Clippers must decide whether to keep Jared Cunningham

Clippers have a decision to make regarding Jared Cunningham

DeAndre Jordan couldn't restrain himself when he overheard a reporter ask Jared Cunningham about the Clippers nearing the deadline to make a decision about Cunningham's future.

"I've already decided," Jordan said Monday evening from his nearby locker. "He plays for the rest of the season."

The choice facing the Clippers may not be that simple.

Do they keep Cunningham and pay the rest of his modest $915,243 salary for this season to provide insurance against an injury to star point guard Chris Paul and the continued struggles of backup Jordan Farmar?

Or do they cut Cunningham, saving money and clearing a spot that could be used to acquire a free agent or obtain another player via trade?

The Clippers have until 2 p.m. PST on Wednesday to decide, though Coach Doc Rivers said he has "probably" already determined Cunningham's fate. Rivers would not share it with reporters but said he appreciated what Cunningham had given his team.

"He's a great kid and he works his butt off for us," Rivers said. "We like him. We like him a lot."

The third-year player out of Oregon State has averaged 1.8 points and 0.5 assists in 4.7 minutes per game. He nearly had one of the season's best dunks Saturday when he made a 360-degree move against the Philadelphia 76ers before the ball bounced off the rim.

"I like to dunk, so I'm kind of mad that I missed that one," the soft-spoken Cunningham said, "but I'm sure there's many more to come."

Cunningham, 23, said he wasn't thinking about a future that will be shaped in the coming days.

"That's their decision to make," he said. "All I do is play, so I'm not really worried."

Best to come?

It's the time of year when trade whispers intensify, meaning it could be time to expect more from Matt Barnes.

The small forward nearly doubled his scoring output last season following after the All-Star break after being included in widespread trade speculation. He admitted this week that talk he could be on the move is a motivator.

"That consistent whispering and consistent talk that no matter what I do, it's not good enough," Barnes said, "that always drives me."

Barnes has already experienced a dramatic uptick in production. He more than tripled his scoring from November to December, going from 2.4 points per game to 8.9. His rebounding average increased from 2.5 to 3.8, his assist average from 0.7 to 1.6 and his shooting from 43.1% to 48.8%.

Barnes said his difficulties earlier this season resulted in part from his recent divorce.

"It's never easy," Barnes said. "But it just took some time and I'm past that now and really right now all that matters is my kids and basketball."

ben.bolch@latimes.com

Twitter: @latbbolch

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