Clippers stars Blake Griffin and Chris Paul have meeting to get on same page

By Vincent Bonsignore

The last straw for the Clippers came in a home loss to Indiana nine days ago. April Fool’s, to be exact.

It was the Clippers third straight loss to finish a near month-long stretch in which they had muddled about no better than a .500 team.

Everything they’d built during the best regular-season in club history was on the verge of collapse. Home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs, any sort of momentum heading in the postseason – all of it was slipping right through their fingers.

Worse, there was speculation their best two players – Blake Griffin and Chris Paul – were at odds.

It was a crossroads, to be sure.

And Paul and Griffin both sensed it, which is why they decided to sit down and talk to each other.

The gist of the conversation being the Clippers fate rested on their shoulders, and that their actions from that point on would set the tone for the entire team.

“We talked about how we always need to be on the same page. We always need to be communicating,” Griffin said. “Even if we might not have a good offensive game we can still contribute defensively and by passing the ball and in how we talk and how we lead during timeouts. Things like that, we can always do well. We always have control over those things.”

Paul agreed.

“It definitely starts with me and Blake,” Paul said “On the offensive end and the defensive end. When me and him are on the same page everyone else has no choice but to fall in line. Me and Blake realize we have to bring the energy every night and everyone else will feed off on it.”

The Clippers have won three straight games since the meeting, their defense picking up and their offense playing smoother and at a more up tempo pace in the process.

And at the perfect time, with four games remaining and a chance to grab home-court advantage from the Memphis Grizzlies in the first round of the playoffs.

“We said enough is enough,” Paul said. “We were tired of losing and we didn’t want to back into the playoffs and we realized we controlled that. Not the coaches, not the media not anyone else. And we decided to pick it up.”

The key being, win or lose the Clippers want it to be on their terms.

“If we lose it can never be for a lack of effort,” Griffin said. “It has to be because the other team played better than us and that has to be our focus. To play with a lot of intensity and pace.”

The Clippers have done that the last three games.

Now they hope it continues.



Chauncey Billups out again for Clippers; vows to be back before playoffs

By Vincent Bonsignore

No one needs to tell Chauncey Billups how important the next eight days are to the Clippers. With five games to play in that span – including Wednesday’s home game against Minnesota – and the Clippers still in a fight with Memphis and Denver in the Western Conference playoff race they’ve reached a critical stage of the regular season.

Billups knows that, and he understands the difference he can make when he’s on the floor with the Clippers.

On the other hand, the aggravated right groin strain he suffered March 27 against New Orleans still isn’t quite right, and with the Clippers eyeing a long playoff run he knows he needs to be as healthy as possible when the postseason opens in 10 days.

Which is why he reluctantly didn’t suit up against the Timberwolves Wednesday and why he still won’t pinpoint a definite return, other than to say he’ll be ready when the Clippers open their first-round playoff series.

“Oh yeah,” Billups said. “I’ll be back before then.”

But until he’s certain he won’t aggravate the injury again and jeopardize his availability for the postseason, Billups won’t push it.

“We’re just taking it day by day, testing it, pushing it,” said Billups, who missed his sixth straight game.

That said, Billups practiced Tuesday with his teammates and continues to ratchet up his activity. His groin withstood the added work load, which included light scrimmaging, and he reported no issues by Wednesday evening.

The goal now is to carry that comfort level through another workout and another day of assessment.

At that point, a return is likely.

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.” @DailyNewsVinny



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.”


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.


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.


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.”


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.


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.


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.”


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.”


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.