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Clippers Finding A New Purpose in Doc’s System as Training Camp Begins

With the start of the NBA season fast approaching, the Clippers have moved on from media day into training camp at UCSD’s RIMAC arena.

Reports from those on-site are that new coach, Doc Rivers, is instituting some actual coaching into the offensive system—something that’s sure to be foreign to a former Vinny Del Negro coached team.

Rivers distinguishes his current motion-oriented changes from running style offenses by pointing out:

“Every team talks about running. We want to be a running team. But for us, we really want to be a motion team. We want to be a team that’s in constant motion, constant movement, so it’s very difficult to load up on us.”

By contrast, previous years’ offensive sets consisted of a whole lot of Chris Paul doing everything and anything to destabilize a defense while everyone stood around watching. It was either that, or Blake Griffin receiving the ball in the mid-post and backing down his defender with 50% efficacy.

By having retained the services of Matt Barnes and Jamal Crawford, the Clippers’ bench maintained a viable level of competitiveness, something that played into the scrimmages held Wednesday which resulted in the B-team winning the first game. The starters took game two in retaliation while Rivers reflected on the positives of friendly competition.

Stellar offensive plays were never in shortage at Lob City in the past couple of seasons. What was very badly needed, if this team is to take it to the next level, was some form of defensive acumen that would complement the offensive skill set of Paul and Griffin. Fortunately for the Clips, Doc Rivers is known for having built some of the most defensively minded teams in recent memory.  Said Blake Griffin, “The 1st hour & a half of practice was all defense. We didn’t do 1 thing offensively, except some shooting.”

In addition to driving up the overall defensive expectations of his players, Doc Rivers has been keen to focus on one of his best assets on hand: DeAndre Jordan.  The Clippers’ big man, though spectacular off the oops, has often been inconsistent on the defensive end. The length, size and youth of DeAndre gives Doc a lot to play with, but ultimately he understands that it all starts with mental accountability.

“I’m asking him to do them better and more consistently and to take ownership of it and not get sidetracked on the [offensive] side,” Rivers said. “If you’re a great defensive player, you’re a great defensive player 100% of the time. You can’t be a great defensive player half of the time because you didn’t get the ball once or twice. That can’t sidetrack you. It’s got to be ‘I live for my defense, and my offense I’ll get. But I can’t let it affect my defense. Nothing affects my defense.'” – Doc Rivers as quotes in the LA Times.

The quotes and reports coming out of the early days of training camp all point to a new iteration of a talented team that can perhaps harness its true potential by maintaining a high level of offensive play while staying engaged defensively. Chris Paul has already expressed his endorsement for the newly installed changes saying “It keeps everybody engaged on the defensive end and keeps everyone involved on the offensive end.”

While talent and poise have provided the wind that has carried the Clippers into the playoffs, it is a new identity and mental toughness burnished by a defensive focus which can perhaps finally get them over the hump and into, at the very least, the conference finals.

Exciting times in LAC land, can’t wait to see how the rest of training camp plays out.

For a video recap of the day’s events, check out this link from the Clippers’ official training camp update.

Clippers Training Camp Video - UCSD

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