One of the Clippers’ new assistant coaches recently proved to be an effective recruiter of free agents.
For the Washington Wizards.
Sam Cassell sold Paul Pierce on Washington’s potential to contend for the Eastern Conference title, leading the veteran forward to sign a two-year, $11-million contract with the Wizards.
Pierce also happened to be a player targeted by Clippers Coach Doc Rivers, who plucked Cassell from the Wizards after Cassell’s successful recruiting pitch.
“I thought if Sam came,” Rivers joked, “Paul would come.”
Oh, well. Cassell can certainly help the Clippers in other ways. He spent part of training camp repeatedly dribbling toward the post and swinging passes over his shoulder to Spencer Hawes beyond the three-point arc.
“There you go!” Cassell yelled after Hawes swished a shot.
Cassell is one of three newcomers on Rivers’ staff, joining former Brooklyn Nets assistant Lawrence Frank and former New York Knicks Coach Mike Woodson. The Clippers also promoted Brendan O’Connor and retained Armond Hill as assistants.
Rivers coached Cassell on his Boston team, which won the NBA title in 2008, and had Frank on his Celtics staff during the 2010-11 season. Rivers has known Woodson for about 20 years.
The coaching vacancies were created by the departures of Alvin Gentry to Golden State and Tyronn Lue to Cleveland. Rivers made another opening when he promoted assistant Kevin Eastman to vice president of basketball operations.
Rivers said Frank and O’Connor would primarily serve as defensive coaches and Cassell and Woodson would mostly handle the offense, but each of his assistants is expected to have input in all facets of the game.
Integrating the new coaches might be one of the Clippers’ biggest challenges on a team that returns all five starters and six of its top seven scorers from last season.
“There’s growth,” Rivers said. “Our staff will be better by mid-year than it is now, for sure.”
Rivers does not allow his assistants to speak with the media.
A handful of Clippers players are already familiar with Cassell, who played for the franchise for 2 1/2 seasons and helped it reach the Western Conference semifinals in 2006. Forward Blake Griffin said Cassell has occasionally stopped by the practice facility in recent years because of his relationship with the trainers and some of the team’s staff.
Cassell’s name also comes up at point guard Chris Paul’s basketball camps each summer, as the master of the pump fake.
“I think my first time playing against him I got three fouls,” Paul said of Cassell, who retired after the 2007-08 season. “That’s when I realized I wasn’t a shot blocker. I don’t go for pump fakes anymore, and I always tell Sam that he’s the reason.”
Woodson and Frank are both coming off trying seasons. Woodson was fired after failing to take the Knicks to the playoffs, and Frank was removed from the Nets bench and reassigned to compile daily reports after his relationship with Coach Jason Kidd soured. The Nets bought out the remainder of Frank’s contract last month.
Frank made a quick first impression on his new team during training camp.
“Lawrence is intense,” Griffin said. “And I think we all love that about him, just because we need that defensively.”
The Clippers did not practice Sunday.