The Clippers were diagramming a play before their first exhibition game when Paul Pierce interrupted to provide a reminder. Not everything about coming to this team was new to him.
“In the middle of it,” Clippers Coach Doc Rivers said, recalling what Pierce had told everyone, “Paul says, ‘I’ve run this before. He coached me in Boston.’”
Rivers conceded he wasn’t sure even he could remember the play from his Boston Celtics days, but Pierce seemed to have arrived in Los Angeles with total recall.
The veteran forward scored five points in only 14 minutes Friday night during the Clippers’ 103-96 victory over the Denver Nuggets. His three-pointer in the third quarter came at the end of what was probably the most impressive offensive sequence of the game for the Clippers because it featured lots of quick, smart passes before the ball settled into Pierce’s hands.
Pierce’s familiarity with the Clippers extends well beyond having teamed with Rivers and assistant coach Sam Cassell — then in his final season as a player — to win an NBA title with the Celtics in 2008. He routinely trained at the Clippers’ practice facility during summers and said he “already felt like I knew the guys.”
Pierce will play both small forward as a starter and power forward alongside the reserves as part of the Clippers’ small-ball lineup. He might have delivered the quip of the preseason when asked if something clicked in recent years to ease his transition from an All-Star to a lesser role as he nears the end of an NBA career entering its 18th season.
“My knee started clicking and then my ankles and my elbows,” Pierce said, prompting laughter from the reporters gathered around him. “That’s what clicked.”
There was a reason Rivers sang a few words from the Canadian national anthem on his way out of the postgame interview room late Friday. His team departed for Vancouver midday Saturday in advance of an exhibition game Sunday against the Toronto Raptors.
The city has not hosted an NBA team since the Grizzlies departed for Memphis after the 2000-01 season, making it exotic territory for most of the Clippers.
“Vancouver, none of us have played an NBA … ,” Clippers forward Blake Griffin said before catching himself, " … well, most of us haven’t played an NBA game there. But it’s good to get outside of your comfort zone a little bit and play in that environment.”
Pierce and shooting guard Jamal Crawford played against the Grizzlies when they were located in Vancouver, where the Raptors now hold training camp.
Even though the game is essentially a meaningless exhibition, it could provide an early gauge for where the Clippers are versus last season. The Raptors swept both regular-season games against the Clippers, who went a combined 1-7 against the top four teams in the Eastern Conference.
Griffin, on the Clippers’ new uniforms: “I don’t really have a problem with them. I wasn’t like, ‘Oh, they’re awesome’ or ‘Oh, they’re terrible.’ They’re just uniforms.”
Clippers reserve forward Luc Mbah a Moute lost a tooth Friday when his mouth collided with the head of Denver’s Joffrey Lauvergne.
Clippers backup center Cole Aldrich, who sat out the game against the Nuggets because of a mildly sprained left ankle, was also listed as out for the game against the Raptors.
The Clippers waived forward-center Nikoloz Tskitishvili, who did not appear in their exhibition opener.
Follow Ben Bolch on Twitter @latbbolch