Notes and quotes

The Clippers’ victory Wednesday over the Charlotte Bobcats was their eighth in a row, tying their longest winning streak in 21 years. (Nov. 30 through Dec. 15, 1991). They need three more victories to match the longest streak in franchise history (11 consecutive from Nov. 3 to Nov. 23, 1974 while playing as the Buffalo Braves).

What’s more, the Clippers are on pace for their first 50-win season. Their best was 49 victories as the Braves in 1974-75. Their highest win total in Los Angeles was 47 with Mike Dunleavy as their coach and Elton Brand, Chris Kaman, Corey Maggette, Sam Cassell and Cattino Mobley as their top players in 2005-06.

“It’s cool,” guard Chris Paul said after the Clippers beat the Bobcats 100-94.. “It just means we’re playing all right now. But we’re not satisfied. We have to keep playing the right way and keep this thing going. Sometimes you’re going to win and play bad and sometimes you’re going to play well and lose. For us it’s all about being consistent.”

The Clippers go for their ninth straight win Saturday against the Bucks in Milwaukee.

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Clippers hit the road with some big goals in mind

The last time they had a six-game winning streak, the Clippers went a little haywire for about a week before they regained their confidence, their rhythm and their winning ways. They don’t want a repeat of their earlier four-game losing streak when they hit the road to start a four-game trip Tuesday night in Chicago.

Matt Barnes, a backup small forward, sounded an optimistic tone after Sunday’s rout of the Toronto Raptors gave the Clippers their second six-game winning streak of the season. He said nothing short of a 3-1 record on their trip to Chicago, Charlotte, Milwaukee and Detroit would be acceptable.

“We know what our ultimate goal is right now,” Barnes said. “We have a very talented team and guys have to make sacrifices. That may be playing time or shots. But whatever it may be, everyone has bought in and the more time we have together, the better we play.”

The Clippers departed for Chicago in first place in the Pacific Division with a 14-6 record. They routed the Bulls in their first meeting at Staples Center by 21 points Nov. 17. These will be their first games against Charlotte, Milwaukee and Detroit this season.

“We know we have something special here,” Barnes added. “It’s a long season and we want to continue to build and continue to set good habits and be healthy at the end of the season and be ready for the playoffs. … This is the most talented team I’ve played on, period. Our ultimate goal is to win a championship.”

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Blake Griffin named Western Conference player of the week

Power forward Blake Griffin was named the Western Conference player of the week, not an easy honor when you consider he didn’t play in any of the last three fourth quarters because the Clippers were so far ahead of the opposition.

Griffin led the Clippers to win over the Utah Jazz, Dallas Mavericks, Phoenix Suns and Toronto Raptors. He had 30 points and 11 rebounds against Utah, 19 points and 13 rebounds against Dallas, 24 points and eight rebounds against Phoenix and 19 points and nine rebounds against Toronto.

For the week, he was ninth among players in the West in scoring with an average of 23 points and seventh in rebounding with an average of 10 per game despite sitting out the fourth quarters of blowout victories over the Mavericks, Suns and Raptors.

Josh Smith of the Atlanta Hawks was the Eastern Conference player of the week.

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Eric Bledsoe makes his mark on another Clippers victory

Eric Bledsoe had his hand in another Clippers victory, this time a 102-83 win Sunday afternoon over the Toronto Raptors at Staples Center. That wasn’t exactly front page news, as far as the Clippers were concerned.

“I really think he’s going to be a star,” teammate Chauncey Billups said before Bledsoe scored 14 points, grabbed four rebounds and added six assists in the Clippers’ sixth consecutive win. Billups also called Bledsoe “a freak athlete,” adding, “I haven’t see many players with the athleticism he has. I see something new from him every night.

“It’s a gift from God.”

Bledsoe always had the physical part within him, as evidenced by his raw skills.

What’s new this season is his ability to think the game a little better.

“Experience is always the best teacher,” said Billups, a guard playing his16th season in the NBA.” I can tell him to look for this. Be ready for this. Or they’re going to do this. He’ll come back and say, ‘Dang, Chauncey, you know what they did?’ And I’ll say, ‘I told you to look for it.’

“The more minutes he plays, the more situations he’s in, in games, he sees it for himself. Because he’s waiting on it. Maybe he missed it. (But) he’ll pick it up and he won’t get beat again. It’s been a joy to see his development.”

Bledsoe, who turned 23 on Sunday and is playing his third season with the Clippers, continues to develop a sound earth-bound game to go with his high-wire act. His perimeter jump shot, like teammate Blake Griffin’s, is something of a work in progress.

“When he gets more consistent with it, he’s going to be impossible to guard,” Billups said. “He’s going to be a nightmare matchup. You get right up on him, and he’ll just go right by you.”

Point guard Chris Paul put it this way: “I play against him every day in practice. When you get in a game and it’s not ‘EBled’ on you, it’s almost like you’re in a rocking chair.”


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Lamar Odom making strides, rewarding Clippers faith in him

Lamar Odom’s statistics were modest again Saturday for the Clippers. He scored a season-high eight points on 4-for-8 shooting, grabbed eight rebounds and added three assists in 20 minutes, 36 seconds during a 117-99 victory over the Phoenix Suns.

To be sure, the versatile 6-foot-10 forward has had better and more productive games during his career. But not this season, not after he arrived at training camp out of shape, not after he sat out almost three weeks in October because of sore knees.

Slowly but certainly, Odom has worked himself into shape and rewarded the Clippers’ faith in him and his potential. He’s shed 12 pounds and recently displayed a vague resemblance to the player who was named the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year while with the Lakers in 2010-11.

Odom has plenty of work still to do, including dropping additional pounds, before he can claim to be as fit as he should be at this point in the season. When he does, when he gets in better shape, the Clippers hope he’ll be as productive as he can be for them.

“It takes time,” Odom said. “I had so much time off. Sometimes, as an athlete, you slow down. It’s important for me to keep after it in practice, get extra work in so I’m comfortable on the court, comfortable on defense and making moves and coming out of them. It just takes time.”

After a season in which his mind and body seemed to be elsewhere after the Lakers traded him to the Dallas Mavericks, Odom insisted from Day 1 of training camp with the Clippers that his head was in the right place. He vowed to return to the form that made him the league’s best bench player.

“My body is starting and my mind are starting to attach, so that feels good,” he said. “My body and my mind, they have to be together. My body is starting to catch up to my head.”

Others have noticed his physical improvement.

“He wants it and I believe in him,” Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro said. “I’m going to keep pushing him. I’m going to keep making him work and he’s going to keep doing work. His teammates support him because we know that he gives us an element we need.”

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Phoenix coach Alvin Gentry says Clippers should be thinking championship

Phoenix Suns coach Alvin Gentry said before Saturday afternoon’s game at Staples Center that the Clippers are “a really, really good team,” and “there’s no reason they shouldn’t be thinking about a championship.”

“They have the best bench in the league and really, really good starters,” said Gentry, a former Clippers coach. “I’ve seen games when their second unit has gotten separation for them (over the opposition). They’re that deep. They’re loaded. I don’t see any reason why they shouldn’t be talking about playing in June.”


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Eric Bledsoe makes one list of the NBA’s most improved players

Clippers guard Eric Bledsoe has gone from dud to stud, according to a story in The New York Times on the NBA’s most-improved players so far in 2012-13. Bledsoe joined fellow point guard Jrue Holiday of the Philadelphia 76ers, a former UCLA standout, and Larry Sanders of the Milwaukee Bucks on the Times’ list.

Of the hyper-kenetic Bledsoe, the Times wrote:

“In his first two seasons in the NBA, Eric Bledsoe was largely an unproductive bench player for the Los Angeles Clippers. Entering this season, his true shooting percentage — a measure of scoring efficiency that takes into account 2-point field goals, 3-pointers and free throws — was .489 for his career.

“To make matters worse, he was turning the ball over on about 26 percent of his plays (a play is defined as an offensive sequence that results in a shot from the floor, three throws or a turnover), one of the worst rates in the league over that time.

“The Clippers were not ready to write off the 22-year-old Bledsoe, and he has rewarded them for their patience: his true shooting percentage this season has improved to .563, and he has reduced his turnover rate to 16.7 percent.

“Bledsoe has managed to become a much more efficent player despite taking on a larger role in the offense, as his usage percentage — the percentage of team plays a player uses while he is on the floor — has improved from a career average of 18.1 percent entering the season to 26.3 percent this season.”

Or as we used to say in my neighborhood, “Dude can play.”


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Clippers don’t expect Chauncey Billups to play this weekend

The Clippers have learned to play, and thrive, without veteran guard Chauncey Billups in the lineup. They would rather have him on the floor, no question, but they’re accustomed to having him out of uniform after he suffered a torn left Achilles tendon injury last Feb. 6. He played three games only to suffer from tendinitis in his left ankle that was so severe he sat out Wednesday’s victory over the Dallas Mavericks.

The Clippers, 12-6 and riding a four-game winning streak, don’t expect him to play Saturday against the Phoenix Suns or Sunday against the Toronto Raptors.

“He was here and he got his therapy,” Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro said after Friday’s practice.

Is there a timetable? Could Billups play Saturday? a reporter asked Del Negro.

“Not that I know of,” Del Negro said.

How about Sunday? the reporter asked.

“Not that I know of,” Del Negro. “Listen to the doctors and the trainer, let him get his therapy and when he’s ready to go, he’ll tell me.”


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NBA calls it flopping, but Clippers guard Chauncey Billups calls it something else

The NBA warned Clippers guard Chauncey Billups about flopping in the wake of a play Monday night against the Jazz in which he drew a late foul by kicking out his legs and embellishing minimal contact with Utah’s Mo Williams beyond the 3-point arc. Billups made two of three free throws and the Clippers went on to win 105-104.

“They called it a flop and I called it gamesmanship,” Billups said Wednesday.

Billups said he learned from a master, former Indiana Pacers guard Reggie Miller.

“They’re trying to take gamesmanship out of the game,” Billups said of the league’s new crackdown on flopping. “Instincts. You can’t change instincts, you know what I mean? It’s gamesmanship. I worked hard to learn how to get that. I learned that from some great players. I’m not going to let that go. That’s what they’re trying to do. I play how I play. Reggie Miller was one of the greatest I’ve seen at it. Jamal Crawford is one of the best (current players). … Yeah, Reggie was good with that.”

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Chauncey Billups sits out because of an ankle injury

After scoring 22 points on 5-for-15 shooting and adding seven assists in 60 minutes in his first three games of the season, veteran guard Chauncey Billups had to sit out Wednesday night’s game against the Dallas Mavericks at Staples Center.

Billups said his surgically-repaired left Achilles tendon was fine, but he’s suffering from peroneal tendinitis in his left ankle. His ankle was so inflamed and weak that he couldn’t jump or change directions adequately during the Clippers’ victory Monday over the Utah Jazz.

The two injuries are unrelated, Billups added.

“It’s something I’ve been dealing with for a couple of weeks, actually, even before I played my first game,” he said. “It was something I really wanted to get checked out because I just feel like I’ve worked way too hard to get back to play hurt, you know what I’m saying?”

“Honestly, in that Utah game it was really painful. I couldn’t really push off my left foot. It was just really weak. I couldn’t explode off it. I couldn’t cut. So, everything I was doing I was just getting through it. I should be better than this.”

Billups underwent a battery of tests, including an MRI exam Tuesday, which revealed the ankle injury. Willie Green started in place of Billups at shooting guard against the Mavericks. Green started the Clippers’ first 14 games, but then didn’t play a second in the next three. He had four points in the Clippers’ 112-90 victory over Dallas.

The Clippers aren’t sure how long Billups might be sidelined.

“It’s up to Chauncey really,” coach Vinny Del Negro said. “He knows his body better than anybody else. …  It’s kind of day to day, how the therapy goes, how he feels. … When he’s ready to go, he’ll go. It could be this weekend. It could be two weeks or a month. I don’t have a time frame.”

Billups tore his Achilles tendon during a game last Feb. 6 against the Orlando Magic and underwent surgery Feb. 15. It was estimated that he would be sidelined for between nine and 12 months. He made his 2012-13 debut Nov. 28 against the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Del Negro planned to limit Billups to 20 minutes per game as he attempted to regain his fitness as well as his basketball form. Billups scored seven points against the Timberwolves, six against the Sacramento Kings and nine against the Jazz, never playing more than 22 minutes in a game.

“I think this is just part of the process,” he said. “Frustrating, of course. To come back and then sit back and wait … I know what it is and I respect the process. I don’t feel down at all. Of course I want to be out there. … It’s all about the marathon for me.”

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