Stephenson a piece in Clippers’ puzzle

The Los Angeles Clippers now have a strong perimeter in Lance Stephenson. Photo by News4usonline.com
The Los Angeles Clippers now have a strong perimeter in Lance Stephenson. Photo by News4usonline.com

CULVER CITY, CA-Here comes trouble. The trouble coming for the NBA’s Western Conference perimeter offensive players is Lance Stephenson. Get the memo, Steph Curry. You are now on notice, Klay Thompson. For the Los Angeles Clippers, getting Stephenson means finding a tough, in-your-face small ball stopper.

With small ball  starting to become the rave in the NBA, thanks to the success of the Golden State Warriors, the need to get premier defensive perimeter defenders is going to be at a premium in the NBA Draft and in free agency.  Clippers coach Doc Rivers got ahead of the game before anyone could call timeout.

The Clippers got a jump on the rest of the league a week before the draft, and just ahead of the free agency market becomes open, when they unloaded Spencer Hawes and Matt Barnes in a trade with the Charlotte Hornets for the 24-year old Stephenson.

It was a great move by Rivers and the Clippers. The team got little or nothing out of Hawes in the one year he was here. Age was not on Barnes’ side. The Clippers come out as the clear-cut winners in this two-for-one swap. Some of what was lacking from the Clippers this past season was a dash of fire and grittiness. That’s not to mention being more athletic on the wing.

In one move, the Clippers, though they are far from done in overhauling their roster, improved in those three areas. Stephenson is young, highly spirited and now will have an opportunity to listen and learn from one of the best coaches in the NBA.

Los Angeles Clippers coach Doc Rivers welcomes Lance Stephenson to the team in a press conference. Photo by Dennis J. Freeman/News4usonline.com
Los Angeles Clippers coach Doc Rivers welcomes Lance Stephenson to the team in a press conference. Photo by Dennis J. Freeman/News4usonline.com

It looks like a great fit for both parties. The Clippers badly need to get younger and more athletic. After a one-year flameout in Charlotte, Stephenson needed a place where he could recapture the mojo he had in helping Indiana contend for the Eastern Conference title before he signed a contract to play with the Hornets.

What shouldn’t be confused about Stephenson is statistical numbers.  Stephenson averages just shade under 9 points game. That will likely improve dramatically with the way the Clippers run their offense. But you don’t really bring a guy like Stephenson in to your team for offensive scoring. Stephenson has a motor like the Energizer Bunny…it keeps going and going. And that’s what you want if you’re Rivers.

One of the main critiqued observations made of the Clippers after they lost to the Houston Rockets in the second round of the playoffs was they ran out of gas and were physically tired. That looked very apparent in Game 6, when the Clippers blew an 18-point, third quarter lead at Staples Center, a contest Los Angeles could have used to close out the series against the Rockets.

As it was, the Rockets rallied to win the game and take Game 7 to knock the Clippers out of the playoffs. Getting tired doesn’t seem to be in Stephenson’s DNA. Right about now that us just the type of player the Clippers need. Young and strong. Stephenson’s tenacity in play on both ends of the floor is just the energy injection the team needs to help them go deep in the postseason.

Now with Stephenson teaming with NBA All-Defense defenders Chris Paul and DeAndre Jordan, providing that the Clippers will be able to re-sign their top-notch center, will go a long way into the team improving in the defense department. Rivers and the Clippers introduced Stephenson to the local media at a press conference last week. He looked ready to go. This is just what the doctored ordered.

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