Not long after he agreed to a contract with the Clippers during the offseason, backup power forward Ronny Turiaf got a phone call from coach Vinny Del Negro. Then another. Then another. Then another. It was something new and different for Turiaf.
One of these days veteran guard Chauncey Billups will be sound enough to return to the Clippers’ starting lineup and Willie Green will take a seat on the bench. If all goes as planned, Billups will play significant minutes and Green will be a cheerleader.
Green won’t say a word in anger. He won’t complain about his reduced role.
That’s simply not his method of operation.
“We all have to do our parts,” Green said before scoring nine points Thursday in the Clippers’ 106-77 beat-down of the Boston Celtics when asked about the inevitable move from starter to backup when Billups recovers from ankle tendinitis. “Great teams become great because everybody knows their role.”
Green was something of a surprise choice to fill in for Billups, who suffered a season-ending Achilles tendon tear last February and didn’t make his 2012-13 debut until Nov. 28. Billups started three games and Green didn’t play a minute in any of them.
When tendinitis flared in his ankle, Billups returned to the sideline and Green became a starter again. Green’s production isn’t what the Clippers expect to get from a healthy Billups, but somehow he and the team have made it work en route to a league-leading 22-6 record going into Thursday.
“There is something special going on here and we all have to do our parts,” said Green, who went into Thursday’s game averaging only 5.9 points and 1.5 rebounds. “There’s still a lot of room for improvement. It’s still early in the season.”
There’s no timetable for Billups’ return to the active roster, which means Green will continue in his role for the immediate future. Green has played with damaged knee cartilage, something Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro takes into account when assessing the veteran guard’s production.
“Willie’s a pro,” Del Negro said. “He’s solid on the court and off the court and in the locker room. He gives us what he can. I think that’s one of the reasons we wanted him (in a trade last July 30 from the Atlanta Hawks). No one knows when Chauncey’s going to be back.”
So, Green has the job until Billups does return to the lineup.
The Clippers have won a franchise-record 13 consecutive games, including a team-record six in a row on the road. They also have the NBA’s second-best overall record at 21-6 and lead the rival Lakers by a stunning eight games in the standings.
If that’s not remarkable enough news, then consider they’ve held eight straight opponents to less than 43 percent shooting. Their average margin of victory during their winning streak is 13 points. They also have four wins by 20 points or more, including Sunday’s 103-77 rout of the Phoenix Suns.
They aren’t rebounding well enough to suit coach Vinny Del Negro and they could play a little less recklessly with the basketball, but otherwise they’re on a roll the likes of which have never been seen in the history of the Buffalo Braves/San Diego Clippers/Los Angeles Clippers franchise.
The Clippers go for their 14th straight victory Tuesday when they play host to the Denver Nuggets (15-13) at Staples Center in the last of five Christmas games around the league. Their last loss was a home defeat Nov. 26 against the New Orleans Hornets.
Since then, the Clippers have defeated Minnesota, Sacramento, Utah, Dallas, Phoenix, Toronto, Chicago, Charlotte, Milwaukee, Detroit, New Orleans, Sacramento (again) and Phoenix (again) for the longest winning streak in the league this season.
After defeating the Detroit Pistons on Monday night for their 10th consecutive victory, a record for the Los Angeles Clippers and one win away from the franchise’s all-time mark, the team took a break from practice Tuesday. Matt Barnes, a backup forward, wrote on Twitter that he was looking forward to sitting on the couch and watching TV.
Then his TV went out. Bummer.
Next: the Clippers go for their 11th consecutive victory when they face the New Orleans Hornets on Wednesday at Staples Center. The Hornets, who are soon to be known as the Pelicans, handed the Clippers their last defeat. New Orleans beat the Clippers on Nov. 26. The Clippers have beaten Minnesota, Sacramento, Utah, Dallas, Phoenix, Toronto, Chicago, Charlotte, Milwaukee and Detroit since then.
The Clippers today recalled guard Eric Bledsoe from the Bakersfield Jam of the NBA Development League. Bledsoe, 22, appeared in two games with the Jam as he continues his rehabilitation from surgery to repair a torn lateral meniscus in his right knee. Bledsoe is with the Clippers in Denver and will be available for tonight’s game against the Nuggets.
In two games with the Jam, Bledsoe averaged 12.5 points and 8.5 assists in 21.0 minutes per game.