Clippers Coach Doc Rivers said Thursday that Wesley Johnson will “most likely” start at the small forward position over Paul Pierce in Friday’s preseason game against the Denver Nuggets.
Rivers said he plans on taking a “mad scientist” approach in the preseason and experimenting with different lineups. His apparent decision to have small forward Pierce come off the bench Friday also may be more about seeing what Pierce can do with the second unit than seeing what Johnson can do with the first.
Rivers plans on monitoring 37-year-old Pierce’s minutes this season. Pierce, who has a career average of 21 points, 5.9 rebounds and 3.9 assists a game, recently said that even though he has started throughout his entire 17-season career, he’s willing to take on a new role if that means helping the Clippers win.
“Whether he plays me as a starter, whether he plays me off the bench, whether he plays me 15, 16 minutes, I’m willing to take on any role as long as we win a lot of games,” Paul said at the Clippers’ media day last Friday.
Johnson, 28, started in 59 games for the Lakers last season, averaging 9.9 points on 41.4% shooting, 4.2 rebounds and 1.6 assists in 29.5 minutes a game. Pierce, who started 73 games with the Washington Wizards last season, averaged 11.9 points, four rebounds and two assists in 26.2 minutes a game.
J.J. Redick said Thursday that he anticipates good things from both Johnson and Pierce at the small forward position.
“Wes, similar to [former Clipper] Matt [Barnes], is able to hit threes and he can space the floor so we’re going to ask him to do a lot of the same things that Matt did,” Redick said. “It will take a little bit of time. And then if it’s Paul, Paul can kind of fit in and plug in wherever, he’s that smart and that savvy.”