WITH BUTLER OUT, ENTER BOBBY SIMMONS
MEMPHIS–Bobby Simmons is ready.
With small forward Caron Butler (fractured left hand) out for Game 2 of the Clippers first round series with the Memphis Grizzlies, Simmons’ role is shifting from DNP to potentially starting in place of a two-time All-Star.
“I think [always being ready] is something that we all discuss,” Simmons said. “Being in the playoffs, obviously, you never know what can happen and we need everyone. And you just stay ready and when your number’s called you have to be ready to perform.”
Prior to shoot-around Wednesday, swingman Nick Young said he expected to remain in his usual role as a reserve small forward/shooting guard, meaning the Clippers bench will retain continuity from Game 1 when Young and Mo Williams came in as the primary scorers behind Butler and Randy Foye. It also means that Simmons, who was brought in on his first 10-day contract February 27 and signed for the rest of the season March 24, is likely to start.
“Obviously, [Butler’s] a great player, but it’s the playoffs, somebody’s going to step up and play at a high level,” Memphis’ leading scorer Rudy Gay said. “You can’t expect to just have a day off because somebody’s out. And honestly, we’re preparing as if he’s playing, so you have to go out there and prepare and watch tape and see what these other guys can do.”
Whether it’s guarding Gay or knocking down baseline jumpers and corner 3-pointers, Simmons will suddenly be counted on in one of the more pressure-filled environments of his career, something he indicated that he’s prepared for.
Chris Paul said he’s confident in Simmons, regardless of the role he’s asked to fulfill.
“He gives us some size, he can shoot it really well, and Bobby’s one of those guys that just plays hard every possession,” Paul said. “He doesn’t need a lot of touches and stuff like that. He’s just the ultimate team guy.”
Simmons played 17 or more minutes 13 times during the regular season, connecting on 20 of his 60 3-point attempts (33.3%). However, points will be secondary to using his 6-foot-6 frame to matchup defensively with the 6-foot-7 Gay, who averaged 17 points on 51.4% shooting in three regular season games against the Clippers.
“As far as guarding a guy that has the ball in his hands all the time like Rudy does, he’s capable of making shots from wherever he wants and my defensive assignment is going to be a key part,” Simmons said.
Gay was 8-for-20 (40%) with 19 points on Sunday, but he’s a versatile scorer. He can make shots from beyond the arc as well as at the rim. His 5.1 shot attempts inside of 3 feet this season were the second highest output of his six-year career.
Simmons said the Clippers will have to do a better job on the defensive end of the floor early in Game 2, particularly from a mental standpoint. “I think in the first game we didn’t have our defensive intensity from the jump,” he said. “We can’t let guys do what they normally do. [We have to] make it a little harder for them to catch it where they want to catch it and make it a little tougher on them making shots.”
CLIPPERS’ MENTALITY ENTERING GAME 2
For the third straight day, Blake Griffin appeared to have a business as usual mentality prior to taking the floor for practice. Griffin’s outlook, which has been evident amongst a number of his teammates during their two days between Game 1 and 2, centers on not being content with splitting their two road games before returning to Los Angeles.
“We’re trying to go up 2-0,” Griffin said. “We’re not just happy with splitting, so our goal is to come in here and play hard and be able to pull it out in the end. But obviously play better through three quarters, the first three quarters anyway.
“Really starting off the game well kind of sets the tone for the game for us a lot of times. That first quarter [of Game 2] is going to be important.”
Still, Paul reiterated Wednesday that he’s already put the team’s historic comeback behind him.
“I’m done with the other night to tell you the truth. I don’t remember too much about it. It’s about tonight,” the superstar point guard said. “We can’t take anything from that last game into this one.”
NICK YOUNG: “MEMPHIS’ MOST WANTED”
Prior to Wednesday’s shoot-around, Young was asked what the last two days have been like after making three consecutive 3-pointers to help lead the Clippers back from a 24-point deficit with less than eight minutes left Sunday.
“I’m probably the most hated person in Memphis,” Young said. “I’ve been the talk of the town. People are trying to get me, but I’ve just been hiding out, relaxing.
“[People have said] that’s Memphis’ most wanted, right there. I’ve heard that a couple of times. I’m just laughing that off.”
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