Clippers Experiment and Lose Exhibition Games
Coach Rivers: I'm Not Worried
October 23, 2014
By Mitch Chortkoff
Many NBA coaches experiment with new players and new on-court ideas during exhibition games.
The theory is that in the eight practice games permitted to each team it's a good time to see what improvements might be made over last season.
But not every coach feels that way.
The purpose of this column is to point out the differences without deciding which plan is better. How each team performs over the upcoming 82-game schedule and the playoffs will provide the answers.
The Clippers were defeated and outrebounded in their first three exhibition games and lost four of the first five.
The Golden State Warriors, who the Clippers eliminated in last season's playoffs, won their first three exhibition games by an average of 24 points as new coach Steve Kerr has gone primarily with the players from last season.
By contrast, Clippers coach Doc Rivers started a different small forward in each of the first three games. First it was Matt Barnes, last season's starter. Then it was Reggie Bullock and finally Chris Douglas-Roberts.
As some fans are beginning to wonder what's up with the Clippers, who have championship ambitions Rivers says "I'm not worried. We're trying some new things."
The defeats don't look good but they don't count in the standings. One positive development is the play of 6-foot-10 newcomer Spencer Hawes.
It looks likely that Hawes will be the first big man off the bench. He provides relief for starting center DeAndre Jordan.
Clippers guard Jamal Crawford and Hawes both scored 24 points in the Clippers' lone exhibition win over Utah last Friday. Neither one started the game.
"Spencer and I have worked out together in summers for many years," said Crawford. "Even when we weren't on the same team."
New Clippers owner Steve Ballmer recently paid $2 billion for the Clippers. He took over a team seemingly on the verge of serious championship consideration.
"When I came here I signed for only three years as the Clippers coach," said Rivers. "Steve wanted more years and I wanted to hear what he'd say."
It couldn't have turned out much better. Ballmer gave Rivers five more years at $10 million per season. That's $50 million and a new title that gives Rivers authority beyond coaching.
Ballmer considers Rivers one of the top coaches and executives in the NBA. So, whatever experimenting with combinations on the court is going on the owner has faith in Rivers.
When the regular season begins at the end of October Rivers' decisions will be made. He won't be experimenting as the Clippers will host the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Lakers on consecutive nights.
Kevin Durant, the NBA's leading scorer, is out for a couple of months with an injury but the champion Spurs, Thunder and Warriors remain the Clippers' main competition for supremacy in the Western Conference.
"By the way, the Thunder is still pretty good,' said Rivers.