Heading into the Clippers’ first exhibition game of the 2015-16 season, the team will be missing one familiar face from their starting lineup -- small forward Matt Barnes.
Chris Paul said the team will undoubtedly feel his absence.
“There’s no question we’re going to miss Matt,” Paul said. “Matt brought a lot to our team -- leadership, toughness. Matt was just one of a kind.”
The Clippers traded Barnes, along with Spencer Hawes, to the Charlotte Hornets earlier in June in exchange for Lance Stephenson. The Grizzlies then acquired Barnes from the Hornets in exchange for Luke Ridnour in late June.
Barnes, 35, had a successful season with the Clippers in 2014-15, averaging 10.1 points on 44.4% shooting, four rebounds, 1.5 assists and a career-high 29.9 minutes a game. He also shot 36.2% from beyond the three-point line.
Barnes recently estimated to Sports Illustrated that he’s paid $500,000 in fines over the course of his 12-season career, and is notable for such instances as pretending to throw a ball at Kobe Bryant’s face in 2010 (Bryant didn’t even flinch), kicking a water bottle into the stands in 2014, cursing at Suns’ owner Robert Sarver in 2015 and trash-talking to James Harden’s mother during the 2015 playoffs.
Over the summer, the Clippers acquired small forwards Wesley Johnson and Paul Pierce. Johnson is expected to start over Pierce at the small forward position during Friday’s preseason opener against the Denver Nuggets at Staples Center at 7:30 p.m.
“Wes is going to be amazing,” Paul said. "[Pierce] is going to bring that veteran leadership, as well as Lance [Stephenson], and different guys like that.”
Clippers Coach Doc Rivers said he’s taking a “mad scientist” approach to the preseason, and is going to experiment with different lineups. According to Paul, the chatter shouldn’t be around who starts games.
“It’s not always about who starts the game, it’s about who finishes,” he said.
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