Draft Day Notes: Injury Updates, Quick Contributors, More
LOS ANGELES – Head coach Doc Rivers said before the draft he didn’t think the Clippers would turn their two picks into three – except for in one scenario.
He didn’t divulge what that scenario was, but it must’ve been the one that played out, as the Clippers ended up with three selections on draft night. They stayed put at No. 25 overall to snag North Carolina power forward Brice Johnson in the first round, then traded the No. 33 pick in the second round for the rights to No. 39 pick David Michineau, a point guard from France, and No. 40 pick Diamond Stone, a center from Maryland.
In doing so, Rivers believes he may have gotten a player in Johnson who can help immediately, something he said before the draft would’ve been hard to do and wasn’t necessarily a given late in the first round.
“We like a lot of the things he can do and has done,” Rivers said. “He has played big games in college. We like his upside, too. We like the fact that we believe he has a chance to help right away. But, we also feel like he has a high ceiling and he can get a lot better.”
Given the way Johnson dominated in the paint offensively last season while averaging 17 points and 10.4 rebounds and the fact he has four years of college experience, it’s feasible he becomes a rotation player quickly, as Rivers hinted at, even if his outside stroke and defensive abilities will need time to develop.
Many second-round international selections end up being stashed, but it doesn’t sound like that’ll be the case for Michineau, as Rivers expects all the picks to head to summer league and show what they can do in advance of the 2016-17 season.
Everyone remembers how last season ended, with Chris Paul fracturing his hand and Blake Griffin hurting his quad again within minutes of each other in Game 4 of the first round before an eventual series defeat.
Paul needed immediate surgery, and Griffin also required an offseason procedure, but Rivers said both are on the right track to recovery and where they’re supposed to be in rehab.
“They’re good,” Rivers said. “Blake was in here today, feeling good and wants to get to working out soon, he told me. Chris has been healthy with the hand for a while.”
Rivers said he hasn’t heard a decision from Pierce regarding the possibility of his retirement, but he has talked with Pierce about a timetable on getting the decision.
“I Know That We’re Right There”
While it may take a while for the second-round picks to contribute, Rivers believes the Clippers still have the pieces to compete for a title right now.
“I have been in this game for a long time,” Rivers said. “I get how hard it is. It may be what is hanging over your franchise, but for me, I look at our team, and I look at our record and I look at how good we’ve been, and I know that we’re right there. I have been around this game long enough to know that. I am not going to buy into the impatience of anyone else. We are really good, and we are really close.
“Whether we need to tweak or not, we are going to do whatever we can with what we can. But I like who we are.”
Rivers gave Cavaliers head coach Tyronn Lue his first coaching opportunity and the two have remained close friends. So, it was no surprise that Rivers and Lue talked on the phone immediately after Lue won a championship with the Cavs in his first season.
“I watched the Finals this year as a very interested party, and it was nice,” Rivers said. “I don’t think Tyronn Lue got enough credit, to be honest. I think he made great adjustments. I probably have never been more proud of another coach than that. So, for me, that was an amazing night, and I was really happy.”
Trying to gauge how much each free agent will make this offseason could be tougher than ever with the significant cap rise, though Rivers said teams will still have scales to try to get as close as possible at predicting the market.
“Every year, it doesn’t matter if the cap goes up or not, you still put a value on your players and you try to put it toward whatever the numbers are going to be,” Rivers said. “We have a price that we think each guy could get – not should get, but could get – and we try to work around those numbers. The last two years, we’ve been almost exact to the numbers guys have ended up getting, so it’s pretty good. This year is a little bit tougher, because it’s a big increase.”
The Clippers know, given their cap situation, that’ll make it tougher to bring back their free agents. But Rivers said immediately after the season ended that was the goal, and that remains the case, as tough as it may be.
“To a man, they all want to come back,” Rivers said. “Then there’s business. We’ll see once July 1 comes. It’s going to be interesting the way the cap’s going up. We have three Bird (Rights) guys we have a chance of signing, but they all may be – not all of them – but they may outprice and we can’t sign all three. But we’re going to try.”