The Clippers need a rebounding savior. The one they have isn't enough.
"Bill Russell ain't coming through that door," Clippers Coach Doc Rivers said Friday night, referring to the former Boston Celtics center who led the NBA in rebounding five times during his Hall of Fame career. "But we actually have Bill Russell. We need people to help him."
The Clippers' Bill Russell would be DeAndre Jordan, the 6-foot-11 center who led the league in rebounds last season. Jordan did his glass-cleaning thing in the preseason and it still couldn't help his team from being outrebounded in all eight games.
The Clippers gave up an average of 10.3 more rebounds than they collected, including an egregious 55-32 deficit during a loss to Utah on Oct. 13.
The usual preseason excuses — limited minutes for starters, injuries — didn't make the newest member of the Clippers' frontcourt feel any better about the rebounding situation.
"We've got to stop talking about it and start doing something about it," forward-center Spencer Hawes said. "We have plenty of guys that are more than capable that have done it in the past and it's time to come out and start following through on the commitments that we're trying to make."
What's been the problem, exactly?
"I think we kind of pass off the responsibility sometimes and try and take it for granted, like, all right, I might not box out here; someone else is going to get it," Hawes said. "You want to be in a situation where we're fighting each other over rebounds and that's how aggressive everyone is going at it."
Rivers pinpointed one play Friday against Portland in which one of his players started running down the court after a Trail Blazers shot in hopes of starting a fastbreak. Instead, the ball caromed directly to the spot where the player had been standing and Portland grabbed the rebound.
"We want to run so bad that our guards are leaking out, running down the floor and we don't have the ball," Rivers said.
Rebounding has been an ongoing problem for the Clippers. They tied with Phoenix for 13th in the NBA last season with 43.0 rebounds per game. More worrisome, they allowed their opponents to snag 43.7 rebounds per game, ranking 25th.
"I think it was a miracle personally that we did what we did last year with the way we rebounded," Rivers said.
Rivers said he would make rebounding a priority in the practices leading up to the season opener Thursday against Oklahoma City. The Clippers will resume practice on Monday after taking the weekend off.
"We have to do a better job from all positions, one through five," said Jordan, who averaged 9.9 rebounds in the preseason, fourth-best in the league. "We can't get out and run and do things we're good at without limiting teams to one shot and hitting somebody first and grabbing the rebound."