Doc Rivers the GM tied the hands of Doc Rivers the coach last season — their lack of depth caught up with the Clippers. Players emptied their tanks into beating the San Antonio Spurs in the first round, then got up 3-1 on the Rockets with a big lead in the second half of Game 5 — then just ran out of gas. Houston played better and played desperate, but the Clippers had energy left to match them.
This summer Doc the GM did well. The Clippers added Lance Stephenson, Josh Smith, Pablo Prigioni, Cole Aldrich and others who can take some pressure off a Clipper starting five that played 972 minutes more than any other Clippers lineup last season.
Blake Griffin, for one, is pumped that he will get to sit more. He told Rowan Cavner of the Clippers’ official site why it matters.
“It’ll help a lot,” Griffin said. “My third season in the league when we had that unbelievable bench, I think I dropped to like 32 minutes a game in the regular season…You definitely feel fresher toward the end, but you have to find that right balance of not holding back too much, being able to give everything. Having an elite bench is going to help us tremendously, especially come playoff time.”
Last season Griffin averaged 35.2 minutes a game to lead the Clippers, while (because they didn’t miss much time due to injuries) Chris Paul and DeAndre Jordan were both in the top seven in the league in total minutes played. In his third season, Griffin did play “just” 32.5 minutes a night, the lowest in his career.
As Griffin notes, for the Clippers it is all about being right come the playoffs.
Doc Rivers is not afraid to rest players, and now he can do it and still win, still get a high seed. Do that and the Clippers are serious title contenders.
The challenge is there are at least four other teams in the West alone that can make that claim.