RIVERS TALKS FREE AGENCY, OFFSEASON IN VEGAS
Eric Patten, Clippers.com
LAS VEGAS – As the NBA’s free agency period carries on, Clippers head coach Doc Rivers says his team may stand relatively pat.
After a season in which the Clippers finished with the best record in franchise history, and third best in the NBA, and were narrowly eliminated by the Thunder in the Western Conference Semifinals, Rivers suggested Monday there was little reason to make reconstructive changes to a roster that returns seven of its top rotation players.
“We’re always looking to improve the team, but we like our team,” Rivers said following the Clippers’ six-point victory over the Miami Heat in Summer League. “That’s what I said at the end of the year. I didn’t think we were a team that needed to make a lot of moves. We just needed to add and I think we’re doing that really well.”
The additions, so far, have included signing center Spencer Hawes and point guard Jordan Farmar and drafting guard C.J. Wilcox. Asked what else the Clippers intend to do, Rivers was candid.
“We only have two [veteran] minimum [contracts] left,” he said. “That’s all we’re going to do.”
The Clippers lost Darren Collison (Sacramento Kings), Danny Granger (Miami Heat) and Willie Green (Orlando Magic) from last year’s roster and Ryan Hollins, Glen Davis and Hedo Turkoglu remain unrestricted free agents. With Hawes, Farmar and Wilcox in the fold, the Clippers’ roster stands at 11 players. And even though Rivers is clearly looking to keep adding, he thinks the team could benefit from some internal improvements.
“Jared [Dudley] came into camp injured, so he never caught up. He’ll be better,” Rivers said. “Matt [Barnes] actually came into camp injured. So, he’ll be better. It’s another year under our system. I think you improve sometimes by not doing anything. I think that’s what, at least I’m hoping, we do.”
Still, getting a versatile big man like Hawes and a replacement for Collison, who wanted to return to the Clippers but was lured by the Kings, were priorities when the offseason started.
“[We] left the season knowing we had to add a couple of things,” Rivers said. “We needed a backup big that could play with either guy. I think that was important for us.
“I’m no dummy. I knew [Darren Collison] was going to make a lot of money and we were probably not going to be able to pay him. We had started to search, even towards the end of the year, we started looking at guards. That backup point guard role is huge in our league. The fact that we can end up with a guy who’s been in the Finals three times, won it once. He has two, but we don’t count the one year [when the Lakers beat the Celtics].”
From there it was just a matter of building on what Blake Griffin, Chris Paul, DeAndre Jordan and the remaining players from last season started.
“[Blake said] he felt like he figured out what Clipper basketball was during the Playoffs and we ran out of time because we were just starting to get it,” Rivers said. “That’s how I felt. Even though we won a lot of games, it never felt like we had it. Then, all of a sudden, in the Playoffs, and more the Oklahoma series as crazy as that sounds, you could see us starting to become the team we know we can become. And it felt like we just ran out of time for getting it right.”