Wesley Johnson/Photo courtesy of Los Angeles Clippers, Los Angeles Lakers
Wesley Johnson was asked Saturday at training camp in Irvine if him being labeled an inconsistent player is a fair criticism. He averaged a career-high 9.9 points this past season for the Lakers, shooting 41.4 percent from the field – 35.1 percent from 3-point range. His response was interesting, and it made perfect sense.
“I can say that’s fair,” he said. “But I think it’ll be different this year in the aspect of we have players like Blake (Griffin), we have players like Chris (Paul) and just go down the line, man, a lot of players. So that could make consistency, that lack I have, I think that’ll go away just with the players we do have. I think that’ll help me out a lot.”
Johnson played his past two seasons with the Lakers, who during that time were one of the worst teams in the league.
Johnson has been in the league five years and has a career scoring average of 8.5 and shooting percentages of 40.9 and 34.7 (3-point).
Blake Griffin/Photo courtesy of Los Angeles Clippers
There was quite a bit of excitement on the first day of training camp at UC Irvine on Saturday. The second unit – consisting of Jamal Crawford, Lance Stephenson, Austin Rivers, Josh Smith and Wesley Johnson – defeated the first team in a scrimmage.
Then there was just the overall difference in the team, which includes a lot of new faces on what now is a very deep team.
Blake Griffin was asked about how different the vibe is from previous first days of training camp.
“Yeah, it’s hard to say, though, because the vibe is always different every year,” he said. “The first day is the first day. Everybody’s going 99 miles an hour and we’re all trying to hustle and just do the right things. Yeah, I think you’ll see that start to take shape a little bit more throughout the course of the preseason, obviously, throughout the season.
“But right now,. it’s hard to say, ‘Oh, the vibe is different,’ because it’s always different. It’s different when you have eight new guys or however many we have.”
Jamal Crawford/Photo courtesy of Los Angeles Clippers
One of the hot topics of conversation at Friday’s media day in Playa Vista was how the minutes are going to be distributed on a team that now is very deep. There were several player acquisitions in the off-season and most of them will be key reserves. One has to wonder how that is going to affect Jamal Crawford, the two-time Sixth Man of the Year.
Crawford, 35, is entering his 16th season. As usual, his name was mentioned in trade rumors after the team lost in the Western Conference semifinals. He’s still here, but what’s going to happen to his minutes?
Crawford was asked about that, and he gave the answer one would expect from him.
“I think it will be a lot of sacrifice, obviously, to sacrifice minutes, whatever it may be,” he said. “Your common goal has to be winning.”
If it turns out that Wesley Johnson starts at small forward, that means Crawford will be leading a long bench that also includes the likes of Josh Smith, Paul Pierce and Lance Stephenson. Stephenson, in particular, could cut into Crawford’s minutes. Crawford averaged 26.6 minutes this past season after averaging 30.3 in 2013-14.
Lance Stephenson/Photo courtesy of Los Angeles Clippers, Charlotte Hornets
Lance Stephenson is among the many new players who will suit up for the Clippers this season. He is talented, and – as Doc Rivers likes to say – “multi-positional.”
The 6-foot-5 wing fits the profile of the type of player Rivers was looking for this off-season.
“I like the way Lance plays,” Rivers said Friday at media day in Playa Vista. “I think he adds a dimension to our offense, I think he gives us a great defender and a multi-positional player.”
Rivers, who doubles as president of basketball operations, said he stressed that to his front-office staff.
“I don’t want the one-position guy,” he said. “You’ve gotta sign a couple of those, but I wanted multi positions. I wanted guys who can play 1 and 2, 2 and 3, 3 and 4, 4 and 5. And when they’re on the floor, we’re not sure actually what position we’re playing. That was my goal, especially for the bench. And Lance is the poster child of that.”
Doc Rivers jokingly suggested a cage match with Dallas owner Mark Cuban/Photo by Associated Press
Under the circumstances of this summer, when DeAndre Jordan spurned Dallas Mavericks and owner Mark Cuban to re-sign with the Clippers, it would be understandable if some new bad blood develops between the teams.
A reporter asked Clippers coach Doc Rivers on Friday at media day about a so-called rivalry between the teams, and if it could be good for the league. Rivers, who has argued a bit with Cuban in separate radio interviews, wasn’t buying it.
“Not really,” he said. “I don’t think it matters, anyway. Listen, Mark’s an owner, I’m a coach. Unless we’re going to play a one-on-one or something, or get in a cage match or something – which you guys can all sponsor; I’m good with either one of those – I don’t think it really matters. I think it’s more him talking and me talking and we’re both wasting time.”
DeAndre Jordan/Photo courtesy of Los Angeles Clippers
The Clippers open exhibition play next Friday against Denver at Staples Center. They begin the regular season Oct. 28 at Sacramento, with their first home game the next night against Dallas.
Speaking of Dallas, the Clippers play there on Nov. 11. With the history DeAndre Jordan now has with Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, he was asked what he believes it will be like that night at American Airlines Center. He tried to be funny.
“It’s going to be like any other road game,” he said, drawing laughter from assembled reporters Friday at media day in Playa Vista. “I mean, I’ll have all of my people from Houston there, so I’ll be good. I’ll probably get a lot of boos, which is fine. As long as we come out with a win, that’s all that matters.”