The NBA Trade Deadline has come and gone and while much of the focus is on the teams that made moves, it’s also interesting to see who didn’t make any trades. One team in particular that stayed put as the deadline passed was the Los Angeles Clippers.
Although the Clippers were involved in a blockbuster deal with the Detroit Pistons about one week before the deadline, once Feb. 8 came around, they decided to stay put. The Clippers were one of the teams mentioned quite frequently in the days leading up to the deadline. They had already moved Blake Griffin, and rumors swirled that DeAndre Jordan and Lou Williams were next.
Instead, the Clippers hung on to both of those players. They even came to an agreement on a contract extension with Williams for a reported three years and $24 million. With speculation that the Clippers might opt to blow it all up and head down the rebuilding path, the focus for them now is clear.
They intend to remain competitive and fight for a playoff berth in the Western Conference. Helping them to do so will be two of their newest acquisitions from the Pistons, Tobias Harris and Avery Bradley. The Clippers are 3-0 since the trade with both Harris and Bradley playing key roles.
It’s tough to replace a superstar scorer like Griffin, but Harris is doing his best to help fill in on the offensive void. He’s been one of the focal points of the offense while meshing well with Danilo Gallinari in the frontcourt. Playing with Gallinari, another forward who is able to play multiple positions, is something he’s looking forward to doing.
“I think if you look around the league, every game has dual forwards who can play different positions and feed off each other,” Harris told reporters after a recent game against the Chicago Bulls. “I played with Marcus Morris who was able to create mismatches, so I have a good feel for that. I think we really compliment each other well out there.”
In the three games that he’s played as a Clipper, Harris has put up 18.3 points per game on 44.4 percent shooting from the field, and 5.7 rebounds. His versatility on the offensive end has been a welcome addition to the team. He can put the ball on the floor and attack the rim, and he can step out and shoot from the perimeter.
Harris was used to being the focal point of the offense in Detroit, and as such, the target of opponents’ defensive schemes. Now in Los Angeles, Harris believes that the Clippers have enough weapons offensively that he doesn’t have to shoulder so much of the load.
“I feel a little freedom. Obviously we got some good spacing, some good shooters. DeAndre creates a lot of attention, especially at the basket,” Harris said. “I definitely saw myself with a couple of drives and some open lanes which I haven’t been that used to. I think there’s a good mix of guys on the team who know how to play, how to move without the ball and know how to create plays. It makes my job a lot easier.”
Bradley has also played a crucial role since coming over from Detroit. He’s always been known as one of the better on-ball perimeter defenders in the league, and it’s a role that he’s more than eager to fill with the Clippers.
In his first game with the Clippers, his defense on the Bulls Zach LaVine was key in securing a victory. He followed that up with another good defensive performance on Dallas Mavericks rookie sensation Dennis Smith Jr. in another win.
“I really take pride on the defensive end. I feel like that’s my first gift in this league. I know that’s my first role on this team and that’s been my first role on every team,” Bradley told reporters after a recent game against the Chicago Bulls. “I need to bring that defensive intensity. I feel like it not only impacts the game for our team, but it gets me going offensively. It engages me in the game, every single game I come with that mindset because I think it could really help our team out.”
Even though he was recently traded to the Clippers, that didn’t stop Bradley from hearing his name being mentioned in further trade rumors.
Both the San Antonio Spurs and Oklahoma City Thunder were rumored to have interest in acquiring Bradley ahead of the trade deadline. He would have made a nice addition to a team with aspirations of a deep playoff run, but despite that, he didn’t let any of that chatter affect his play on the court.
“That’s part of the business, I don’t worry about it. I went from Boston to Detroit and now here. This is my focus here,” Bradley said. “I try to control what I can control and all I can control is going out there and playing hard and trying to get wins for the Clippers.”
With a little less than half of the season remaining, the Clippers appear content to pursue a playoff spot. They are 28-25 and they currently occupy the seventh seed in the Western Conference. They’re essentially tied percentage wise with the eighth-place Denver Nuggets, and only one and a half games back of the Oklahoma City Thunder for the sixth seed.
With Austin Rivers back in the rotation, they are well balanced and have quite a few guys capable of going off and scoring big on any given night.
“I think that’s what kind of team we need to be and the type of team that we can be. It can be any guy’s night on any given night and I think it needs to be balanced like that,” Bradley said. “We need to move the ball and make plays for each other because whenever we play that way, we’re playing free and I think it’s gonna be hard for teams to be able to guard us.”
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