Baylor looks at bright side
Clippers General Manager Elgin Baylor has been around the NBA for about 40 years and has seen teams that were supposed to be good perform badly and those that were supposed to be bad perform well.
He is keenly aware that the Clippers have been picked to finish near the bottom of the Western Conference by most NBA analysts.
Baylor shrugs off the predictions as he would a double team in his playing days.
“Why would we be concerned about that?” he said. “The only thing we can do is go out there and prove people wrong.”
They will attempt to do just that starting Friday against the Golden State Warriors at Staples Center. The Clippers will showcase a team, Baylor said, capable of scoring as well as putting down the defensive clamps.
“I don’t believe we’ll have a problem with scoring,” he said. “We have guys that can score. We need to bring it on both sides of the court. As a team, when we are not shooting the ball well, we have to stay focused on defense to stay in ballgames. That’s not the easiest thing in the world to do, playing 82 games of defense.”
Baylor said the additions of point guard Brevin Knight and forward Ruben Patterson, two players who have made their marks on defense, will help that cause.
Both, he said, will provide the team with a defensive spark on the second unit that it lacked last season and Knight will be looked upon to slow down quick point guards.
“We could be a good defensive team with Ruben and Brevin,” he said. “Brevin is as good as anybody at standing in front of somebody and stopping penetration.”
He is also pleased by the exhibition play of rookie forward Al Thornton, but cautioned that it is early in his career.
“Exhibitions are one thing, the season is something else,” Baylor said. “Give it a few games. Sometimes rookies make an immediate impact and sometimes it takes a little while. But with Thornton, he’ll get the opportunity and I think he’ll do well.”
The season-opening roster is set and probably no moves will be made for a while.
The Clippers have 14 guaranteed contracts, one below the league maximum. The remaining contract is Patterson’s, who to nobody’s surprise made the team.
And despite the injuries to Elton Brand and Shaun Livingston, Baylor wants the team to come together.
“We aren’t saying don’t look at that [injuries],” Baylor said. “But when we start the season, we want everyone ready to go.”
All in all, Baylor has seen better. And he has seen worse.
“Based on what I’ve seen, I think we should do well,” he said.
The Clippers practiced with only eight players for a second consecutive day, but Aaron Williams (calf strain) and Tim Thomas (sore lower back) participated in non-contact drills. Knight (strained left hip flexor) returned to practice, and Josh Powell was absent for personal reasons.
Thornton (sore right ankle) and Chris Kaman (left foot sprain) also sat out.