TALKING CLIPS WITH SCOTT HOWARD-COOPER, NBA.COM

NBA.com national reporter Scott Howard-Cooper, who has covered the NBA for the better part of the last two decades, talked with Eric Patten of Clippers.com about the team, its offseason moves, their championship potential and what he expects from them heading into 2013-14 with Doc Rivers at the helm, a newly re-signed Chris Paul back in the fold and Blake Griffin another year in the making.

Here is a transcript of what Howard-Cooper had to say:

Eric Patten, Clippers.com: The first thing I want to talk about is the offseason. I know it’s only a couple of weeks into it, but what do you make of the offseason the Clippers have had so far?

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com: I think they have to feel very good about it. They needed one thing to happen and it happened. They kept Chris Paul. That made them one of the winners of the offseason without even adding somebody. That’s obviously a huge positive outcome for them. I think on top of that getting Doc Rivers, is a real step forward. He’s a guy that has a lot of credibility. He knows what it takes to win a championship. He’s been there. I think it’s a real positive move for the organization.

EP: What did you see as needs from last year’s team? And do feel some of the guys that they brought in whether it’s a Jared Dudley, Darren Collison or J.J. Redick, fill those needs?

SHC: I think so. A lot of it was not only the needs that were there last season, but the ones that were created by the players who left. There obviously was a bit of a turnover going on anyway and they added some veterans and I think they got them at really good prices. Darren Collison at that price is terrific. Obviously, it’s tough to lose Eric Bledsoe because a lot of people think he’s got a really good future. But Jared Dudley does a lot of things, a lot of the little things that make the difference between a good team and a very good team. You get the shooting, and hope that it’s taken a step forward, with a guy like J.J. Redick. I think you could hit on several things across the board and say this has been a good offseason.

EP: Where do they need to go? Is the front court an obvious way they need to go as far as backup bigs?

SHC: I think so. It seems like we’re saying that about the Clippers on a fairly regular basis. We say that either early in the summer or even going into the summer for the last couple of years now. I think it’s been three years now, which doesn’t make them that unusual compared to other teams out there. Everyone’s searching for bigs. Even backup bigs, good backup bigs are tough to come by. Remember, some of the times this might not be solved until the season starts. Kenyon Martin and he helped a little bit.

EP: Even Reggie Evans was a guy signed right before the season started?

SHC: Perfect example. I would think that while the bulk of the heavy lifting has been done in the front office. There’s probably still some things they’re keeping an eye out for. Not only now because things are going to start to settle down around the league, but as cuts start coming in training camp opportunities may start to present themselves.

You can tweak things a lot more these days. You don’t need the typical power forward. You hear now, ‘stretch four,’ something that has really come into vogue the last couple of years. A guy doesn’t have to be a bruiser at power forward to contribute. I think that we’re seeing a lot of different ideas on lineups now moving forward.

EP: What has been your impression on the way Blake [Griffin] has developed? Where do you think he needs to go this offseason, heading into next year?

SHC: The one thing we know for sure about Blake, before he even takes a step on the floor on opening night, he’s a very passionate worker. He’s going to put in whatever time it takes to get better, which is the best starting point of all. Obviously, he’s got some talent, but he also has the desire to put in the time to develop the talent. And there’s still parts of his game that need to develop. He’s a tremendous player and one of the most recognizable players in the entire league, but he’s far from a complete player. I suspect he’s the first guy who would say that.

I know last year he really started to work on his perimeter game. He needs to continue with that. That’s a really big deal. He needs to continue to develop his post game, that’s a really big deal. What he’s started to do needs to continue now. He’s got to be more than a guy who scores and rebounds on athleticism.

EP: What do you think Doc can do to enhance that development for Blake or a guy like DeAndre Jordan?

SHC: I think the new ideas that Doc is going to bring in, the kind of ideas that come with any coaching change not just this one, are going to be good. I don’t think the issue with Blake and DeAndre has been that they’ve been getting bad advice or they’ve been working on the wrong drills or anything like that. It’s a matter of what Doc can do on the court. It’s the strategy on the court. What plays does he call? How does he find new openings for Blake that did not exist before? What does he do to put DeAndre in different situations on defense?

I think it’s really important to hit on DeAndre going into the season because he’s a guy that a couple of years ago showed he can be a huge difference maker just with the little time that he got. They need to get back to that DeAndre. The guy that’s going to make opponents pay for coming down the lane. The guy that’s not going to score a lot for your but he’s going to save a lot of points because of either shots that he blocks or just deterring people just by his presence. They need to get back to that DeAndre and that would be a huge step forward for this team.

EP: What is your expectation for this team compared to the rest of the West, considering the offseason is not over. But given the moves that have been made, where do you think the Clippers fit in?

SHC: That’s the important disclaimer that you mention. We can only speak of the West in the moment because who knows what could happen in the next couple of months. I don’t think there’s any question that this team should be in the conversation among the best in the West and therefor a championship contender. I was surprised last season that going into training camp at the number of people who weren’t putting the Clippers in that conversation. I thought going into training camp a year ago that they were in that top four in the West. I still think they’re in that spot and probably even moved up a little bit. I think we still give a nod to the Spurs because they’ve proven it. I think we still give a nod to Oklahoma City because you can’t sleep on them. Remember, the reason they lost was because their second-best player (Russell Westbrook) got hurt, not because they suddenly turned bad in two weeks. They’re going to be back. But the Clippers are a very good team, filled with positives and absolutely have the ability to play into June.