Hectic Schedule Looming
Eric Patten, Clippers.com | 1/9/12

After a day off following Saturday’s 92-86 win over Milwaukee, the Clippers were back to work Monday, Jan. 9, preparing for what is arguably their toughest stretch of games at this stage of the young season.

Entering tomorrow’s matchup with Portland, the Clippers (4-2) will have played two fewer games than any other team in the NBA. But much of the so-called “easy” portion of the schedule will change in the coming week. L.A. plays at Portland (Tuesday) and at home versus Miami (Wednesday). “We’ve been lucky in that regard,” guard Chauncey Billups said. “It’s our first back-to-back, but you worry about the first game and not the second. Then, when you get to the second, you worry about that one.”

After two off days, they face the Lakers Saturday before encountering their first of two back-to-back-to-back sets next week.

Much of Monday’s practice was spent preparing to face Portland for the second time this season. The Clippers defeated the Trail Blazers (6-2) at Staples Center Jan. 1, but Portland is a perfect 5-0 at home. Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro said the team continued emphasizing improvement in overall rebounding. And as he’s mentioned before, he said it’s on everyone, the guards and big men to help out on the glass.

The Clippers entered the day last in total rebounds (35.3) and 29th in the league in rebounding differential -7.5. “I thought today was a pretty good practice,” Del Negro said. “I think just the more we’re together, those things [jelling] are going to happen. They’re good guys. We know we can play better, we have to. And we have to grow throughout the season. Having some veteran guys on the team helps and we’ve got to bring the young guys along as quickly as possible in a lot of areas.”

GRIFFIN CONTINUES TO GET BETTER

Power forward Blake Griffin is currently sixth in the league in scoring (24.7 points), tied for fifth in rebounds (10.3), 11th in field goal percentage (56.3%), and is one of only two players in the league shooting better than 50% while averaging more than 24 points per contest. The other is Miami’s Lebron James. Still, knowing the number of hours the 22-year-old puts into refining his game, Del Negro sees Griffin continuing to improve, especially in areas that are perceived as weaknesses, such as his free throw shooting, perimeter game, and defensive ability.


VOTE YOUR CLIPPERS into the All-Star Game!
“I think Blake will shoot better from the line. He works at it too much and gets there too much,” Del Negro said. “His midrange game has gotten a little bit better. I think he’s gotten a little more confident in that. But the ball’s going to be in Blake’s hand a lot. He’s got to make plays for us. He’s got to face up in the post area. “He’s still a young player. He’s still got to go through it. The double teams are going to come at him a lot. Luckily, he can handle the ball real well and he’s an excellent passer.”

CLIPPERS TO WATCH BCS TITLE GAME AT HOTEL

Several Clippers players are planning to watch the BCS National Championship game between Alabama and LSU together tonight at their hotel in Portland. Regional allegiances seem to be taking shape. Mo Williams, who attended the University of Alabama, is leading the group pulling for the Crimson Tide, while point guard Chris Paul, who lived in Louisiana for six years as a member of the Hornets, is among those picking LSU. Forward Ryan Gomes said he’s having a tough time deciding who will win because neither team seems to have much of an advantage over the other.


More: Videos from LACtv | VOTE your Clippers into the 2012 All-Star Game!