Griffin wastes no time

LOS ANGELES – With the start of the NBA free agency period looming late last month, Blake Griffin had every intention of testing the market.

He opted out of his contract with the Los Angeles Clippers – making him an unrestricted free agent – and scheduled meetings with the Phoenix Suns, Denver Nuggets and the Clippers. Griffin met with his incumbent team first, and after hearing what owner Steve Ballmer, head coach Doc Rivers and vice president of basketball operations Lawrence Frank had to say, he didn’t need to hear any more.

Griffin cancelled his meetings with Denver and Phoenix, and committed to signing a five-year, $175 million max contract with the Clippers – all before the official start of free agency on July 1.

“In the end, I realized this was a no-brainer for me,” Griffin said Wednesday during a press conference. “This was the best place for me, and this is the place I want to start and finish my career.”

Rivers appreciated that Griffin made his decision so quickly. He said Griffin committing allowed the Clippers to make other roster moves. They ended up signing Milos Teodosic from Europe and trading for Danilo Gallinari.

Rivers said by signing, Griffin’s message to the team was, “I wanna be a Clipper,” which meant worlds to him and the rest of the organization.

“This organization hasn’t had that,” Rivers said. “The fact that we have that now, that messaging is huge for us.”

Griffin’s signing came on the heels of the team introducing four players from the trade that sent Chris Paul to the Houston Rockets and brought back a package of Patrick Beverly, Lou Williams, Sam Dekker and Montrezl Harrell. Griffin said he spoke to Paul the day the trade happened, and both wished each other well.

“No hard feelings,” Griffin said of how he felt about Paul’s departure. “I think we’re all professional enough to know and we all have been in this situation now to know that sometimes you have to do what’s best for yourself and your family. I’ve never had a hard feeling with any of my teammates who have decided to leave or felt like it was best to leave, so I wouldn’t start now.”

Well wishes aside, Paul’s departure meant for many that the Clippers were incapable of winning a championship as previously constructed. Griffin scoffed at the notion that Paul leaving will motivate him more to lead Los Angeles to a title.

“I don’t need any extra motivation to win a championship,” Griffin said. “Nobody’s words or anything can motivate me any more than I’m already motivated.”

Griffin will now be expected to function as the focal point of the offense, which Rivers said will feature more ball movement now that Paul is gone. Griffin said he likes the speed, size and versatility of the new roster.

“I think we went out and put together probably the best roster we could and got the guys that we need in certain positions – guys that are very, very versatile, guys that impact the game on both ends of the floor in several different ways,” Griffin said. “That, to me, is extremely exciting. The more versatility we have, the harder you are to guard. Like Doc said, I think that’s the recipe for winning in today’s NBA.”

INJURY UPDATE

Griffin’s injury to the plantar plate in his right toe is progressing, he said, and his rehabilitation has allowed him to do more than he previously thought he could.

Griffin said he met with “probably five different foot specialists” before having surgery. The consensus was that he should be ready before the regular season begins.

“I expect to be ready to go by training camp,” said Griffin, who sustained the injury in last year’s playoffs. “Within the next few weeks here, I’ll be able to get on the court and ramp up things there. It’s been nice to be on the court just doing ball handling and free throws and stuff like that, but it’s just taking it week by week, really.”

New Clippers make their point

PLAYA VISTA – Patrick Beverley made it very clear.

“I’m going to go ahead and get his out the way because I’m going to be asked this a lot this year: I am not Chris Paul,” Beverly said Tuesday at an introductory press conference for the Los Angeles Clippers. “I reiterate: I am not Chris Paul. In saying that, he is not me either.”

The Clippers introduced six of their new players in a press conference at their practice facility. Four of those players – Beverley, Sam Dekker, Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell – came in the deal that sent Paul to the Houston Rockets. The other two players introduced were rookies Jawun Evans and Sindarius Thornwell.

Los Angeles traded Paul last month, and has faced questions about how the new look of the team will function now that the face of the franchise, the emotional leader and the fulcrum of the offense is gone. Clippers coach Doc Rivers said the team’s style will be predicated on ball movement, which he has preached at other coaching stops.

“If you look at my work historically, we were more of a ball-movement, cut and pass-the-ball team,” Rivers said. “That’s what we’re gonna get back to doing.”

Beverley said playing under coach Mike D’Antoni in Houston will help the new Clippers to play the style Rivers wants.

“Playing under D’Antoni was a blessing. Playing under James (Harden) is a blessing,” Beverley said. “All the mileage and IQ that I learned there, I’m very fortunate to be able to bring it here.”

In Houston, Beverley was asked to play more of a defensive role. Lawrence Frank, executive vice president of basketball operations, called Beverley and “instigator” and “agitator” on the court, but also mentioned his talent.

“It seems like every time the bar is raised, he meets it,” Frank said of Beverley.

Dekker, who was drafted No. 18 by Houston in 2015, said Beverley will have no problems handling any pressure he might face from essentially replacing Paul in the lineup.

“Pat’s gonna be fine,” Dekker said. “Chris is great, but Pat’s also a very good player and he’s got his skill set and his tools he’s gonna bring to the table. He’s a prideful guy. He wants to show that he can win games here, too, and help a good team out.”

Williams said there will be “no adjustment,” for the team because the new Clippers players never played with Paul.

“We don’t really care what happened before,” Williams said. “We never played with him. We’re not part of that history with the Clippers. We have the opportunity to come in with a clean slate and see how they build this team out in training camp and we’ll go from there.”

Beverley said the team’s transition period won’t be as difficult because it has “a chip on its shoulder.”

“Of course, we’re counted out. I’ve been used to that,” Beverley said. “Like I keep telling everybody, it won’t be easy. It’s gonna be extremely hard. Winning in this league is extremely hard. But I think with the group of guys that we have, from the bottom to the top, that everyone wants to win and wants to win the right way. That’s the biggest key in this league.”

But when asked what the ceiling of this iteration of the Clippers could be, Beverley said he didn’t know.

“I’ll let you know at the end of the season,” Beverley said.

HOMECOMING

Williams is returning to Los Angeles after playing with the Lakers for part of last season. The Lakers traded him to Houston in February in exchange for Corey Brewer.

Williams was only in Houston for a few months, but said all of his things were still there. He sold his home in Los Angeles and moved his family to Houston.

“I shouldn’t have moved,” Williams said. “I should’ve kept my place a couple months longer and stayed patient, but I didn’t. All my stuff is in Houston, so I gotta get it right back.”

But Williams managed to find a place in Marina Del Rey around where he lived previously.

Williams said he feels the Clippers signed him to fill the role left vacant by Jamal Crawford signing with the Minnesota Timberwolves in free agency this offseason. Crawford won two Sixth Man of the Year awards with the Clippers.

Williams also said he’s looking forward to playing for Rivers.

“I’ve always enjoyed playing for coaches that have played the game, that understands scheduling, understands how the body works and understands how to get the most of out his players,” Williams said.

West officially joins Clippers

LOS ANGELES – Jerry West considers himself an unconventional man who makes unconventional choices.

As a player for the Los Angeles Lakers, he decided to leave the game in 1974 even though he would have been paid the highest salary in the NBA. When he ran the Lakers as general manager decades later, he left his job after winning a title and knowing more success was on the horizon.

In 2002, West thought it would be interesting to run basketball operations for the Memphis Grizzlies, who at the time were the laughing stock of the NBA. After Memphis made three consecutive postseason berths, he left again, this time to retire.

But four years later, the Golden State Warriors called and asked him to become an executive board member. Six years and two championships later, he’s moving on to another situation that piques his interest: a consulting role with the Los Angeles Clippers.

“I am not a conventional person,” West said Monday after being introduced at a press conference in the Clippers training facility. “I leave when things look the best.”

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Clippers fall to Jazz

LOS ANGELES – Another year, another underachievement.

The season ended for the Los Angeles Clippers on Sunday afternoon with a disappointing 104-91 loss to the Utah Jazz in Game 7 of their Western Conference first-round series.

“They beat us,” Clippers head coach Doc Rivers said of the series as a whole. “Give Utah credit. They won the series. We fought our butts off. … They won the series, and I think they should get the congratulations. There’s no excuses. We lost.”

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Down in playoffs nothing new

LOS ANGELES – The Los Angeles Clippers have their backs against the wall.

After losing 96-92 at home Tuesday against the Utah Jazz, the Clippers are just one loss away from their playoff run ending in the first round. But many of the players on the team have been here before.

When J.J. Redick was in his third year playing for the Orlando Magic in 2009, he found himself on the wrong end of a 3-2 hole against the Boston Celtics, who had won the NBA title the previous year. But the Magic rebounded in Game 6, won Game 7 in Boston and went all the way to the NBA Finals that year.

Jamal Crawford has a similar experience. When he played for Atlanta in 2010, the Hawks won the first two games of their first-round series against the Milwaukee Bucks, but lost the next three. The Hawks won the series by claiming the next two games.

And just two seasons ago, these same Clippers were down 3-2 to the San Antonio Spurs and still managed to pull out the series in the seventh and final game.

“I think the mentality is just you can’t go up to Utah to win two games,” Redick said Thursday at practice regarding the team’s mentality going into Game 6 tonight in Utah. “We only have to win one game (today). That’s all we have to do. … The task of winning one game is a little less daunting than the task of winning two games at once.”

Redick and Crawford were on that 2015 Clippers team, along with Chris Paul, DeAndre Jordan, Austin Rivers and Blake Griffin. Although, Griffin’s foot injury in Game 3 forced him out of this year’s playoffs.

But history is stacked against the Clippers. A team up 3-2 in a best-of-seven series boasts an all-time record of 244-45, a winning percentage of 84.4.

Clippers head coach Doc Rivers, however, downplayed the statistic Thursday.

“Guys don’t think about that crap,” Rivers said emphatically. “They really don’t.”

For the Jazz, tonight’s game is like their Game 7. They want to close out the series and not give the Clippers a chance to come home Sunday and take the series.

“For us, we have to treat this one as like a must-win,” Jazz forward Gordon Hayward said after Tuesday’s game. “We want to close it out in Salt Lake (City). We definitely don’t wanna come back here for Game 7.”

Through five games, the Clippers and Jazz have each scored 495 points, an average of 99 points per game. With the series that close, Rivers said the Clippers have to find a way to dictate their pace and minimize their mental errors on defense.

“For us, it’s simple,” Rivers said.

Paul knows the Jazz will come into tonight’s game beaming with energy and that the crowd will be buzzing from the opening tip. But he remembered the San Antonio series in 2015 and said he’ll draw on the composure it took then to win in a hostile environment and use it against Utah.

“We’re gonna have to come out ready,” Paul said.

Game 6 is tonight in Utah at 7:30 p.m.

Clippers have no answer for Jazz in 4th

LOS ANGELES – The Los Angeles Clippers dropped a pivotal Game 5 with their 96-92 loss to the Utah Jazz on Tuesday at Staples Center.

Chris Paul led the way for the Clippers with a game-high 28 points, while J.J. Redick contributed 26 points.

After a sluggish first three quarters offensively by both teams, things heated up in the fourth.

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Clippers want to stay in control of Game 3

LOS ANGELES – The first-round playoff series between the Los Angeles Clippers and Utah Jazz is about control.

The best-of-7 series is tied at one game apiece, and there’s a reason: Each club has managed to successfully control aspects of the game that it has needed to win.

The Clippers thirst to play faster and in transition, while the Jazz deliberately play as if their entire team were running offense while slogging through thick molasses.

Game 1 went to the Jazz, who held the Clippers to only 95 points, but needed a buzzer-beater from forward Joe Johnson to declare victory. But while the Clippers again scored under 100 points in Game 2, they played faster – “more downhill” as the team likes to call it – and with more aggression, allowing them to come away with a 99-91 victory.

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