CLIPPERS LOOK FORWARD TO NEXT SEASON

CLIPPERS LOOK FORWARD TO NEXT SEASON

PLAYA VISTA – It may not seem like it less than 24 hours after their season abruptly ended at the hands of the Oklahoma City Thunder in the Western Conference Semifinals, but the Clippers seem excited for the future.

Blake Griffin, Jamal Crawford and J.J. Redick spoke to the media Friday morning at the Clippers’ training facility after completing their exit physicals and the theme for all three of them was that the 2013-14 campaign may have been just the beginning of a prolonged journey.

“With this coaching staff it was kind of a building block, [getting] a year under our belt,” said Griffin, who finished third in NBA MVP balloting in the regular season. “So, going into training camp knowing most everything, knowing the defensive coverages, knowing the offense, just building that trust and that relationship, is a positive. I think we grew as a team, grew through the season and the postseason. It will put us in a good position for next year.”

The Clippers have a majority of their roster back next season. Griffin, Crawford, Redick, Chris Paul, DeAndre Jordan, Jared Dudley, Matt Barnes, Reggie Bullock and Willie Green remain under contract. Darren Collison, Danny Granger and Glen Davis own player options. Ryan Hollins and Hedo Turkoglu are unrestricted free agents.

“Hopefully, next year when we come back most of that roster is still intact,” Griffin said. “We have that building block and we have that firm idea and firm understanding of who we are as a team and what we want to accomplish.”

That idea of who they were was in flux throughout the season. They came into training camp with a new coaching staff, two new starters, a new backup point guard and three other new faces. As the season advanced and injuries mounted, they added three additional players and effectively missed out on a fully loaded roster until Game 1 of the Golden State series.

Through controversy and distractions, two weeks into the postseason, things started clicking. 

“I don’t think you’ve ever arrived as an individual, as a player, and as a person,” Redick said Friday. “Certainly, in a group you’re always in the process of becoming. Unfortunately, we ran out of time in that process. I look back at the strides we made over the course of the year. We were such a better team that started out back in San Diego at training camp. I’m looking forward to next year. I’m looking forward to hopefully having our core group of guys back.

“Obviously, there are roster changes every year, but hopefully having our core group of guys back together because we really grew a lot as a team and the trust was starting to be cemented to the point where I thought we were a championship-level team.”

Said Griffin, “It just clicked for us. I don’t know if it was a little bit late in Game 4, but you could tell the way we moved the ball in Game 5 with the exception of the four and a half or however many minutes that was. In the first half of last night we played exactly how we should. We weren’t making everything, but we were playing exactly how we should. It was nice to do that consistently in games because we’d struggled with that at certain points in the season at putting consecutive games together.”

Crawford, who was awarded his second career Sixth Man of the Year on Monday, echoed Griffin and Redick.

“We had a whole new coaching staff. We added seven new guys. Then in the middle of the season we added three or four new guys, so there was constant turnover. But through it all, through my injury, through J.J.’s injury, through Chris’ injury we found a way. We became a no-excuse team. From San Diego to now, we were night and day. So, I can’t imagine going to training camp with the core group of guys because we know exactly what’s expected.”