Notebook: Griffin Gets Night Off, Pierce Starts Vs. Nets, Rookie Updates
BROOKLYN – The Clippers’ starting lineup looked different for the first time this year Tuesday night, with Blake Griffin getting the night off to rest against the Nets.
Paul Pierce started in place of Griffin, who’s expected back in the lineup in the Clippers’ next game Thursday against the Cavaliers. Rivers said the decision was made to rest Griffin long before this week.
“We have a plan, like I said before, and this was one of our rest days,” Rivers said.
In devising that plan, Rivers said the Clippers’ sports science team was involved, and both coaches and players are in on that plan.
“I’m not smart enough to use biometrics, but the people we hired did, and they told me, biometrically, that this would be a good day for him to rest,” Rivers said.
Rivers hinted earlier in the day Tuesday at shootaround that some of his regulars could get nights off when they need to as the season progresses, mentioning the plan in place without going into details of what that’ll mean on a nightly basis. Against Brooklyn, the planned called for Griffin’s night off, with Pierce getting minutes for just the third time this season.
Pierce, who recorded his first start of the year, said he just has to stay ready for those situations. On Tuesday, that meant getting to the shootaround about an hour before the majority of the team.
“Since I’m not playing, I’ve got to do a little more,” said the 39-year-old forward. “If you’re playing, then you probably rest a little more. Games are coming every other day. But during game day, I usually go twice a day and just stay ready.”
Pierce’s start happened to come in a familiar environment in Brooklyn, where he played during the 2013-14 season.
“I’m looking at every arena where I’m not going to come back as a special place,” said Pierce, who’s in the final year of an illustrious career. “Obviously, I’ve got some history here from playing here. But every arena that I go to, walk into for the last time, especially on this East Coast trip, it brings back memories. It’s a special feeling.”
Johnson Injury Update
Rookie Brice Johnson got on the court for some spot shooting for the first time since suffering a herniated disc his back before the start of the regular season.
Johnson still has a ways to go before his return, but it’s a step toward making that happen.
“It’s going to get harder, but right now I’m not doing much, just lifting, mostly, and rehabbing it,” Johnson said. “It’s just spot shots right now. As time goes on, I’ll be able to do more.”
The Clippers’ first-round pick said he just started running and can work out with limited weight, making sure not to aggravate the injury. He said he’s not at the point where he’s heard a timetable for his return yet.
Head coach Doc Rivers added that he believes Johnson is “inching along.”
“Usually, they would tell me, ‘Brice is getting close,”’ Rivers said, “and I haven’t heard that.”
Stone’s D-League Stint
In rookie Diamond Stone’s first ever NBA Development League game Nov. 19 with Santa Cruz, the rookie center erupted for 31 points on 12-for-22 shooting in 24 minutes off the bench, knocking down two 3-pointers with nine rebounds, two blocks and a steal.
“It was just a big thing for me, just because coming up from the big leagues to the D-League, new team, I’d never played with them before, I had a good game,” Stone said Tuesday while at Barclays Center to watch the Clippers in Brooklyn, with Santa Cruz preparing to play the Westchester Knicks on Wednesday.
As with any rookie season, it’s a learning experience. Stone earned a start in his next game at Santa Cruz but dealt with foul trouble, posting 10 points, five rebounds and five fouls in 13 minutes.
As he knows, though, his time down at Santa Cruz is more about getting time back on the court than anything.
“Just getting minutes,” Stone said. “We have great guys like Mo Speights, DeAndre Jordan, Blake Griffin, Brandon Bass. They’re all vets, so I just have to be patient. I’m kind of working on just being patient, take your time with your moves, and defense.”
Stone said he expects to go back to the D-League the rest of the week and then see the Clippers again when they return home from their trip.