CLIPPERS STRIKE BALANCE BETWEEN PRACTICE AND REST
PLAYA VISTA – To practice or not to practice.
That’s a question Clippers head coach Doc Rivers has grappled with through much of the first two months of the season.
The Clippers (18-9) have played the second most games through Dec. 19 and as many away games as any team in the league, including a seven-game road trip that ended five days ago.
After playing two home games this week, the team did not practice Thursday, but returned to the court on Friday. The last time the Clippers had a practice that was not in a hotel meeting room or pregame shootaround, they were in Atlanta… on Dec. 3.
“I really had planned on practicing both days,” Rivers said, referring to Thursday and Friday. “But after watching our performance against the Pelicans I figured we were tired and needed the rest. We’ve had a lot of slippage. That’s what you have when you go on road trips. You just don’t have time to practice. We have to try to get some of that back. We’ll also have a practice [Dec. 24] so we’ll have two practices in the next four or five days which this team needs.”
New forward Stephen Jackson will practice for the first time with the Clippers, since making his debut on Dec. 11 in Boston. And Matt Barnes, who was cleared to return Wednesday after missing a month with a retinal tear in his left eye, will also resume full-practice activity.
Rivers said he expects to use Barnes this weekend when the Clippers play a home back-to-back against the Nuggets and Timberwolves.
“I told him to dress [against the Pelicans], but I had no plans on playing him,” Rivers said. “He worked out yesterday. We brought in four of the guys just to run him through stuff and then he gets a real practice today. So, that’ll be good.”
Still, the idea of resting versus practicing is something that Rivers has grappled with all season, even if it means waiting a day to integrate new personnel or reintegrate a rotation player back from injury.
Asked how decides whether or not to practice, Rivers said, “If it’s close there’s no practice is the way I go with it most of the time. If I’m contemplating, and I think we’re tired then we’re probably tired. I use my coaches and I look at what we need. Like, we needed two practices but I thought it would have been silly to do with the fatigue.”
Chris Paul thinks the rest has paid dividends.
“Doc does a great job of making sure we have our legs. It’s invaluable. I rave about it all day every day. A couple of my counterparts, or what not, guys that I play against, they say that they see a difference in us at times.
“I’ve never had it (this much rest),” he added. “I’m not sure how everybody else does it. But even when we do practice, like today, I’ve been saying it since day one, everything is about efficiency. You come in, there’s no wasted time.”