Jones in the Middle
Ryan Menezes, | 1/3/12

Solomon Jones was short of breath.

It could have been because of the whirlwind 36 hours that had him trying out amongst a crew of big men on Monday, Jan. 2 and signing with the Clippers immediately after and then showing up for his first practice Tuesday, Jan. 3. Or it could have been the extensive solo workout he team’s newest backup big man went through with assistant coach Dean Demopoulos after practice to get him up to speed.

Maybe it was the realization that he had to hurry to get back into playing shape, since coach Vinny Del Negro suggested he could be in the playing rotation as soon as Jan. 4 when the Clippers face the Houston Rockets.

“I've been conditioning on my own,” Jones said. “Got to get back in game shape though, but I haven't been able to get 5-on-5 since the lockout ended.”

The NBA’s work stoppage ended more than a month ago, but it took a little longer for Jones to find work. He found a fit with the Clippers, in need of front court depth with a vacant roster spot targeted at filling that need.

Clippers Sign Free Agent Solomon Jones
“I've been waiting on this opportunity since the lockout ended, just sitting at home waiting on that phone call,” Jones said. “Finally got an opportunity from a good team to come in and showcase my talent.”

The 6-foot-10 forward/center wasn’t nervous as he went through a tryout with several other forwards and centers Monday afternoon. After banging around with the bigs, Jones impressed Del Negro enough to emerge as the unofficial winner and ink a contract.

“We needed some more depth up front,” Del Negro said. “I wouldn't say he's a traditional five. He's got a decent skill set, he's long, he had some experience and I think he can guard a lot of fives for us.”

Since the trade for Chris Paul, the Clippers have been looking to find big bodies to back up Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan. Their first step was signing 6-foot-8 forward Reggie Evans. Though Evans has yet to play while nursing an ankle injury, Del Negro is ready to thrust Jones into the fire.

“We've got a game tomorrow,” Del Negro said.

“He's got to get up to speed quick here. If I need him tomorrow he'll be available and we'll go from there.”

The 27-year-old Jones, entering his sixth season, said he was ready if called upon, and he knows his purpose. The Clippers have been out-rebounded in each of their four games this season and their signings of rebounding specialists Evans and Jones signal that they’re trying to address that right away. While Evans sits, those responsibilities fall on Jones if he’s out there with the reserves.

“That's got to be the main focus,” Jones said.

“I'm 6-10, so I definitely have to get out there and contribute to the boards.”

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Looking up

The Hotel Figueroa sits just a block away from Staples Center, and its walls have become one of the prime spots to put up an advertisement in the city of Los Angeles. Currently occupying the three high-rise walls of the hotel are portraits of Blake Griffin, Chris Paul and DeAndre Jordan.

Jordan, along with his family, had a chance to finally see the building in its new white Clippers digs and he came away in awe.

“You can't help but look at it,” Jordan said.

“It's pretty humbling, pretty exciting also.”

Billups ready

Chauncey Billups said he’s fully expecting to end his two-game absence and play Wednesday night against the Rockets.

He practiced fully Tuesday and will continue to receive treatment on his sore groin before the game.