Reserve guard Willie Green has started 50 games for the Clippers this season but has seemed like the forgotten man when Chauncey Billups returned for good from his Achilles’ tendon rehab.
But Green has never forgotten how to stay prepared, and back in the starting lineup Wednesday, he scored 13 points on 5-for-9 shooting in 22 minutes. It was his first start in more than a month.
“It’s tough when you’ve been out of the lineup a while,” Green said. “I came here because of the bigger picture. I still believe in this team.”
The belief is mutual.
“That’s him. I expect nothing less from Willie,” Chris Paul said. “I didn’t know Willie was starting until we walked out before the game and did our walk-through, but it’s not like I looked at Willie and said ‘Man, I hope Willie is ready.’ Willie’s always ready regardless of the situation. He’s not going to pout, he’s not going to badmouth, he’s not going to say ‘Why didn’t you play me last night?’ Willie’s always ready to go.”
Maalik Wayns got in a game for the third time this season and made it count. The point guard, on his second 10-day contract, had nine points, two assists, a steal, hit a 3-pointer and was 3-for-6 from the field in his 17 minutes. He had played a total of 11 minutes in his previous two games combined.
His greatest contribution might have been kicking the Clippers into a higher gear when he started the second quarter with the reserves.
“That fits me. It’s the perfect situation and the perfect system for me,” Wayns said. “That’s the way I play, that’s what I thrive in and I’m able to do it with those guys.
“I feel I can play in the league, that I can play on any given night on any given team. I’m just proving myself to make my way in the league and hopefully stick.”
The Clippers have a two-day respite before taking on Brooklyn Saturday at Staples Center. They’re hoping that’s enough time to get Chauncey Billups (hamstring) and Eric Bledsoe (calf) back on the court.
Jamal Crawford likes the rest, too, after struggling on a twisted ankle. More importantly, Crawford said, the Clippers’ win over Philadelphia a night after losing in Sacramento was a good part of the healing process as well.
“When you have a few days in between when you play again, it gives you time to think so when you lose like we did (Tuesday) night, we could have three days in between and that’s the worst,” Crawford said. “So for us getting back out here tonight, we can have a satisfying week the rest of the week.”
On the heels of a head-scratching loss in Sacramento Tuesday night, the Clippers are preparing for another team playing out the season tonight at Staples Center hoping to turn the tables after dropping three of their last four games.
They’ll take on Philadelphia, which has a 6-23 road record, with the game broadcast on Prime Ticket.
Before the game, Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro called for his team to increase its tenacity heading into the season’s final 14 games.
“You always want to play physical and take away easy baskets,” Del Negro said. “That’s an area we can continually grow in, but you’re going to have to up your physicality as the season unwinds and that’s part of it.
“Right now, we have to up that as teams are vying for playoff positions or teams that are out of the playoffs are trying to improve and spoil your run. It comes down to playing. If you don’t want people to celebrate, play better.”
The Clippers are still fighting injuries, with guard Chauncey Billups out after tweaking his hamstring Tuesday. Reserve guard Eric Bledsoe (sore left calf) will miss his fifth straight game and reserve forward Ronny Turiaf (sore right knee) is also unavailable.
Guard Eric Bledsoe and sore calf will sit again today as the Clippers take on the Knicks at Staples Center. Caron Butler (strained left elbow) will start.
One of the showdowns will come from the benches. The Clippers’ Jamal Crawford leads the NBA in sixth-man scoring at 16.9 points per game and New York’s J.R. Smith is second at 16.7.
The Clippers haven’t beaten the Knicks at Staples Center since 2009.
A day after waiving forward Trey Thompkins, the Clippers have signed former Georgetown standout DaJuan Summers to a 10-day contract.
Summers, a 6-foot-8 forward, averaged 18 points and 7.6 rebounds for the Maine Red Claws of the D-League this season.