LA Native Stepheson Makes NBA Debut For Clippers

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LOS ANGELES – Alex Stepheson officially became a member of the team he grew up watching Saturday afternoon, then made his NBA de
but that night.

The Clippers signed Stepheson, who went to high school at Harvard-Westlake in North Hollywood, to a 10-day contract after the 6-10 forward averaged 15.9 points and a league-high 13.8 rebounds per game for the NBA Development League’s Iowa Energy.

Shortly after participating in the 2016 D-League All-Star Game, Stepheson was back with his D-League team when head coach Bob Donewald, Jr. told the team in the middle of practice Stepheson was going to the Clippers.

“Coach Bob kept telling me to stay focused, keep working hard and something will happen,” Stepheson said. “He kind of just kept me believing something good was going to happen.”

Eventually, it did. The news came as somewhat of a surprise for Stepheson, who played in preseason games with Memphis but had never played for an NBA team during the regular season.

Obviously, the news brought excitement to the 28-year-old.

“Now, I’m just focused, working hard, just asking questions, just want to learn as much as I can,” Stepheson said. “I’m around good people.”

Stepheson knows a handful of the Clippers, including Luc Mbah a Moute, DeAndre Jordan, Blake Griffin and Wesley Johnson. While he doesn’t have many close relationships with his new teammates yet, he said he knows them well enough to feel comfortable.

The Los Angeles native went undrafted in 2011, then played professionally in Greece, Slovenia and Turkey following his college career at North Carolina and USC. He also has NBA Summer League experience, playing for the Mavericks in 2015.

Stepheson said he grew up watching Darius Miles, Quentin Richardson and the old Clippers teams, and he said coming back to Los Angeles was a perfect situation for him.

Head coach Doc Rivers said prior to Saturday’s game against the Warriors he didn’t know what to expect yet from Stepheson, since he only saw him on film. But he liked Stepheson’s size, and he said Stepheson “has the gift of being a big that plays with energy.”

“I’ve always thought that that’s a skill that people discount,” Rivers said. “We don’t know if he’ll play or not but I like what he can do in that area.”

Stepheson ended up playing two minutes at the end of the game as the Clippers mounted a late comeback against the Warriors, and he finished plus-10 during that time.

“I think basketball-wise I kind of know what I can and can’t do,” Stepheson said. “I don’t think I’m going to be too nervous on the basketball court. Just being out there playing for the Clippers, stuff like that, it’s pretty big. I’m excited.”