The Clippers view their tear-it-down undertaking as more of a remodel than a rebuild.
The direction they are going after trading Blake Griffin to Detroit for Avery Bradley, Tobias Harris, Boban Marjanovic and a first- and second-round draft pick won’t be known for some time.
They took their first step toward a reconstruction Tuesday night, playing short-handed in a 104-96 loss to the Portland Trail Blazers at Staples Center before 16,705 fans.
Naturally, Clippers coach Doc Rivers was asked if this was a rebuild after Willie Reed and Brice Johnson joined Griffin in Detroit.
“Well, I think you have to judge that,” Rivers said to reporters. “Sometimes there’s complete rebuilds. We’re not doing that. Sometimes you’re juggling, trying to create money and you’re still trying to stay relative and win. I think that’s more us right now.”
Lou Williams (20 points), DeAndre Jordan (19 rebounds) and Danilo Gallinari (15 points in his first game back after missing 25 with a left glute injury) did what they could to hold the Clippers together against the Trail Blazers. The Clippers shot only 41.2%, with Williams struggling the most. He missed 21 of 26 shots.
The three newest Clippers did not play.
The Clippers (25-25) are half a game behind Denver for the eighth spot in the Western Conference.
“The one thing I just want to keep saying is this team has not changed its goals about the playoffs,” Rivers said. “That’s our goal is to do that.”
Rivers was queried about how the Clippers will accomplish that goal if the reports are true that they are continuing to look to trade Jordan and Williams. The reports also said the Clippers could look to sign both to contract extensions. The trade deadline is Feb. 8.
“We make this trade and then everyone thinks we’re just trading everybody away,” Rivers said. “That’s not true. But that’s what’s out there. Sometimes you can’t control the narrative. You just can control your job and that’s what I have to do.
“Right now we’re pretty much done. That doesn’t mean ever if you’re done. What are there? [Nine] days left? So we’ll see.”
Griffin had become a fan favorite over his eight seasons playing for the Clippers. The team in turn rewarded him with a five-year, $171-million contract extension last summer, even proclaiming that Griffin was a “Clipper for life.”
“We couldn’t be afraid to be bold,” said Lawrence Frank, the Clippers’ president of basketball operations. “We valued the players we were getting back in return. We valued the picks and we also valued the flexibility.”
Frank said the goal of trading Griffin was to stay competitive, acquire young talent, add draft picks and have financial flexibility.
In order for that to occur, Frank said, the Clippers had to make a “very hard and uncomfortable decision.”
“With that being said, trading Blake Griffin was an extremely difficult decision,” Frank said. “Blake’s obviously one of the greatest players to put on a Clipper uniform. He led a huge centerpiece of the greatest era of Clipper basketball.”