Skip to main content

Main content

Print

Griffin-less Clippers get guard-happy to find their way

The loss of star Blake Griffin hasn't kept Los Angeles from success and may have helped it develop a bench, too

POSTED: Jan 4, 2016 10:18 AM ET

By David Aldridge

BY David Aldridge

TNT Analyst

AD

Guards Austin Rivers, Chris Paul and Jamal Crawford have each added a new dimension to the Clippers' attack.

In This Week's Morning Tip

The Los Angeles Clippers have managed to pull off the impossible of late: be quiet while winning.

The NBA's Most Chatty -- and (supposedly) Hated -- Team (someone should trademark that) isn't drawing any attention these days, with the world in love with the Golden State Warriors, or quivering in fear at what the San Antonio Spurs will do to them, or watching Kyrie Irving get his sea legs back as the Cleveland Cavaliers pick up their defense.

But after searching for most of the season to find some consistency, the Clippers have finally found a rhythm, even with their best player, All-Star Blake Griffin, out since Christmas with a torn left quadriceps. They've won six straight games to move into fourth place in the Western Conference, and while they're still nowhere near Golden State (L.A. is still 10 games behind the Warriors), that's not as important now as the Clippers are finally getting themselves going.

The Clippers aren't just doing it with Chris Paul and J.J. Redick and DeAndre Jordan. They finally -- finally -- seem to have found a bench rotation that works.

Clippers vs. Pelicans

J.J. Redick scores 26 points as the Clippers defeat the Pelicans 95-89.

Coach Doc Rivers has gone smaller off the bench, playing three guards together for the first time this season: Austin Rivers, Jamal Crawford and Pablo Prigioni. The combination gives him multiple ballhandlers on the floor to attack defenses, along with creating space on the floor, while -- so far -- not being exposed at the defensive end.

"Losing Blake is a huge void, so we might all have to be a little more aggressive," Paul said last week. "Me and Jamal, J.J., we talked about that. The movement's not the same, and the easy baskets we're getting is not the same. You don't have to overdo it, but you do have to play a little bit harder."

I'm a point guard first, but I'm always going to try and do whatever it takes to win. If that means scoring, if that means assists, as long as we win at the end of the game, that's all that matters.

– Los Angeles Clippers point guard Chris Paul

Griffin is out at least another week. He'll visit a doctor next week to be re-evaluated and see if he will miss additional time.

These are important days for the Clippers, who have firmly established their superiority over the more decorated Lakers in town, and are drawing them in at Staples Center, but whose Dream Team of Paul, Rivers and Griffin is in its third season together -- without the title run many had hoped for.

GameTime: Blake Griffin Injury

Rick Kamla, Steve Smith and Rick Fox talk about Blake Griffin being sidelined due to a quad injury and how it will affect the Clippers.

Meanwhile, the Warriors already have a ring, and are working on another. And the revitalized Spurs -- with five rings and counting -- look like they're going to be around another generation. Until Kevin Durant says otherwise, the Oklahoma City Thunder is always a brutal opponent to play. And those are the three teams ahead of the Clippers today in the West.

A month ago, the Clippers were 10-9. And while it's true that the West has dropped off significantly (L.A. has never been in any real danger of not making the playoffs), the prospect of winning a seven-game series against one of the top three teams in the conference seemed ridiculous. Without Griffin, the Clips are still swimming upstream compared to the Big Three, but at least they're playing with some pop.

"Everyone knows they have to be involved in the game," Rivers said."

Rivers was ready to utilize his son along with Crawford and Prigioni, but Austin Rivers sprained his ankle and missed three games before returning last week. Now, the father has three ballhandlers on the floor, with Austin Rivers able to switch out on twos and threes if there's heavy defensive lifting to be done by the second unit -- "we put Pablo on the second-best guy, and we put Jamal on the third guy," Doc Rivers said.

Mbah a Moute Gets To The Hole

Luc Mbah a Moute drives hard to the hole for the score.

With that group, "we switch everything," Austin Rivers said. "So the (opposing) guards are coming off, and they're not having mismatches. We keep switching the guards, so what it does is, it forces one on one basketball. You come off a switch, eventually, you'll take tough shots."

At least for now, the Clippers will use Wes Johnson at the four and veteran big Cole Aldrich at center with the guards. It worked very well against the Washington Wizards on Monday, with Johnson spotting up and Aldrich diving to the front of the rim time and again off of the guards' penetration. On Wednesday, it was Austin Rivers' turn, as he scored a season-high 22 points in 20 minutes in a 122-117 win over the Hornets in Charlotte. And he topped that on Saturday against the Philadelphia 76ers, going for 26 in 25 minutes in a 31-point victory.

The three-guard/Aldrich rotation, if effective, would also help Doc Rivers solidify and solve his bench issues while Griffin is rehabbing. The Clips went all in to try and fortify their reserves in the summer, but the two biggest name additions -- Josh Smith and Lance Stephenson -- have yet to produce much consistently.

Clippers vs. Lakers

Chris Paul leads a balanced attack, scoring 23 points with six assists and five rebounds, as the Clippers win it 94-84.

With one of the league's best starting fives, the Clippers can still score plenty. But they have to do it differently. Instead of running their offense through Griffin, trusting him to make scoring plays out of the high post or at the elbows, the ball is back more in Paul's hands, like it used to be earlier in his career.

Paul doesn't have to carry the Clippers offensively as he had to do in his younger days in New Orleans, so you sometimes forget his level of lethality with the ball. But it's still there, at the ready. He can still break down any point guard at will.

"He can't do that enough," Redick said. "We're okay with that. If he wants to shoot the ball, those are all good shots for us. He's so smart and he's so good and he has such control of the game that he's able to choose his spots. He also understands the importance of getting other guys the ball, getting other guys going.

"There was a moment in the Lakers game when he kind of said 'we need to get Blake going; here's Blake's package, let's run these plays.' All right, that's cool. He's always conscientious of that. But again, I'll repeat it: he can't do that enough."

Sixers vs. Clippers

DeAndre Jordan scores 22 points and grabs 9 rebounds as the Clippers blowout the Sixers 130-99.

Paul is willing to fill it up shot-wise, but still thinks he initially has to get teammates going.

"I'm a point guard first," Paul said, "but I'm always going to try and do whatever it takes to win. If that means scoring, if that means assists, as long as we win at the end of the game, that's all that matters."

The Clips have gained experience the last couple of seasons dealing with injuries to their key players. Paul missed six weeks last season with a separated right shoulder. Griffin missed several weeks with a staph infection. Crawford missed five weeks just before the playoffs with a bruised right calf.

"We figured out what kind of system (to use), and how we play," Crawford said. "No one guy tries to be the hero; everybody just chips in a little bit more. And I think when we do that, we're at our best. And I think it's harder for the other team to scout as well; they don't know where it's coming from, either."

Doc Rivers had tried Johnson and veteran stopper Luc Mbah a Moute at the three earlier in the season. Now, he's turned to Paul Pierce (though Pierce rested Saturday against the Sixers).

Gone are the days when Pierce would just get the ball at the elbow and Rivers could run a clearout, knowing the Truth would get two points. At 38, Pierce can't shoulder that kind of load anymore. Now, he prefers to get the ball moving, and get it on the other side. With defenses having to respect Paul and Redick, and Jordan shooting 73 percent, there's room for Pierce playing with the starters that isn't there when he's come off the bench.

Clippers vs. Jazz

J.J. Redick scores 25 points, Paul Pierce adds 20 with both Clippers putting in five triples, as Los Angeles tops Utah 109-104.

"Again, he's just figured out how to still play, because of his IQ," Doc Rivers said, "and he still has some of that (athleticism), but he just can't do it over and over again. You would give it to him until somebody stopped him, and that could be nine plays in a row. I don't know if he can do that, but I know Paul doesn't want to."

By all accounts, including his, Pierce enjoyed last season in D.C., when he had a playoff renaissance in helping Washington get to the Eastern Conference semifinals. But the chance to finish his career in his hometown, along with the opportunity for his kids to be near his mother and family, was too good to pass up. (Pierce has not yet decided whether or not this will be his last season, though he said last week that he doesn't want a farewell tour like Kobe Bryant -- "I'll do a summer tour of the local parks, maybe," he said.)

We figured out what kind of system (to use), and how we play. No one guy tries to be the hero; everybody just chips in a little bit more. And I think when we do that, we're at our best.

– Los Angeles Clippers guard Jamal Crawford

"I think that I looked at the team and I thought that they really had the chance to win the championship, and for me, on top of that, my family," Pierce said. "It was a combination of things."

To be honest, the Clippers have also cleaned up against some of the league's also-rans during the win streak. Their next six games are more of the same, with only Miami among the likes of Portland, Charlotte, New Orleans, Sacramento and Houston. The Clippers have a chance to put a big marker down just as they're getting their MVP candidate back -- as long as Hero Ball stays on the shelf.

"There's always a chance you try to do too much," Redick said. "We're never going to make up for Blake's production with one guy. So it's kind of like by committee. But I think somebody said it best after the Utah game -- it's about starring in your role...that's kind of what we need. Whether it's Blake going down, I missed a few games, Chris missed a few games earlier. That's got to be the mindset -- you've just got to star in your role."

TOP O' THE WORLD, MA!

(previous rank in brackets; last week's record in parenthesis)

1) Golden State [1] (3-1): Draymond Green posts league-best sixth triple-double of the season Saturday after Stephen Curry goes out early in win over Denver.

Draymond Green's Triple Double

Draymond Green had a tremendous game as he scores 29 points, grabs 17 rebounds and hands out 17 assists in an overtime victory over the Nuggets.

2) San Antonio [2] (3-0): First team since 1985-86 (Rockets) to win its first 20 home games.

3) Oklahoma City [3] (3-0): Offensive rampage: Thunder is averaging 118 points in its last four wins.

4) Cleveland [4] (3-0): That LeBron James is now 31 years old is ... well, it's troubling, because I remember when he was 18 and playing in his first NBA game in Sacramento. And I was still older then than he is now.

5) Atlanta [5] (1-2): What alternate universe are we in when Kyle Korver misses 18 straight 3-point shots and doesn't make a three for two-plus games?

Hawks vs. Knicks

Arron Afflalo leads the Knicks to an impressive home victory over Atlanta.

6) Miami [6] (2-2): Hassan Whiteside may have blocked the rest of this column, I'm not sure.

7) Chicago [11] (4-0): Have you noticed that the Bulls have won six of seven games so far this season -- two each against Oklahoma City and Toronto, one each over Cleveland and San Antonio -- against current division leaders? The Bulls' only loss against a division leader so far is at Golden State in November.

8) L.A. Clippers [10] (4-0): Everybody picking up for the injured Blake Griffin.

9) Toronto [7] (2-2): Bismack Biyombo (double figure rebounds in eight of his last 10 games) has given the Raptors a huge lift in the middle.

10) Dallas [8] (2-2): Mavericks continue to bounce between very impressive wins (handing Golden State its second loss of the season) and inexplicable losses (losing at home to the Pelicans on Saturday).

Pelicans vs. Mavericks

Anthony Davis scores 31 points and grabs 14 rebounds to lead the Pelicans past the Mavericks, 105-98.

11) Indiana [9] (2-2): We don't need a reminder of The Brawl, fellas.

12) Utah [NR] (3-1): Terrific performances by Rodney Hood bolster the Jazz while Rudy Gobert remains out and Derrick Favors missed the week with back spasms.

13) Memphis [13] (1-1): Grizzlies finally starting to resemble themselves again on defense, allowing just 94 ppg in their last four games (3-1).

14) Orlando [14] (2-2): Magic has some major losing streaks against East foes it will have to eventually overcome: 11 straight defeats to Washington, 13 in a row to Cleveland.

Magic vs. Cavaliers

LeBron James scores 29 points as the Cavaliers defeat the Magic 104-79.

15) Boston [12] (0-2): Celtics aren't going to have worse back-to-back losses this season than Lakers and Nets.

Dropped out: Houston (15).

TEAM OF THE WEEK

Chicago (4-0): Won three straight without Derrick Rose (hamstring). Jimmy Butler averaged 31 in those three games without Rose, and shot 59.6 percent (31 of 52) from the floor without Rose. Just pointing this out in the interests of science.

TEAM OF THE WEAK

Houston (0-3): It's getting close to panic time in Houston, wouldn't you say? Nothing's working -- at least for very long. The Rockets are letting the Kings and Blazers hang around in the race for the eighth playoff spot out west.

NOBODY ASKED ME, BUT ...

What will 2016 bring?

It's a reporter's job to ask questions. Every year has its own issues that are ultimately resolved, and as 2016 begins in the NBA, there are lots of high-profile questions whose answers will have telling impacts on the game for the next five-plus years. With just about every team assured of having significant cap room this summer, there will be an unprecedented spending spree leaguewide. But who will your team sign, or trade for? It's just part of the uncertainty.

Can we avoid a lockout in 2017?: As noted a couple of weeks ago, both the league and the National Basketball Players Association are saying all the right things about wanting to keep the gravy train flowing, with the new television deals from ABC/ESPN and Turner on line to begin this year, to the tune of $24 billion over the next eight years. But both sides can still opt out of the current Collective Bargaining Agreement by Dec. 1. Can NBA Commissioner Adam Silver and NBPA Executive Director Michele Roberts keep their respective sides looking to get a bigger chunk of that $24 billion from blowing up what has been a very good deal for both sides?

Can anyone stop the Warriors?: They're 31-2, ahead of the Bulls' pace in 1995-96 when Chicago won an NBA-record 72 games, and still haven't had the benefit of their coach, Steve Kerr, on the sidelines yet this season. Harrison Barnes has been out a month with a bad ankle. Klay Thompson and Andrew Bogut have missed time with injuries. But Golden State keeps rolling.

The Starters: Who Can Slow Golden State?

The Warriors are looking incredible, but so are the Spurs and Thunder. Which of the two poses the biggest challenge for the Dubs?

Will Kevin Durant really pull off a drama-free free agency year?: Durant has aggressively shut down any talk of his future during the season and most reporters have stopped asking. But that will change when the playoffs begin.

• And where will Durant be next season?: The smart money is still on a return to Oklahoma City, with fewer and fewer people seeing a real scenario where Durant leaves OKC to return home to the Wizards. Which reminds me ...

Do the Wizards have a Plan B?: It's okay to swing and miss at your dream free agent; it happens every season. But you can't get caught with no real alternative, as New York was in 2010 after LeBron James opted for Miami; the desperate Knicks then over-reached and gave Amar'e Stoudemire $100 million even though his knees were so bad they couldn't get him insured. Washington should know today exactly who it will sign if Durant say no thanks.

Will Derrick Rose be in Chicago next season?: Or Pau Gasol? Or Joakim Noah?

GameTime: What's Next For Rose?

The GameTime crew gives us news on Derrick Rose's latest setback.

Who will hire Tom Thibodeau?: The former Bulls coach looks better and better every day his old team stumbles. The Rockets, where he was an assistant for Jeff Van Gundy, are an obvious possibility, but he'll have his choice of three or four gigs.

How does GM Ryan McDonough fix the mess that his Phoenix Suns have become?

Will this season be the end of the road for Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce as well as Kobe Bryant?

Can the Lakers move forward with Byron Scott on the bench? Will Memphis move forward with Dave Joerger?

Will teams not happy with the 76ers' tanking strategies of late get the changes they tried to get to the Lottery last year?

Can the New York Knicks lure an impact free agent in July?

Can the Atlanta Hawks get back to the conference finals?

Can Dwyane Wade stay healthy?

Can anything be done to change the exponential increase in "Hack A-" use by coaches?: ESPN.com's Kevin Pelton charted intentional fouls in calendar year 2015, and counted 445 "Hack As" in the past 12 months -- an increase of 268 percent over 2014. This is not, as the "make your free throws" crowd likes to claim, just about fouling DeAndre Jordan or Dwight Howard.

The Starters: Hack-A-Player Discussion

The 'Hack-A-Whoever' was the biggest issue of the 2014-15 postseason.

What will Hassan Whiteside's free agent market be?: 12 teams? Sixteen? Twenty?

How does New Orleans improve the team around Anthony Davis?: And who will be doing the improving now that Mickey Loomis is reportedly going to be more involved with the Pelicans' side of the NFL/NBA split of the Benson Family's ownership?

Was last season a mirage in Milwaukee?

How aggressively will Jerry Colangelo change things in Philly?: He's already used two of the second-round picks hoarded by Sam Hinkie to bring back point guard Ish Smith, and put Mike D'Antoni on the bench as an assistant coach. Can Brett Brown survive as coach if the Sixers threaten or break the all-time single season record for futility -- the 9-73 76ers of 1972-73?

... AND NOBODY ASKED YOU, EITHER

The Trade Winds Are Blowing. From Aaron Ang:

Happy new year Mr. Aldridge! I would like to ask if Markieff Morris, Jarrett Jack, Terrence Jones, Ryan Anderson and Brandon Jennings all going to be traded?

Happy New Year to you as well, Aaron. Of that quintet you specified, I think it's most likely that Anderson gets shipped. (Your e-mail came before Jack's season-ending knee injury, suffered Saturday against Boston, which obviously takes him out of the mix.) The Pelicans' very disappointing season makes everyone in New Orleans outside of Anthony Davis a potential chip, and Anderson's stretch four abilities -- he's shooting 38 percent on 3-pointers this season, down from his career bests, but still formidable -- his expiring contract ($8.5 million) and remaining tread (he's still just 27) would be helpful to any contending team. Our buddy Frankie Ice (Frank Isola) wrote last week that the Knicks are interested in Jennings, but Jennings will surely have to prove over several weeks before the trade deadline next month that he's scraped the rust from his game in returning from his Achilles' injury. It's much more likely Jennings will be in play this summer in free agency. The Rockets have been asking for a first-round pick for Jones, and as one exec put it, "I like the player, but that's laughable." Morris is in the early stages of his mea culpa tour after his two-game suspension, and while he has talent, he's currently toxic just about everywhere; no one's going to seriously consider adding his remaining $23 million with his current attitude.

Oi, Oi, Oi. From Mitch Jolly:

Being from Australia, there is a fair amount of hype around LSU's Ben Simmons. Which player would you compare him too (please exclude LeBron James) and which of the bottom four teams would he best fit?

I can take the first half of the question, Mitch; the LSU freshman is expected to be one-and-done and enter the 2016 Draft, but I can't and won't speculate on specific teams just yet. (Suffice it to say, the 6-foot-10 Simmons would help anyone.) I watched him in a game a couple of weeks ago, and the Magic Johnson comparisons are way off and wholly unfair. Nor did he show me anything resembling LeBron's square-up and go game. Ben put me in mind of Lamar Odom, and that's a compliment, believe me. He's got great hands, he's a wonderful passer and he looks to score more in the flow of a game, rather than grabbing the game by the scruff and bending it to his will. He didn't seem particularly interested in dominating, even though he's fully capable. But it was just one game. I'll watch more and update as warranted.

The Magnificent Fifteen. From Oswald Santos:

If you are to assemble a 15 man team containing the best players in each franchise, who will make it on each NBA Team?

Oh, good, an easy one. Wow.

This could take some time, for franchises have obviously moved and folded over the six-plus decades of what is now the NBA, and players have been traded multiple times. (Is Moses Malone a great Rocket, 76er or Hawk, for example? What do you do with the convoluted history between the Charlotte and New Orleans franchises? Do you put Kevin Garnett with the Wolves, where he spent most of his career, or in Boston, where he won his one championship?)

For the sake of argument (and keeping the column under 10,000 words), I'm going to limit guys to one team -- which means I'll have to pick whether Julius Erving had more impact for the Nets or 76ers, for example -- and we'll include players from the four former ABA franchises now in the NBA on the list.

And, I'm limiting the roster to 12 players. This hurts franchises like the Celtics and Lakers, of course, who have multiple Hall of Famers, but it helps a lot of others, some of which would have trouble getting to 15.

As for Charlotte/New Orleans: I'm going to use players from what is now the Pelicans franchise going back to when the team was initially an expansion franchise in Charlotte and called the Hornets, in 1988. That was the franchise that moved to New Orleans in 2002, so why wouldn't you include players from the original Charlotte Hornets among the best in that franchise's history? And so, I will take players from the existing franchise in Charlotte, now called the Hornets, dating back to that franchise's berth in 2004, when it was called the Bobcats. Got all that? (Send your hate mail to TheChuckster@NotReallyHisemail.com.) Let's Boogie:

Atlanta/St. Louis Hawks: Bob Pettit, Cliff Hagan, Clyde Lovellette, Lenny Wilkens, Slater Martin, Bill Bridges, Lou Hudson, John Drew, Dominique Wilkins, Mookie Blaylock, Kevin Willis, Joe Johnson

Dominique Wilkins' Top 10 Dunks of His Career

In honor of Dominique Wilkins' 55th Birthday, we have re-released the Top 10 Dunks of his Career.

Boston Celtics: Bob Cousy, Bill Sharman, Bill Russell, Sam Jones, John Havlicek, Tom Heinsohn, Dave Cowens, JoJo White, Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, Robert Parish, Paul Pierce

Best Small Forwards: Larry Bird

Larry Bird was a versatile wing man who is considered one of the greatest players of all time.

Brooklyn (New York/New Jersey) Nets: John Williamson, Bill Melchionni, Billy Paultz, Julius Erving, Buck Williams, Mike Gminski, Drazen Petrovic, Derrick Coleman, Jason Kidd, Richard Jefferson, Keith Van Horn, Brook Lopez

Charlotte Hornets/Bobcats (2004-): Emeka Okafor, Gerald Wallace, Raymond Felton, Stephen Jackson, Gerald Henderson, D.J. Augustin, Kemba Walker, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Al Jefferson

Chicago Bulls: Jerry Sloan, Norm Van Lier, Bob Love, Chet Walker, Artis Gilmore, Reggie Theus, Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Horace Grant, Derrick Rose, Luol Deng, Joakim Noah

Best Shooting Guards: Michael Jordan

Michael Jordan gained a reputation for being one of the best defensive players in basketball and the greatest basketball player of all time.

Cleveland Cavaliers: Bobby (Bingo) Smith, Austin Carr, Jim Chones, Campy Russell, Brad Daugherty, Mark Price, Ron Harper, Larry Nance, John (Hot Rod) Williams, Terrell Brandon, Zydrunas Ilgauskas, LeBron James

Dallas Mavericks: Mark Aguirre, Derek Harper, Roy Tarpley, Brad Davis, Jay Vincent, James Donaldson, Rolando Blackman, Jim Jackson, Michael Finley, Sam Perkins, Jason Terry, Dirk Nowitzki

Milestones: Dirk Nowitzki

Watch this clip of Dirk Nowitzki's stellar journey from rookie to NBA Champion, as we celebrate his arrival as the ninth all-time scorer in NBA history.

Denver Nuggets: Ralph Simpson, Byron Beck, Dan Issel, David Thompson, Alex English, Fat Lever, T.R. Dunn, Kiki Vandeweghe, Dikembe Mutombo, Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf, Nene, Carmelo Anthony

Detroit/Fort Wayne Pistons: George Yardley, Larry Foust, Dave Bing, Dave DeBusschere, Bob Lanier, Isiah Thomas, Joe Dumars, Bill Laimbeer, Dennis Rodman, Grant Hill, Chauncey Billups, Ben Wallace

Golden State/Philadelphia Warriors: Joe Fulks, Paul Arizin, Neil Johnston, Tom Gola, Guy Rodgers, Wilt Chamberlain, Al Attles, Nate Thurmond, Jeff Mullins, Rick Barry, Chris Mullin, Stephen Curry

Wilt 100: The Legend, The Person

Watch as people talk about Wilt Chamberlain and many of the legends surrounding him.

Houston/San Diego Rockets: Calvin Murphy, Rudy Tomjanovich, Mike Newlin, Robert Reid, Moses Malone, Ralph Sampson, Hakeem Olajuwon, Kenny Smith, Otis Thorpe, Steve Francis, Yao Ming, James Harden

Hakeem Olajuwon: Career Top 10

Take a look at the Top 10 plays from Hall of Famer Hakeem "The Dream" Olajuwon's career.

Indiana Pacers: Roger Brown, Bob Netolicky, Freddie Lewis, Mel Daniels, George McGinnis, Billy Knight, Reggie Miller, Chuck Person, Dale Davis, Rik Smits, Jermaine O'Neal, Paul George

Los Angeles/San Diego Clippers (Buffalo Braves): Bob Kauffman, Randy Smith, Bob McAdoo, World B. Free, Swen Nater, Danny Manning, Benoit Benjamin, Loy Vaught, Ken Norman, Corey Maggette, Elton Brand, Blake Griffin

Los Angeles (Minneapolis) Lakers: George Mikan, Jim Pollard, Vern Mikkelsen, Elgin Baylor, Jerry West, Gail Goodrich, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Jamaal Wilkes, Magic Johnson, James Worthy, Michael Cooper, Kobe Bryant

Kobe Bryant's Career Milestones

Take a look at some of the major moments of Kobe Bryant's career as he moves into 3rd place on the all-time scoring list.

Memphis (Vancouver) Grizzlies: Shareef Abdur-Rahim, Bryant Reeves, Mike Bibby, Pau Gasol, Mike Miller, Lorenzen Wright, Shane Battier, Rudy Gay, Zach Randolph, Marc Gasol, Mike Conley, Tony Allen

Miami Heat: Glen Rice, Grant Long, Rony Seikaly, Eddie Jones, Steve Smith, Alonzo Mourning, Tim Hardaway, Brian Grant, Keith Askins, Eddie Jones, Dwyane Wade, Udonis Haslem

Milwaukee Bucks: Bob Dandridge, Jon McGlocklin, Marques Johnson, Junior Bridgeman, Sidney Moncrief, Brian Winters, Terry Cummings, Ricky Pierce, Paul Pressey, Glenn Robinson, Ray Allen, Michael Redd

Minnesota Timberwolves: Christian Laettner, Doug West, Kevin Garnett, Anthony Peeler, Stephon Marbury, Sam Mitchell, Wally Szczerbiak, Trenton Hassell, Kevin Love, Ricky Rubio, Andrew Wiggins, Karl-Anthony Towns

Kevin Garnett's Top 10 Timberwolves Plays

Turn back the clock and relive the top 10 plays from Kevin Garnett's career with Minnesota.

New Orleans Pelicans (Charlotte Hornets): Muggsy Bogues, Larry Johnson, Kenny Gattison, P.J. Brown, Kendall Gill, Dell Curry, David Wesley, Baron Davis, Emeka Okafor, Chris Paul, David West, Anthony Davis

New York Knicks: Dick McGuire, Carl Braun, Harry Gallatin, Nat (Sweetwater) Clifton, Richie Guerin, Willis Reed, Dick Barnett, Bill Bradley, Walt Frazier, Bernard King, Patrick Ewing, Allan Houston

Oklahoma City Thunder (Seattle Supersonics): Spencer Haywood, Gus Williams, (Downtown) Freddie Brown, Jack Sikma, Lonnie Shelton, Dale Ellis, Gary Payton, Shawn Kemp, Nate McMillan, Detlef Schrempf, Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook

Payton to Kemp

Check out the Top 10 alley-oops from Hall of Fame inductee Gary Payton to his Seattle teammate Shawn Kemp.

Orlando Magic: Scott Skiles, Nick Anderson, Dennis Scott, Penny Hardaway, Shaquille O'Neal, Bo Outlaw, Darrell Armstrong, Tracy McGrady, Dwight Howard, Hedo Turkoglu, Jameer Nelson, Nikola Vucevic

Philadelphia 76ers (Syracuse Nationals): Johnny (Red) Kerr, Paul Seymour, Dolph Schayes, Hal Greer, Larry Costello, Billy Cunningham, Doug Collins, Bobby Jones, Maurice Cheeks, Andrew Toney, Charles Barkley, Allen Iverson

Phoenix Suns: Dick Van Arsdale, Connie Hawkins, Neal Walk, Alvan Adams, Paul Westphal, Walter Davis, Kevin Johnson, Tom Chambers, Dan Majerle, Shawn Marion, Steve Nash, Amar'e Stoudemire

Portland Trail Blazers: Geoff Petrie, Sidney Wicks, Bill Walton, Lionel Hollins, Maurice Lucas, Mychal Thompson, Clyde Drexler, Terry Porter, Jerome Kersey, Rasheed Wallace, LaMarcus Aldridge, Damian Lillard

Best Shooting Guards: Clyde Drexler

Clyde Drexler was a ten-time All-Star and was named as one of basketball's 50 greatest players as of 1996.

Sacramento (Kansas City) Kings/Cincinnati (Rochester) Royals: Bob Davies, Bobby Wanzer, Arnie Risen, Maurice Stokes, Jack Twyman, Wayne Embry, Oscar Robertson, Jerry Lucas, Nate (Tiny) Archibald, Otis Birdsong, Mitch Richmond, Chris Webber

San Antonio Spurs/Dallas Chaparrals: George Gervin, Larry Kenon, James Silas, Mike Mitchell, Alvin Robertson, David Robinson, Sean Elliott, Avery Johnson, Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker, Kawhi Leonard

David Robinson's Career

NBA TV looks back at the career of David Robinson.

Toronto Raptors: Damon Stoudamire, Vince Carter, Marcus Camby, Alvin Williams, Doug Christie, Antonio Davis, Chris Bosh, Morris Peterson, Jose Calderon, Andrea Bargnani, Amir Johnson, DeMar DeRozan

Utah (New Orleans) Jazz: Pete Maravich, Adrian Dantley, Darrell Griffith, Rickey Green, John Stockton, Karl Malone, Bryon Russell, Mark Eaton, Jeff Hornacek, Thurl Bailey, Andrei Kirilenko, Deron Williams

Stockton and Malone: Top 10

Check out the Top 10 plays from one of the NBA's greatest duo of John Stockton and Karl Malone of the Utah Jazz.

Washington Wizards (Baltimore Bullets/Chicago Packers): Walt Bellamy, Don Ohl, Earl (the Pearl) Monroe, Kevin Loughery, Gus Johnson, Wes Unseld, Phil Chenier, Elvin Hayes, Jeff Ruland, Jeff Malone, Gilbert Arenas, John Wall

Send your questions, comments, criticisms and a better understanding of what posted road signs actually mean to daldridgetnt@gmail.com. If your e-mail is sufficiently funny, thought-provoking, well-written or snarky, we just might publish it! (endital)

MVP WATCH

(last week's averages in parentheses)

1) Stephen Curry (14 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 7 apg, .409 FG, .750 FT): Re-injured the shin Saturday night. Probably needs to sit two or three games to let it heal completely and properly.

2) LeBron James (25.7 ppg, 5 rpg, 4 apg, .538 FG, .714 FT): Rebuilding his jumper, which will be necessary as teams pack it in against Cleveland when the playoffs begin.

3) Kawhi Leonard (19.3 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 2.3 apg, .613 FG, .875 FT): Has not missed a beat carrying the Spurs offensively while LaMarcus Aldridge gets his bearings and Danny Green tries to find his shot.

Kawhi Leonard's Top 10 Plays of 2015

Check out the Kawhi Leonard's Top 10 Plays of the 2015 Calendar Year.

4) Russell Westbrook (26.3 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 8.7 apg, .464 FG, .926 FT): If he keeps up his current pace, would post the second-most free throw attempts in his career.

5) Kevin Durant (26 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 7 apg, .442 FG, .897 FT): If he has a normal scoring week, Durant should pass Stephon Marbury, Billy Cunningham and James Worthy on the NBA's all-time scoring list, and close in on Joe Dumars for 100th place overall in league history.

BY THE NUMBERS

20 -- NBA D-League teams that will play next season. The 20th franchise, owned by the Hornets, was officially named the Greensboro Swarm last week, and will play in a converted 30,000-square foot pavilion on the site of the Greensboro Coliseum. And, don't forget: the annual D-League Showcase begins this week in Santa Cruz, Calif.

.858 -- Win percentage, including the playoffs, for the Warriors during calendar year 2015. Golden State went an incredible 88-17 in 2015 -- going 42-10 for the portion of the 2014-15 regular season that began after New Year's Day last year, 16-5 in the 2015 playoffs and 30-2 to start the 2015-16 season through the end of the calendar year. (H/T to our man John Schuhmann for all this.)

1 -- Victories needed by the Knicks to equal last season's 17-win campaign after New York's win Sunday over Atlanta.

I'M FEELIN' ...

1) Happy 2016, everybody. May we live in less turbulent times over the next 12 months.

2) The Sixers win twice in a week? Either Ish Smith is an MVP candidate, or Mike D'Antoni should be Assistant Coach of the Year.

3) A very interesting story on how the Spurs' offense resembles that of the great soccer teams worldwide.

4) You're going to miss Joey Crawford when he's gone after this season. He's the last of the old-school referees, who sold calls as much as they made them. Even though Crawford's temper was always an issue, he almost always got the call right in real time. And his love for the game was unquestioned. Enjoy life off the road, 17.

5) I have this same reaction every time.

NOT FEELIN' ...

1) Solutions in sports, to many, are always easy. If you just trade the quarterback, or fire the coach, or sign the free agent, everything will be better, and we (it's "we" until your team loses, after which it's "they") will win. But life is not sports. It is easy to demand that LeBron James do something -- speak out or walk off the court or post on Twitter -- in response to an Ohio grand jury's decision not to indict Cleveland police officers who shot and killed 12-year-old Tamir Rice in 2014 outside a recreation center. It is easy to condemn James -- who has commented about previous deaths of African-Americans at the hands of police, both on social media and through action --for saying he wasn't up to speed on the Rice case and didn't feel comfortable commenting after the grand jury's decision. The frustration and anger in the black community at the absence of accountability after people are killed by police time and again is growing at exponential rates. It is understandable. But demanding James walk off the court or refuse to play in order to pass some kind of litmus test about his convictions is grossly unfair. It is a bromide, designed to make us feel better about the cause, not to bring about any substantive change. Don't get me wrong. Symbolic gestures can be important, and provide hope to those who don't think they are heard. But please don't tell me James doesn't understand his responsibilities as a high-profile athlete. He is not required to speak out after every racially-tinged incident or death. Hopefully, when he is more up to speed on the Rice shooting, he will say or do something that has more meaning and will be more long-lasting. But demanding an instant hot take from him on every topic, and every tragedy, is grossly unfair.

2) The league and teams are always reluctant to talk about security, but the shooting of Knicks forward Cleanthony Early last week is scary stuff. This wasn't some chance encounter with a chain snatcher. Early was obviously targeted and set up, as three cars blocked his Uber ride after he and his girlfriend left a New York strip club.

Fisher, Anthony On Early

Knicks head coach Derrick Fisher and Carmelo Anthony comment on the recent shooting involving teammate Cleanthony Early.

3) RIP, Meadowlark Lemon. The Harlem Globetrotters' lead showman for decades, he epitomized the skill both as an entertainer and basketball player that made the Globies a worldwide phenomenon. People today don't understand how important the franchise was to the survival and growth of the NBA; people came to arenas in the 1950s and '60s to see the Globetrotters, and sometimes stayed to sample the nascent NBA teams that also played there.

NBATV Remembers Meadowlark Lemon

Vince Cellini, Dennis Scott and Brent Barry reflect on the life and career of Harlem Globetrotter and Hall of Famer Meadowlark Lemon.

4) Politicians and sports. Always a bad combination.

Q&A: ELFRID PAYTON

Energy. It is the word that Magic coach Scott Skiles uses again and again when talking about his second-year point guard, Elfrid Payton. It is the most consistent skill the 21-year-old can bring to bear every night, as he continues to work on his jumper -- he's worked with shooting consultant Dave Love, whom Orlando hired last year to work with its young players. Until Payton can make teams pay from the perimeter (he's shooting just 41 percent), defenses will continue to go underneath on almost all screen and rolls, not wanting to get the blow-by with Payton's quick first step.

On the nights Payton is on his toes and active, the Magic becomes a very difficult team to play, because they're off and running, and their young legs and hops can carry the day. But when Payton is dog tired (or sick, as he was much of last week), Orlando looks like your typical inexperienced team that can't beat older opponents.

"Again, it's never a situation where he's just dogging it out there," Skiles said. "It's just he has the ability to get to a different energy level than a lot of guys can get to. And when he does, not only is he very good, he makes us very good."

Top 10: Elfrid Payton

See why Orland Magic guard, Elfrid Payton was selected to the 2014-15 NBA All-Rookie First Team.

It's part of the learning curve for Payton, whose rights Orlando acquired on Draft night in 2014 from Philadelphia, and who was first team all-rookie last season. Learning on the fly is nothing new for Payton, the son of a former Canadian Football League player, Elfrid, Sr., who played for the legendary Eddie Robinson at Grambling, and whose family was displaced by Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

Elfrid, Jr., blew up as a sophomore at Louisiana-Lafayette, and after being named Sun Belt Defensive Player of the Year as a junior, he declared for the NBA Draft. He's getting an advanced education in NBA defense from Skiles, whose teams almost always improve dramatically at that end very quickly. Orlando is much improved already in a lot of areas, but that consistency still eludes the Magic, and that still starts with Payton.

"Usually, if he's really turned on defensively to start a game, to start a half, a lot of good things start happening to him," Skiles said. "He starts getting long rebounds. Now he's out on the break, and it's a lot easier than bringing it up and running the offense and trying to find things there. He's sort of loosening up his whole game. But he's definitely made big strides. As with all coaches, you just want more."

Me: What is the daily message from Coach Skiles to you?

Elfrid Payton: Bringing energy, trying to lead the group, things like that. I'm doing my best to doing that. Just continue to do what I do, making sure that I'm ready every day. If you're asking that player, 'well, he's not doing his job,' so I'm just making sure I'm on point with mine.

Me: Yeah, Coach always uses that word 'energy' when talking about you. How does that show up when you have those high-energy nights?

Bucks vs. Magic

Elfrid Payton has 22 points and 10 assists as the Orlando Magic beat the Milwaukee Bucks 114-90 Friday night.

EP: I think, honestly, it's in the team. Not to say that I'm the reason we have high energy, but I try to make it so I have pretty good energy, and the team usually follows suit. And it helps us in the way we play, especially at the defensive end. And that carries over into transition and offense. But we usually have good games when our energy's high.

Me: But this league is designed to take your energy away. So how do you cope with that and overcome it?

EP: It's part of your job. It's something where you've got to find a way, each and every night. It's something that I take pride in and try to do every night. Just the normal stuff, try to eat right, try to take care of my body as much as I can. It's unfortunate that I'm nicked up a little bit, but as much as I can, keeping everything ready to go.

Me: Your dad played football. How far did you get?

EP: I stopped playing in middle school, after the hurricane hit. I stopped playing after that. I just wanted to focus on the one sport.

Me: You and Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum all have come onto the scene in the last couple of years. You feel like you've made it easier for guys from small schools to not only get drafted, but taken high?

EP: Definitely. There were a lot of people before me. But I'm just trying to keep it going, keep that tradition going. Even last year, with Cameron Payne (out of Murray State, taken in the first round by Oklahoma City) coming in. It's a lot of guys that can play at this level from small schools. If you can play, you can play. It doesn't really matter.

Me: So how good is your old L-L teammate Shawn Long?

EP: He'll be here. He's pretty good, real good. He's got a nice touch, can shoot the three ball, block shots. He can play. He'll be here.

Me: What has Coach Love taught you about your shot?

Magic vs. Sixers

Elfrid Payton scores 20 points as the Magic defeat the Sixers 105-97.

EP: Just a lot. A lot of different little things. Nothing that you would think would be big changes, but it's all little small things, small changes, things like that. It's been great to work with him. He's somebody that's easy to work with, easy to talk to. So it makes for a good relationship.

Me: Is the consistency where you want it right now?

EP: It's a work in progress. Obviously, with something like that, I've got a lot of work to do. But I'm okay with where I'm at right now.

Me: How has the change in the lineup, with Oladipo now coming off the bench, changed the starters, and you, with the ball in your hands more?

EP: It's just a little different, obviously, without him. I like playing with Vic. But I think it's helped the team a lot, especially that second unit, giving us a little bit more scoring punch, a little bit more balance. We've been playing much better since the move. So it was a good decision ... I think we're in a good spot, but even still, I think we can be even better. It's a lot of games we're looking back at now that we're like, we let that one get away. We had no business losing those games. Obviously the NBA is a long season and things like that, but I feel like we could be even better.

TWEET OF THE WEEK

-- Cavaliers guard Mo Williams (@mowilliams), Wednesday, 8:33 a.m., presumably in response to the robbery and shooting of Knicks guard Cleanthony Early on Wednesday morning in New York after leaving a strip club. Early was shot in the knee after the Uber car in which he and his girlfriend were riding after leaving the club was surrounded by three vehicles a mile or so away, with four to six men emerging from the cars and demanding Early's money and jewelry.

THEY SAID IT

"I could've did that different based on the fans. I think I owe the fans an apology for saying some of the stuff I said. They deserve better."

-- Suns forward Markieff Morris, to the Arizona Republic, expressing regret for remarks he made over the summer in which he said he would not return to Phoenix this season. Morris completed a two-game suspension last week after he tossed a towel toward Suns Coach Jeff Hornacek.

"You've just got to try to make it hard on him, but you're talking about a guy that it's a little bit like what Steve Jobs has done to our everyday life. He's changed the way we live -- he and Bill Gates have done that. Steph Curry is changing the way the game will be played in the future. I'm sure of it, and that's an historic thing."

-- Mavericks Coach Rick Carlisle, on the impact of Stephen Curry to the game of basketball.

"We had Glen Rice, Dell Curry, and Muggsy Bogues, some guys who could play a little bit from the backcourt, and we were looking to try to win right away. We needed to get a big. We knew he was good and all, but we didn't know he was going to be the player he turned out to be."

-- Dave Cowens, to the Boston Globe, recalling the decision made when he was head coach of the Charlotte Hornets in 1996 to trade the Draft rights to Kobe Bryant to the Lakers for center Vlade Divac. Bryant said last week that Cowens called him after the prearranged trade was completed to say that the Hornets didn't want him -- an account that Cowens disputed in an interview with the Globe.

Longtime NBA reporter and columnist David Aldridge is an analyst for TNT. You can e-mail him here and follow him on Twitter.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting.