Doc Rivers wants second-unit players to be great as a whole

Josh Smith

Josh Smith/Photo courtesy of Los Angeles Clippers


A lot has been made of the Clippers’ second unit and how lethal it could be. What that unit will actually look like once the regular season begins is not 100 percent etched in stone because coach Doc Rivers has not named a starter for the small forward spot.

What Rivers has said is that it could be that both Paul Pierce and Wesley Johnson could switch off starting there depending on matchups. However, it’s rather certain that Josh Smith, Lance Stephenson, Austin Rivers and Jamal Crawford will make up four-fifths of it.

Yes, that means Smith could see some time at center when he’s playing with that unit, though he is a power forward.

That said, the second team played dynamite ball during the four-day camp at UC Irvine. It beat the first team more than once during scrimmages, including Tuesday.

Rivers was told Thursday that a member of the Clippers’ radio broadcast team said on the air that his second unit is going to terrorize those of the rest of the league. Rivers smiled, then kept it real.

“Our second unit has played very well in camp, but I still think we have a big step to cross as a group,” he said. “They’re really good and they still have to figure out a way to be good together.”

Rivers said he noticed during camp that it always seemed to be one particular player on that unit who stole the show.

“As good as they’ve been, it’s been like they’ve had these dominant individual moments to dominate games,” he said. “And maybe that’s who we become with that group. I don’t know that yet.

“The one day Josh carried us, the second day it was Austin, the third day it was Lance. And we haven’t even talked about Paul (Pierce) and Jamal (Crawford) in that, yet. I want to get them to a point where they’re all doing that at the same time. We’ll see how long that takes.”

J.J. Redick talks about the one open spot available in starting lineup

J.J. Redick

J.J. Redick/Photo courtesy of Los Angeles Clippers


Sure, there are quite a few new players on this Clippers team – but most of them will be playing on the second unit. The only starting spot available is the small forward position left open with Matt Barnes’ departure.

At this point, it appears either Paul Pierce or Wesley Johnson will start there. J.J. Redick, the starting shooting guard, was asked Thursday after practice about the starting unit and its one open spot.

“We still need to find a little bit of continuity with that starting group,” Redick said. “Our ball movement has been really good. That’s one of the things that Matt was great at is just making quick decisions moving the ball. Wes is similar to Matt, capable of hitting 3s and spacing the floor. So we’re going to ask him to do a lot of the same things that Matt did. It’ll take a little bit of time.

“With Paul, I think that Paul can just kind of fit in and plug in wherever. He’s that smart and that savvy.”

Doc Rivers said Hack-a-Shaq rule change got little play over summer

Doc Rivers/Photo by Associated Press


Doc Rivers is on the NBA’s competition committee. One new rule it established over the summer was playoff seedings. Previously, any team winning its division was guaranteed a top 4 seed, even if it had an inferior record to a team that did not win its division.

That has now been changed so seedings will be based solely on record.

One rule change that would have been welcomed by fans didn’t get done. That’s the Hack-a-Shaq that affected the Clippers and post DeAndre Jordan, one of the worst free-throw shooters in the league.

When an opponent would make it a point to continually foul Jordan on purpose, it slowed the game down and made it downright difficult to watch.

But Rivers said the possibility of change there got little play.

“There really wasn’t a lot of talk (about that),” he said. “That rule is a tough one. I get it, again, for the fans; it’s ugly. It looks bad. But it’s tough to change a rule for five or six guys (in the league).”


Pablo Prigioni, 38, is making a good impression on Doc Rivers

Pablo Prigioni

Pablo Prigioni/Photo courtesy of Los Angeles Clippers


Pablo Prigioni is 38, but he’s only going to be in his fourth NBA season because the native of Argentina previously played professionally in Argentina and Spain.

Coach Doc Rivers likes what he’s seen so far from Prigioni, who this past season toiled for the New York Knicks and Houston Rockets.

“He is just a wonderful guy to have on your basketball team,” Rivers said. “Plays his role, he’s been a coach out there on the floor at times.”

Austin Rivers, son of Doc, has been working hard at becoming an even better defensive player than he already was. He said he plans on picking Prigioni’s brain for help.

“I’m still going to learn, get tips from Pablo Prigioni, who has been around,” Austin Rivers said. “Pablo has a lot of techniques to get his hands on balls, so does Chris (Paul).”


Doc Rivers: A good team is the best place for a role player to excel

Wesley Johnson

Wesley Johnson/Photo courtesy of Los Angeles Clippers, Los Angeles Lakers


Wesley Johnson this week was asked about being an inconsistent player, and he said that figures to change this season now that he’s on a deep team with the likes of Blake Griffin and Chris Paul anchoring it. Keep in mind the previous two seasons Johnson was with the Lakers, one of the league’s worst teams of late.

Speaking Tuesday in general terms and not specifically about Johnson, coach Doc Rivers believes playing on a good team can make the difference for a role player.

“When you’re on a good team and a role player, you’re a better player,” he said from training camp at UC Irvine. “You play better, kind of get your role better. When you’re on a bad team, usually no one actually knows their role and everyone is fighting each other to be the man because the team’s bad, you don’t believe the guy that’s good is that good.

“So I think it’s a lot easier when you come to a team and it’s clear who the guys are.”

Doc Rivers: Paul Pierce and Wes Johnson could share starting role

Paul Pierce

Paul Pierce/Photo courtesy of Los Angeles Clippers, Washington Wizards


Coach Doc Rivers was asked again Tuesday if he has made a decision as to who is going to start at small forward this season. As of right now, it’s either going to be Paul Pierce or Wesley Johnson. Lance Stephenson would also be a possibility, but Rivers said this week he would prefer to keep him on what figures to be a dynamite second unit.

Rivers still isn’t sure which way he’s going to go, but it could be they’ll both start at times.

“I think it’s going to be one of those things where it changes from night to night,” Rivers said. “There will be nights when Wes starts, nights when Paul starts. I  think we’re versatile enough to be able to do that.”

Rivers then made reporters laugh when one asked if matchups and such will determine who starts on a given night.

“Yeah, matchups, Paul’s age, a lot of things,” he said.

Pierce will be 38 on Oct. 13. Johnson is 28.