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: 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.


Lance Stephenson: It’s like an All-Star game in team scrimmages

Lance Stephenson

Lance Stephenson/Photo courtesy of Los Angeles Clippers, Charlotte Hornets


Lance Stephenson on Monday afternoon stood inside the Bren Center at UC Irvine following the third of five training days there. Stephenson is one of the several new players on this Clippers team, and he was shaking his head when asked about the abundance of talent suiting up every day.

“The talent on this team, I mean, even when we’re playing in scrimmages, it feels like an All-Star game to me,” said Stephenson, a 6-foot-5 wing. “I feel like this squad has so many weapons and we’ve just gotta put it together and put in the pieces and work hard and bring it to guys.”

This will not be a boring team, Stephenson said. Quite the contrary.

“I mean, they was fun to watch before I got here,” he said. “So adding me and Josh (Smith), I mean, we’ve got Paul Pierce. We’ve got so many exciting players to watch, I think our team is the team to watch.”

Jamal Crawford’s minutes figure to be affected by deeper bench

Jamal Crawford

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.


Doc Rivers believes Clippers now match up with best in the West

DeAndre Jordan

DeAndre Jordan re-signed with the Clippers for four years and $88 million/Photo courtesy of Los Angeles Clippers


The Clippers have made several additions to their roster during the off-season. The players brought on board include Paul Pierce, Lance Stephenson, Josh Smith, Cole Aldrich, Wesley Johnson and draft pick Branden Dawson.

That’s not to mention the Clippers re-signed DeAndre Jordan and Austin Rivers and are expected to soon make the signing of Pablo Prigioni official once he passes his physical, which, according to a league source is all that remains for that to be a done deal.

The question is, how do the Clippers now stack up with the best in the West? Golden State is NBA champion, San Antonio now has LaMarcus Aldridge and Oklahoma City figures to be very tough, providing it stays healthy.

Coach Doc Rivers believes his team is right there with anyone and everyone in the conference.

“Well, I think we’re better,” Rivers said. “And I think you have to be better. The West is better in a lot of ways. Oklahoma is better because they’ll be healthy. I think people are forgetting about them. San Antonio has gotten a lot better. But I think we have gotten a lot better as well. And Golden State, they’re the champs. So they’ve gotten better by winning it. Their swag, their confidence now will be hard. You have to knock that off.

“But the one thing I do look at this team is you look at the last two champions, we’ve beaten the last two in the playoffs. Two years ago we beat Golden State and last year we beat San Antonio. So the last two teams that have won titles we knocked them out in the last two years as well.”

That means a lot, Rivers said.

“So (that) tells us we’re right there,” he said. “But we’re not over the hump yet. And that’s what we have to get this year.”