Lamar Odom getting his groove back for the Clippers

Lamar Odom didn’t come to training camp in very good shape last season with the Dallas Mavericks after they acquired him from the Lakers. He wasn’t in great shape this season after the Clippers got him from the Mavericks in a June 29 trade.

The difference this time is he’s found a comfort zone that includes considerable support from Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro. Slowly but certainly, he’s become a useful member of the team’s second unit, recording a season-high seven points in Monday’s win over Utah.

“I just want Lamar to stay the course right now,” Del Negro said Tuesday, the day before Odom faced the Mavs for the first time since the deal. “He’s in here early working out. He’s in here late working out. You can see his timing coming back a little bit. You can see his lift coming back just a little bit. … He’s here every day. He’s grinding it out.

“He knows he has a ways to go, but you can tell when he’s out there he makes a difference for us and it’s only going to get better if stay with the process. I think he’s very comfortable where he’s at. He’s not very comfortable with his game and that’s why he’s out there. We have a lot of faith in him and I think it’s going to pay dividends down the road.”

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Collective effort helps Clippers rout Kings

It was over before you knew it, before many in the crowd had a chance to bite into their hot dogs or take a sip from their drinks, before the Clippers could really flex their muscles in front of the Sacramento Kings.

Caron Butler sank a 3-pointer to break an early tie. DeAndre Jordan soared to dunk a missed shot by teammate Chris Paul a moment later and then dunked a lob pass from Blake Griffin, who sank a hook shot a minute later.

The Clippers were never challenged again and seized a lopsided 116-81 victory Saturday night from the Kings in front of a sellout crowd of 19,060 at Staples Center. After breaking a 6-6 tie on Butler’s 3, the Clippers were unstoppable.

“We didn’t let them in the game early,” Paul said after the Clippers’ widest margin of victory this season. “The ball moved. Everybody touched the ball. We’re pretty dangerous when that happens. Tonight we made shots and got (defense) stops.

“It was collective.”

Playing with an unmistakable sense of purpose, the Clippers did what good teams are supposed to do when they play poor ones. They exploited the Kings’ weaknesses and took away their will to fight by building a big lead and holding it.

The Clippers led by 30-17 after the first quarter, then by 58-34 at halftime before they really warmed to the task. They led by as many as 34 points in the third quarter and held an 87-58 advantage going into the fourth.

It was simply exercise by then, which was fine with the Clippers (10-6). Their second unit got to play extended minutes and their starters got a chance to rest and cheer their teammates. No one in a Clippers uniform was overworked.

Clippers fans, having grown bored with the game, entertained themselves by performing a fourth-quarter wave before heading for the exits. The Clippers led by 101-70 when many in the crowd departed with 5:37 remaining.

Jamal Crawford, a reserve guard, led seven Clippers in double figures with 17 points. Griffin, Paul and backup guard Eric Bledsoe each scored 14 points. Jordan scored 13 points, Matt Barnes added 12 points and Butler scored 11 points.

Marcus Thornton scored 20 points for the Kings, who fell to 4-12 overall and 0-6 on the road. Jason Thompson added 16 points and 12 rebounds. Thornton and Thompson were the only Kings starters to score in double figures.

“I said to the guys, ‘I’ve never played on an Olympic team, but it seems that’s how this is,’” said Crawford, who added a season-high six assists. “Very balanced, guys really unselfish. We have to do it by committee and that’s how we did it.”

The Clippers did all the right things to ensure they would have an easy night. They took the game to the Kings from the opening tip and led by as many as 25 points in the second quarter, playing with equal gusto with and without the ball.

Sacramento seemed befuddled at both ends of the court as the Clippers overwhelmed the Kings with their depth, their skill and a sound game plan. Mostly, the Clippers put their heads down and took the ball to the hoop.

Lob City was open for business with the Clippers scoring 32 of their first 58 points in the paint. There was one significant mishap when Griffin attempted to throw down a lob for a wicked dunk but ended up tossing the ball into the Clippers’ bench.

Griffin was fouled on his misfire, which figured to be a staple on the late-night blooper reels. He made up for it by sinking the ensuing free throws and helping to propel the Clippers to a commanding 58-34 lead by halftime.

“They played at a level that was very high,” Kings coach Keith Smart said of the Clippers. “They have a group of players who play together and they have a bigger purpose with what they are doing and how they are playing, and they show it.”


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Clippers continue to monitor Chauncey Billups

Yes, veteran guard Chauncey Billups is back in the Clippers’ starting lineup, playing his second game Saturday night after suffering a season-ending torn left Achilles’ tendon last Feb. 6 in a game against the Orlando Magic.

No, the Clippers haven’t stopped monitoring his recovery from the injury, which figures to be a lengthy process that could last the entire season. They also will keep a close watch on several other nagging ailments.

For instance, Billups suffered minor back and calf injuries that delayed his return to the active roster by several weeks. What’s more, Billups didn’t practice with his teammates Friday simply because he was sore after making his season debut.

“His back is feeling a little bit better,” Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro said.

Del Negro said earlier this week he plans to play Billups only 20 minutes per game for the foreseeable future, with backups Eric Bledsoe and Jamal Crawford forming a backcourt rotation alongside point guard Chris Paul.

“I really think it’s going to be a month or two before I’m back to being myself,” Billups said. “Whatever I am right now, I think what the team needs from me more than anything is knowing how to play and how to win, where the ball should go. …

“Everything else, I’m going to be patient with that.”

Billups scored six points on 2-for-5 shooting in the Clippers’ 116-81 rout of the Sacramento Kings in 18 minutes, 12 seconds. He also had two rebounds and three assists. He had seven in his debut in Wednesday’s win over Minnesota.

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Clippers end losing streak in Chauncey Billups’ return

Chauncey Billups couldn’t lift the Clippers on his shoulders and carry them to the end of their four-game losing streak all alone. Chris Paul couldn’t do it by himself either. Neither could Blake Griffin nor could DeAndre Jordan.

They had to do it together.

Billups gave the Clippers an emotional boost in his first game since suffering a season-ending Achilles’ tendon injury last Feb. 6, and he, Paul, Griffin and Jordan banded together for a 101-95 victory Wednesday night over the Minnesota Timberwolves.

“Like I told the guys going into the fourth quarter, ‘It’s all a test, a test of your character,’” Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro said. “I was proud of the way we managed the fourth quarter and made plays when we had to, offensively and defensively.”

Billups scored seven points, all in the first quarter, in 19 minutes, 24 seconds. He also had three assists, including a 35-foot lob pass to Jordan for a spectacular highlight-reel dunk that gave the Clippers a 97-93 lead with 16.6 seconds left.

“I was just so excited to be back out there after such a long road back,” Billups said. “I probably played full court three times. I have to be patient. I wasn’t going to hear the word, ‘No,’ or, ‘He’s done.’ I wasn’t going to listen to none of y’all.

“As long as we won the game, it’s a success for me.”

Paul put the Clippers ahead for good with a jump shot that gave them an 86-85 lead with 4 minutes, 34 seconds remaining in the game. Griffin hit a jumper moments later and then dunked off a feed from Jordan to make it 90-85 with 3:02 left.

After the Timberwolves’ Nikola Pekovic countered with a three-point play, Jordan converted a three-point play of his own to restore the Clippers’ five-point lead with 59.4 seconds remaining.

Paul scored 23 points and added 11 assists, Griffin scored 18 points only one game after he had a career-low four, and Jordan added 15 points. Matt Barnes scored 13 points and Jamal Crawford had 11 to lead the Clippers’ rejuvenated second unit.

Kevin Love, a former UCLA standout, scored 19 points on 3-for-12 shooting and grabbed 12 rebounds for the Timberwolves. Alexey Shved added 17 points in a reserve role and Luke Ridnour had 13 points and seven assists.

“It was huge to have Chauncey out there,” Paul said. “After player introductions, I went to him and said, ‘I’ve been waiting a long time to have you back out there, so lets go.’ To see him back on the court, doing what he does best, is remarkable.”

Billups said it would be months rather than weeks before he regains his form.

“I’m not what I was the day I got hurt,” he said.

After starting the season with eight victories in their first 10 games, the Clippers went off the rails in a big way. They lost to the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Brooklyn Nets, the Atlanta Hawks and the New Orleans Hornets.

Losing was bad enough, but it was the way they lost that gave Clippers Nation pause. The Clippers were up and down and all around in all facets of the game during their skid. What’s more, their energy came and went too frequently.

“We have to be more consistent,” Del Negro said when asked before Wednesday’s game how his team could avoid a fifth consecutive loss. “We know that. We have to get our energy back.”

Billups did his part, scoring the Clippers’ first basket, a 3-pointer on his first attempt since he was injured in a game against the Orlando Magic almost 10 months ago. He scored seven of the Clippers’ first 11 points.

“I got back pretty far ahead of schedule,” Billups said. “Right now, I feel good. I played 20 minutes, but there’s nothing like a game. I feel like I’m in decent shape, but there’s noting like a real live game. I’m sure I’ll be sore.”



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Chauncey Billups to return to Clippers lineup tonight against T-Wolves

Chauncey Billups will make his season debut tonight against the Minnesota Timberwolves, the Clippers announced today on their website. Billups hasn’t played in a game since tearing his left Achilles’ tendon during a game Feb. 6 at Orlando.

“We are all excited to have Chauncey back,” Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro told reporters at the morning shootaround. “I know how hard he has worked to get to this point and we are looking forward to incorporating him into the lineup.”

Billups will start at the shooting guard position, rejoining point guard Chris Paul in the Clippers’ backcourt. Willie Green, who started the season’s first 14 games in place of Billups, will shift to a reserve role.

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Blake Griffin says adjustments hurt the Clippers in loss to Hornets

A lack of intensity hurt the Clippers’ chances for a victory Monday, no question about it, but did a change in tactics finish them? Clippers power forward Blake Griffin said he believed some changes made on the fly also were to blame.

“I think we tried to change some things, tried to change our schemes and some things we have been successful at and that hurt us,” Griffin said after scoring a career-low four points on 1-for-9 shooting against the New Orleans Hornets.

“I think we should play teams how we play every team. We made adjustments down the stretch when certain guys hurt us and I think we should have stuck with what we had been doing and what has made us successful.”

Coach Vinny Del Negro went with a smaller lineup, playing center DeAndre Jordan for only 15 minutes, 23 seconds. Del Negro also used Jordan’s backup, Ryan Hollins, for barely eight minutes.

“He wasn’t involved,” Del Negro said of Jordan. “It wasn’t just ‘D.J.’ It was all of our big guys. They weren’t active. They weren’t physical. They didn’t set the tone for us from the start. It’s not just one guy. It’s everybody.”

The Clippers hope to keep things simple Wednesday, when they play host to the Minnesota Timberwolves.

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Chris Paul offers advice to the Clippers after their latest defeat

Chris Paul didn’t like the way the Clippers played during their loss Monday to the New Orleans Hornets. The All-Star point guard didn’t hold back in his feelings, showing the sort of passion that was absent from his team’s game.

“Our defense was terrible,” Paul said. “It’s almost embarrassing. Teams feel like they can come down and score on us every night. We can’t play like that because we won’t win. Regardless if we’re scoring or not, collectively, we have to defend.”

Paul referred to the almost unguarded shots the Hornets got again and again from the perimeter. The Hornets took 25 shots from beyond the 3-point arc, sinking 15 (60 percent). They made 36 of 71 shots overall (50.7 percent).

The Clippers, as has been their method of operation against teams with sub-.500 records so far this season, didn’t play with anything resembling a sense of urgency until it was too late in the game to rally for a victory.

Paul, who scored 20 points, and Caron Butler, who had a team-leading 33 points on a franchise-record nine 3-pointers, tried but failed to keep them competitive in the second half. The Clippers’ loss was their fourth in a row after a six-game winning streak.

The Hornets ended a seven-game losing streak with Monday’s victory.

“We have to take more pride in our play whether we’re at home or on the road,” said Paul, who spent his first six seasons with the Hornets before he was traded to the Clippers last December. “Guys can’t look in our eyes and feel like they can get by. We’ve got to play with a better sense of urgency and understand that when teams that are supposedly not that great come into our city, we’ve got a target on our back.”

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From the locker room: Clippers discuss loss to Hornets

There weren’t many smiles in the Clippers’ locker room after a 105-98 loss Monday night to the New Orleans Hornets. Coach Vinny Del Negro didn’t like the Clippers’ energy or execution. Blake Griffin blamed himself for scoring a career-low four points and Chris Paul wasn’t pleased by the team’s effort.

Del Negro: “Give New Orleans credit. They outworked us in every aspect. We got nothing from our big guys, nothing really from our bench and nothing really from anybody. (The Hornets) set the tone. … We didn’t play hard enough to win.”

Griffin: “I’m totally comfortable within our offense. I just missed shots tonight. It’s on me. It’s not part of the offense. It’s not anybody’s fault, but mine.”

Paul: “We have to take more pride in our play, whether we’re at home or on the road. Guys can’t look into our eyes and feel like they can get by. We’re got to play with a better sense of urgency and understand that when teams that are supposedly not that great come into our city, we’ve got a target on our back.”

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Lamar Odom gets backing of Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro

Lamar Odom, a reserve forward, has played sick this season. And not in a good way. Actually, he was under the weather for Monday night’s game against the New Orleans Hornets, but played his customary minutes.

Odom also received a vote of confidence from Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro, who said before the game: “I’m just trying to keep him engaged. He knows he needs to play better. He’s lost some weight. He needs to lose more. I’m going to stick with him because in the long run he can give us something we need.”

Odom skipped the morning shootaround because of an upset stomach, but joined the rotation for Monday’s game. He went into the game averaging 1.5 points, 2.9 rebounds and 0.8 assists in 12.3 minutes, microscopic numbers for a player who was the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year while with the Lakers in 2010-11.

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Chauncey Billups closer but still not ready to make Clippers season debut

One of these days veteran guard Chauncey Billups will tell Clipeprs coach Vinny Del Negro everything is fine at last with his Achilles tendon and he’s ready to play in his first game since he was injured in a game last Feb. 12 against the Magic in Orlando.

It’s expected to happen sooner rather than later, with reporting last week Billups was targeting a return to the active roster sometime in the first week of December. Del Negro said there remains no timetable for Billups’ return.

“That’s my CBS report for you,” Del Negro said.

Billups is scheduled to practice with his teammates today.

“He’ll be ready when he says he’s ready to go,” Del Negro added.

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