SACRAMENTO — It was almost a throwaway line amid more pressing concerns, but Coach Doc Rivers made sure to mention it during a recent practice.
"He was like, 'Oh, also, we've got to stop that,'" Clippers point guard Austin Rivers said Wednesday, recalling what his coach and father had told his team about its tendency to complain too much to referees.
Technically speaking, the Clippers are among the biggest offenders in the NBA. Matt Barnes, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan rank among the league leaders in technical fouls, which could have ramifications beyond sending the other team to the free-throw line.
"At the end of the day they're human too," Austin Rivers said of referees, "so if it's a 50-50 call, do we get it? Probably not right now because they don't like us."
Griffin intimated that he came out on the wrong end of a controversial charging call in the final minute of the Clippers' loss to the Houston Rockets on Sunday, though the NBA reviewed the play and said the call was correct.
Griffin appeared to direct some harsh words at officials on his way off the court and his teammates continued to feel aggrieved a few days later.
"When it comes down to a call, we're not getting it like you saw against Houston," Rivers said. "Those little calls like that … I mean, that's a terrible call."
Doc Rivers acknowledged his team needed to restrain itself for reasons beyond player-referee relations.
"Forget about the ref part," Rivers said, "I think it allows you to have better focus on your job and I think when you're spending your job on [complaining], there's a chance you're going to miss an ATO [after timeout play] or you're not going to execute properly, maybe not be in the right spot defensively because you lose your focus."
Barnes entered Wednesday with 12 technical fouls, trailing only Oklahoma City's Russell Westbrook (14) and Phoenix's Markieff Morris (13). Griffin had nine technicals and Jordan six. Players are suspended for one game once they accumulate 16 technicals.
Austin Rivers, who spent his first 2 1/2 seasons with the New Orleans Pelicans, laughed when asked if the Clippers had a reputation for complaining too much.
"It's an emotional team, for positive reasons for us, but we take it out sometimes on them, but it's just because we want to win so bad," Rivers said. "We've talked about it. We're just going to focus on playing and leaving them alone."
Griffin's return from an elbow injury appears to have triggered a two-spot drop in the rotation for Spencer Hawes.
Hawes played fewer minutes than reserve forward Glen Davis in Griffin's first two games back from a five-week absence, though Hawes was the first big man off the bench against the Sacramento Kings on Wednesday at Sleep Train Arena after Griffin picked up his second foul late in the first quarter.
Doc Rivers said Davis had earned the increase in minutes by playing perhaps the best defense of his six seasons under Rivers.
"In Boston, he was the king of taking charges," Rivers said. "Last year, he did it but not as much. Now you can see he's back to doing it and that means his feet are moving again."
Said Davis: "I do the small things. That's my thing."