PLAYA VISTA, Calif. – Listening to Blake Griffin give his thoughts on the depth of the new-look Clippers, it could’ve been a recording of his head coach.
A month after Doc Rivers talked at the team's free-agent press conference about how he liked his group on paper against anyone but knew it’s all about turning the talent into a unified team, Griffin had nearly the same line while speaking at Team USA minicamp.
“I’ll keep saying this, we did the things we wanted to do this summer on paper,” Griffin said, “but we don’t want to just have a good team on paper. We have to come together on the court. That’s our focus now, is on the rest of the summer, and training camp is when it really starts. We have to get everybody on the same page and dialed in.”
The Clippers are still a month away from training camp, but Griffin got a chance to get back on the court with teammates Chris Paul and DeAndre Jordan, albeit briefly and in a different setting, with Team USA.
Even if it’s a wait and see game now to see how the Clippers will put all the new pieces together, it was clear then in Las Vegas the excitement about what’s happened this offseason with the new additions is already permeating throughout the roster.
“It’s huge,” Griffin said about where the roster is now compared to when it seemed like Jordan would be gone earlier this offseason. “Our season could’ve gone very differently or our roster could look very different.”
Now, it does look different, but for positive reasons.
Jordan and Austin Rivers stayed, with the Clippers also adding Paul Pierce, Josh Smith, Lance Stephenson, Wesley Johnson, Pablo Prigioni and Cole Aldrich. The Clippers also managed to add Branden Dawson despite going into the draft without a pick.
Griffin said it’s all about putting it all together now, but he knows what the added depth can mean, particularly late in the year when the starters could use a breather. Griffin’s had to play at least 35 minutes per game each of the last two seasons.
“It’ll help a lot,” Griffin said. “My third season in the league when we had that unbelievable bench, I think I dropped to like 32 minutes a game in the regular season…You definitely feel fresher toward the end, but you have to find that right balance of not holding back too much, being able to give everything. Having an elite bench is going to help us tremendously, especially come playoff time.”
If the bench does become elite, it’ll be because the Clippers figured out how to do what Doc Rivers preached in July at the press conference.
“I look around this, and, not even including the guys that aren’t here, I love what we’ve assembled,” Rivers said then. “Now, the next step for us is to turn all this talent on paper into a team.”
Griffin, Jordan and the rest of the Clippers can’t wait for that process to get started.
“I’m super excited,” Jordan said while throwing out the first pitch at the Angels game this week. “We have a lot of talent, a lot of great guys on our team. The sky’s the limit for us.”