1 Los Angeles Clippers

October 28, 2013

CASE FOR

Last season, when the Clippers needed defensive stops in the fourth quarter, the player best equipped to get them one was often sitting on the bench. Despite starting all 82 games, 6'11" DeAndre Jordan—who is blessed with superior timing and is as athletic as any big in the league—averaged a confidence-crippling 1.8 fourth-quarter minutes, due largely to his inconsistent offensive play and abysmal free throw shooting (38.6%). Enter new coach Doc Rivers, who says one of his top priorities is to restore Jordan's confidence so that he can stay on the floor in crunch time. "He can single-handedly change a game with his defense," says Rivers. "There are probably five guys that can do that with their size and athleticism, and he's one of them."

Rivers has started to rebuild Jordan by handing him more responsibility. Much as he did with Kendrick Perkins—another offensively limited center with a poor touch from the foul line, who became the backbone of the Celtics' 2008 title team—Rivers has placed Jordan in charge of the defense. As for offense, Rivers has told Jordan not to worry about it. The early returns are encouraging: In L.A.'s preseason opener, Jordan chipped in 16 points, eight rebounds and four blocks in a win over the Trail Blazers—and he was 4 for 5 from the free throw line. "Defensively it starts with me down there," says Jordan. And if Rivers can employ him down there no matter what the situation, look out.

—C.M.

FAST FACTS

COACH DOC RIVERS (1ST SEASON WITH CLIPPERS)

2012--13 RECORD 56--26 (1ST IN PACIFIC)

WHAT'S NEW Other than arguably the best coach in the game? Serviceable FA pickups J.J. Redick and Jared Dudley.

PROJECTED LINEUP (2012--13 STATS)

PG CHRIS PAUL

16.9 PPG; 9.7 APG; 48.1 FG%; 32.8 3FG%

SG J.J. REDICK

14.1 PPG; 3.8 APG; 43.4 FG%; 36.6 3FG%

SF JARED DUDLEY

10.9 PPG; 3.1 RPG; 46.8 FG%; 39.1 3FG%

PF BLAKE GRIFFIN

18.0 PPG; 8.3 RPG; 0.6 BPG; 53.8 FG%

C DEANDRE JORDAN

8.8 PPG; 7.2 RPG; 1.4 BPG; 64.3 FG%

SIXTH MAN

SG JAMAL CRAWFORD

16.5 PPG; 2.5 APG; 43.8 FG%; 37.6 3FG%

NEW ACQUISITION

TELLING NUMBER

381

DUNKS BY Clippers big men Blake Griffin (a league-leading 202) and DeAndre Jordan (179), the most by a pair of teammates since at least 2000--01, when basketball-reference.com began keeping the stat.

ENEMY LINES

A RIVAL SCOUT SIZES UP THE CLIPPERS

The top priority for Doc Rivers has to be getting Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan to buy into what he wants to do. Their mental makeups are not very strong. They have gotten the blame the last two years, and you can tell it has worn on them.... You can talk a lot about what Doc's system is going to be, but until someone takes the ball out of Chris Paul's hands, it is going to be all pick-and-roll. If they want to go anywhere in the playoffs, they can't run pick-and-roll all the time. The problem is, they don't have bigs to space the floor. They have two who can only roll, can't make free throws and can't pick-and-pop.... Last year Chris didn't trust Blake to make a big shot—you could see that. Blake needs a counter to his spin move on the block. Everyone knows he is going to his left shoulder to try to dunk. He has to learn to face up and shoot.... Matt Barnes was great with his defense, his energy, his spot-up shooting. He's not going to create a shot, but he is going to be the ass---- you just don't want to play against.... Jamal Crawford isn't a good sixth man on a winning team. You get to the playoffs and you can't play him because all he wants to do is hoist up shots.... J.J. Redick's ability to come off screens and shoot will take pressure off Chris. Ray Allen and Redick are totally different players, but they can run the same plays in Doc's system. Ray would come off double and triple screens; that's what Redick will do.... Swapping Jared Dudley for Caron Butler will be a positive. Butler wanted more shots; Dudley doesn't care about that. He'll defend and be a solid teammate.

PHOTOJOHN W. MCDONOUGH/SPORTS ILLUSTRATEDSTOPPER JORDAN PHOTOJOHN W. MCDONOUGH/SPORTS ILLUSTRATED PHOTOJOHN W. MCDONOUGH/SPORTS ILLUSTRATEDJAM SESSION Griffin's field goal attempts declined (from 16.8 per game two years ago to 13.4 last year), but he still stuffed as frequently as ever, throwing down an average of 2.5.

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)