BULLOCK EARNS BIRTHDAY TRIP TO PODIUM

LOS ANGELES – When Chris Paul walked into the postgame media session following the Clippers’ 102-80 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers, he approached the dais with a first-timer.

Rookie Reggie Bullock, who was celebrating his 23rd birthday on Sunday, was a couple of steps behind Paul. While Paul is a regular at the press gatherings through two seasons and 68 games, Bullock had yet to join him.

Paul looked back at his young teammate, flicked a smile and looked back at the waiting media to say, “Podium game for Reggie, huh?”

Paul sat down with Bullock to his left and announced, “My in-laws are going to the airport tonight, so I’m going to make it snappy. Then Reggie will take the floor.”

It was a much deserved chance for Bullock to glean some of the spotlight. He scored a career-high 14 points, including going 2-for-3 from 3-point range and finishing off a nifty left-handed layup on a fast break. And he did it after being thrust into somewhat of emergency duty after Darren Collison was ruled out with a stomach virus shortly before tipoff.

“Reggie was huge for us,” Paul said before turning things over to Bullock. “Not knowing that DC [Collison] wasn’t going to play until right before the game, that’s what’s special about our team. We have so many pros. Willie [Green] is the ultimate pro, and Reggie [Bullock] gets to see Willie day in and day out. As you can see it rubs off on him because he’s another guy who doesn’t know how many minutes he’s going to play, but comes right in and does what he has to do.”

Bullock’s entire first season has been characterized by sporadic playing time. He has scored in double figures four times, including once in December, three times in March. He’s also received 15 DNP-CDs, four in a row prior to Sunday. But with Collison sidelined as well as J.J. Redick and Jamal Crawford out, the Clippers were thin at shooting guard.Green started, and gave way to Bullock midway through the first quarter.

“All I just thought about was we have so many guards out and who’s going to play the two, and I’m the next guy in line,” Bullock said. “I just try to be confident and try to just go out and just play my game. I see the things that Willie does. Like CP says, he’s definitely a pro. He goes some games without playing and he still comes in and is consistent at playing his game. I just try to follow his footsteps and see the things he does when he’s out on the court.”

The now 23-year-old rookie responded by having arguably his biggest imprint on a game this season, including scoring six points off the bench in the first quarter and draining a 19-footer on a play designed for him two possessions after entering the game.

“We definitely go over that play a lot in practice and in shootaround and I shoot it about every time in practice when I go through it,” Bullock said. “I just try to come off it confidently and shoot the ball.”

“The play was for him, but I think when he made the shot all our guys on the bench were like ‘that’s great, it’s for the birthday boy,’” Clippers head coach Doc Rivers said. “I’ve got to tell you that was the furthest thing from my mind. I just thought they (the Cavaliers) were going asleep on the weak side and we could get that shot. So, it worked out good and all the guys think I’m a nice happy birthday guy.”

Bullock’s birthday would not have been complete without having to sing. He shares the same birthday as Blake Griffin and Bullock was required to sing “Happy Birthday” to his superstar teammate in front of everyone else. The team reciprocated by singing “Happy Birthday” to Bullock as a group.

“Reggie sang to Blake which was terrific and I made the whole team sing to Reggie, our rookie, which was really nice,” Rivers said. “It wasn’t nice as far as the singing. It was a nice gesture.”

Griffin went as far to joke the Bullock’s singing was “terrible.” Still, it likely mattered little. Bullock’s best present of all may have been leaving the arena with a victory.