It took Doc Rivers less than a season to transform the LA Clippers from the NBA’s maybe to The League’s new version of Dubai – a hot spot celebrity destination. The signings of post presence Glen “Big Baby” Davis (who won a c’hip with Doc in ‘08) and Danny Granger is further proof that the Clippers decision to hire the former Celtics coach is probably the best move in franchise history. The 6-foot-9 Davis is a much needed body for a Clippers squad that has been getting by with just three big men – Griffin, center DeAndre Jordan and reserve Ryan Hollins. It's also a plus that he already knows Doc's system.
With the coveted Granger shunning squads like Miami, San Antonio, Chicago and Houston to also join the Clippers, it’s clear they have arrived -however briefly – as the top shottas on the LA basketball scene. A-list celebrity sightings and high-flying, “show time” basketball is no longer restricted to Lakers nights at the Staples Center.
“The Clips to the C’hip” is the new motto in Hollywood.
“The whole concept and idea of the Clippers has completely changed,” All-Star forward Blake Griffin told foxsports.com on Friday. “I don’t think people look at it nearly the same way. So why shouldn’t this be one of the best destinations?”
“We’ve got guys that guys want to play with – CP and Jamal (Crawford) and these guys that have been playing for a long time,” Griffin said. “They’re guys that are well respected around the league. Also, with our coaching staff… People want to play for a coach like Doc.”
Rivers is the Clippers true MVP. He has them leading the Pacific Division and battling OKC, Portland and San Antonio for the No. 1 seed going into the playoffs. His championship pedigree and motivational tactics certainly give the Clippers distinct advantages in a playoff matchup against any team with the exception of Greg Popovich’s Spurs.
Chris Paul, sounding more like a political lobbyist or real estate person than an NBA point guard, echoed Griffin’s sentiments. “This is a beautiful place to be, a beautiful destination,” Paul said. Along with the attractions LA already brings…I don’t see why you wouldn’t want to play here.”
It seems like a perfect fit for Granger. Some front-runners suggested he sign with Miami, but that LeBron shadow looms a bit too large for a cat trying to get his all-star groove back. With LA, Granger's sure to get significant minutes with the Clippers’ moshpit of mediocrity at the small forward position. Streak-shooting bomber Jared Dudley has been shakier than Denver in the Super Bowl and current starter Matt Barnes should be coming off the pine.
When healthy, Granger is one of the NBA’s VIP small forwards. He’s averaging 17.6 points and 43.5 percent shooting for his career, including 33 percent from the arc. Just a few years ago he was a prominent feature on the bedroom walls and computer screen savers of many young ballers. Then injuries limiting Granger to just 34 games over the past two seasons and with the emergence of superstar players such as Paul George and Lance Stephenson, and the chemistry this Pacers team has developed, by the time Granger returned he couldn’t find a spot on the court. His minutes were getting low.
Indiana decided to cut a potential chemistry problem short by shipping Granger to struggling Philly in a trade for Evan Tuner and Lavoy Allen . The subsequent buyout was just part of the plan for Granger—who was salty as a sardine when he was first traded—to end up in a favorable situation on a contending team seeking a late-season situation-shifter. After nine years on the workman-like Pacers, Granger is joining the free-wheeling Lob City crew and hoping to be a key element in their search for Western Conference supremacy. Granger was inactive for Saturday night’s game against the New Orleans Pelicans and will probably make his debut on the road next Tuesday at Phoenix.
Sixers general manager Sam Hinkie said Philadelphia basically understood the fact that they are further from contention than Richie Incognito is of playing in the NFL again, and didn’t have any qualms with granting Granger a buyout.
“His accomplishments and accolades to this point of his NBA career more than speak for themselves, Hinkie said in a statement. “So I would like to express that I have a great deal of respect for Danny Granger as a person … Given Danny's future goals and his desire to pursue them, we worked to fulfill his requests and have come to a resolution we feel is mutually beneficial to Danny and our organization.”
So what began as a foul situation for Granger has flipped into basketball heaven. He’s in a spot where his skills are desperately needed and most basketball heads agree that once he grasps the system he will assume a starting role. In the meantime, it’s up to Rivers to effectively work Granger into the mix.
“I don't know the answer (yet)," Rivers said. "I have to wait and see how Danny fits with us. Ideally yeah, because of his length, and it would allow Matt to come off (the bench) and do what he does with his energy. But Matt's playing really well right now. It will all shake out."
Granger’s been saying all of the right things and he’s not trying to rock a successful boat, just a few rims.
"The point I'm at now, coming to a new team, we have 25 or 26 games left, whatever role Doc sees fit for me is the role I'll do," Granger conceded . "I'm not one of those players who says, 'I have to do this' or 'I have to do that.'
"I just want to play, have fun, shoot some threes, throw some lobs and go celebrate."
Deep down, however, he’s got to be looking at the competition at small forward like, “What’s up Doc? I’m ready to rock.” Granger hasn’t had a real run in a long time. He’s healthy again, humbled and hungrier than ever. He’s a work in progress, same as his Clippers.