STARTING LINEUP INTACT FOR PRESEASON FINALE
DENVER–Through seven preseason games Clippers head coach Vinny Del Negro has utilized a variety of lineups and personnel groups, choosing to rest players at various spots in the near three-week schedule.
He rested Blake Griffin, Willie Green and Caron Butler in Utah, Jamal Crawford and Chris Paul at home against the Lakers, and has been without Lamar Odom and Grant Hill since the team returned from China. But Thursday night, in the team’s final exhibition tune up, against the Nuggets at Pepsi Center just Odom and Hill will remain sidelined and all 10 major rotation players will be available.
“We’ll still manage [the minutes] a little bit because it’s a back-to-back game and some guys played some minutes last night,” Del Negro said. “But we’ll just go with the flow of the game. There are a few guys who have some bumps and bruises I want to manage a little bit, but we’ll see how the game goes.”
With opening night against the Grizzlies slated for Oct. 31 Del Negro has maintained that his preference was to get the rotation set as the preseason wrapped up. On Thursday he will do that to a degree. Crawford, who averaged nearly 28 minutes in the first six preseason games, will likely see time in the backcourt with Paul, and perhaps, Eric Bledsoe at the same time. Although, Bledsoe played a team-high 44 minutes Wednesday, so his role against Denver may be somewhat limited.
Matt Barnes, who is one of five Clippers averaging more than 10 points per game this preseason and one of three players to appear in seven games (DeAndre Jordan and Ryan Hollins), will likely split time between shooting guard and both forward positions.
After the Clippers’ 99-91 loss at Utah last weekend, Paul said he wanted to continue building chemistry with Barnes, who is among the league’s best at running the floor. “He’s probably the most in-shape player on the team,” Paul said. “And I told him I’m not used to playing with athletic wings like that who run the court.”
Paul did not play against the Lakers in the front of end of the Clippers’ back-to-back, but was on the court for 36 minutes in Utah and 27 minutes Monday. Del Negro said he is not worried about the five-time All-Star’s fitness level after Paul missed the early portion of training camp as he recovered from surgery to repair a torn ligament in his right thumb.
“Chris is dedicated so I don’t really worry about it,” Del Negro said. “It’s a long year, so he’ll be fine.”
Asked what he wanted to get out of the team’s final exhibition game, Del Negro said, “[We want to] keep working, keep building chemistry, understanding situations, executing out of timeouts, control the things you can, knowing plays after free throws, execution on both ends. Tonight obviously it’s a transition-defense game, get our bigs back to bump out to the shooters. [Denver is] deep, they play fast, so we’ve got to do a good job offensively limiting our turnovers so we keep them out of the open court.”