Lance Stephenson had a rough outing in his first couple preseason games as a Clipper — 2-of-14 shooting while looking lost and confused in the offense. Somewhere, Charlotte Hornet fans are nodding their heads. To be fair, plenty of Clippers have looked out of sorts as they try to incorporate their new depth into the rotation. That’s what the preseason is about, and nobody should be reading much into the results.
Clippers’ coach Doc Rivers isn’t reading much into a couple off shooting nights. After the Clippers second preseason game (a loss to the Raptors), he said he didn’t bring Stephens in to be a jump shooter spacing the floor. Rather, he wants him to be the playmaker for the second unit, as reported by Ben Blotch at the Los Angeles Times.
“Lance is not a great shooter,” Rivers said. “He’s going to be a streaky guy. That’s who he is. I don’t look at Lance as a scorer; I look at Lance as a guy to create plays, and I think he’ll do that for us.”
How the Clippers’ second unit functions with Stephenson, Jamal Crawford and Josh Smith is going to be one of the challenges for Rivers this season. Certainly the Clippers got a talent upgrade this summer, but all three of those guys are most comfortable with the ball in their hands in more isolation sets creating for themselves first. Getting those guys to meld into a unit will be a challenge.
With that, the Clippers are counting on the Indiana version of Stephenson, not the one who struggled in Charlotte last season. The Clipper bench will be improved this season (it couldn’t be much worse), but how much better will depend on which Stephenson shows up most nights for the Clippers.