one teammate suggested Bledsoe jump over Clipper Darrell, the team’s long-time, unofficial greatest fan.

That probably isn’t going to happen.

One player who won’t give much advice is Chauncey Billups, whose dunking days are pretty much behind him.

“I’ll leave that to the other guys,” Billups said, laughing. “But I’m interested in what he’s going to do.”

EVERYONE BACK, EVEN JAMAL CRAWFORD

By mid-day Friday it was becoming more clearer Chris Paul, Chauncey Billups and Blake Griffin would be cleared to play against the Heat, but there was still some concern Jamal Crawford would need more time to tend to his injured right shoulder.

By the time the team arrived at Miami’s American Airlines Arena, though, Crawford was feeling well enough to play after missing the last two games.

“The shoulder loosens up on him then it tightens up,” Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro said. “He’s gonna give it a go tonight. I don’t know when he gets out there how he’ll feel, but he wants to get out there and play.”

The same was the case for Paul, Billups and Griffin as the Clippers finally had their entire roster together for the first time all year.

“There’s some limited minutes and restrictions (on guys) and we’re trying to figure it out because it’s a big list,” Del Negro said.

But the good news is, for one night at least everyone was available.

“Now we’ll just monitor it and see how it goes,” Del Negro said.

SO FAR SO GOOD ON NEW YORK

With the New York area getting hit with a major snow storm Friday and Saturday flights into the area being canceled, there was concern the Clippers game against the New York Knicks would be affected.

As of Friday, though, everything looked good on the Clippers end. They’ll travel to Newark, New Jersey Saturday, and seem hopeful the game will get it.

“Everything looks good,” Del Negro said.

TURIAF GETS HIS RING

Clippers forward Ronny Turiaf, who played with the Heat last year, was scheduled to get his 2012 NBA Championship ring during a pre-game ceremony.

“I’m happy for Ronny,” Billups said. “There was no greater feeling in my life than winning a championship.”

HEAT RUNNING A TEAMPATURE

A near team-wide flu bug ravaged the Miami Heat roster and nearly left them severely shorthanded Friday.

As it turns out, it was bad but not devastating.

While Ray Allen and Chris Bosh were sidelined, Dwyane Wade was able to play.

All three missed the Heat morning shoot around, and only Wade was able to feel good enough to suit up.

Vincent.bonsignore@DailyNews.com twitter.com@DailyNewsVinny

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A FIRST FOR THE CLIPPERS + A GRIFFIN UPDATE

By Vincent Bonsignore

MIAMI – There is a first time for everything and for the Clippers Thursday that meant finally having their full roster available for a practice this year.

It took nearly half a season and it occurred 3,000 miles away from Los Angeles in Miami, but for the first time all year everyone on the team. shared the same floor, the same drills and in all but one case the same full-court scrimmage.

“All the way in February. That’s crazy,” Clippers guard Chauncey Billups said. “But it felt good getting those fouls and getting those juices flowing. It was fun.”

Blake Griffin agreed.

“It was kind of weird to have everyone out there,” Griffin said. “But it’s nice; it’s nice to have a full team.”

Billups has missed all but three games this year recovering from an Achilles tendon injury, Chris Paul has sat out the last eight with a bruised knee, Griffin the last two with a hamstring strain and Jamal Crawford sat out Wednesday’s game in Orlando with a shoulder injury.

And before them, Grant Hill was dealing with a knee injury earlier in the year.

Add it all together it equals an injury ravaged team that’s never had its entire roster available at any one given time.

That figures to change soon with Billups looking pretty good for tonight’s game against the Heat, Griffin feeling much better and considered a game-time decision and Paul and Crawford’s status being decided today as well.

The key is all four should be back sooner rather than later, and the Clippers are anxious to see what exactly they’re all about with a full roster.

“I think we all kind of know how good we can be,” Billups said.

Now they want to find out, and it looks like that day is near.

GRIFFIN BEING CAREFUL

Although Griffin practiced Thursday he didn’t participate in the full-court scrimmage session.

“But I did a lot of half-court stuff,” he said.

And felt good doing so.

The key now is how he feels when he wakes up today.

“I just want to make sure it’s not more sore than it is today,” he said.

If not, he could return against the Heat.

“Yes, there is a chance I’ll play.”

 

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Billups returns to Orlando a year after injury. And a Griffin update

By Vincent Bonsignore

ORLANDO – You’ll have to excuse Clippers guard Chauncey Billups for feeling a bit skittish about walking into the Amway Center arena in Orlando on Wednesday.

“Back to the scene of the crime,” Billups said, his feet immersed in a bucket of ice as he sat under a basket following the Clippers morning shoot around here.

He was talking about suffering a season-ending Achilles’ tendon injury at Amway Center last year, not far; actually, from here he sat.

But it gets even eerier.

Billups injured the Achilles exactly a year to the day of his first visit back Wednesday.

“And what makes it even weirder is, we came from D.C. last year too,” Billups said, adding one more ominous connection.

So yeah, Billups felt a little weird Wednesday, although he made it a point to tell the Clippers equipment team to make sure they didn’t give him the same locker from last year as well.

That would have been too much.

Billups will not play again tonight – he’s missed all but three games this year coming back from the Achilles injury and a bout with tendinitis in his left foot – but he will go through a team workout Thursday in which he will play some full court with teammates and hopes to be back soon after.

“Tomorrow I’ll be able to compete, get up and down the floor and see how I feel,” Billups said.

Needless to say, it’s been frustrating for Billups watching the Clippers struggle without himself and Chris Paul recently. The Clippers take a three-game losing streak into the Magic game and have lost seven of their last nine.

“It’s hard because I know even if I played right now I could help,” Billups said.  “But I’m not quite ready. And I know we need a little (help) so it’s hard to sit out when we’re struggling.”

GRIFFIN OUT

Although Blake Griffin seemed to be moving around a little better on his strained left hamstring Wednesday morning, he will not play tonight against the Magic.

Griffin was scratched from Monday’s game in Washington D.C. moments before tip-off, but he hopes to return Friday when the Clippers play in Miami against the Heat.

vincent.bonsignore@dailynews.com twitter.com@DailyNewsVinny

 

Vincent.bonsignore@dailynews.com twitter.com@DailyNewsVinny

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