Doc Rivers and Steve Kerr aren’t exactly unbiased participants in the debate over who should be the NBA’s defensive player of the year.
Rivers is also an unwilling participant.
“I just believe that D.J.'s one,” the Clippers coach said Sunday when asked whether his team’s starting center, DeAndre Jordan, and Golden State’s Draymond Green were the top two defenders in the league. “I don’t think there’s a two. Draymond Green’s great, I love his energy, he’s phenomenal, but D.J.'s the best defensive player in the league. I just really believe that.”
The Warriors’ Kerr was more diplomatic in his assessment, spending about a minute outlining the virtues of each player. Kerr credited Jordan, who entered Sunday as the NBA’s third-leading shot blocker, with covering lots of space on the court.
Kerr called Green “the modern-day Dennis Rodman” because of his ability to guard every position. Green then made his coach’s point by spending parts of the Warriors’ 106-98 victory over the Clippers at Oracle Arena defending Jordan, forward-center Spencer Hawes and point guard Chris Paul.
“It’s never been more important to guard one through five than right now because the league is going small and everybody’s shooting 30 threes a night,” Kerr said. “To have multiple defenders who can get out and cover shooters is important, but to have a guy who can do that and protect the rim and grab rebounds and switch onto pick-and-roll point guards and stay in front of them, it’s incredibly unique and important.”
Rivers has said he did not think the Clippers’ poor defensive standing as a team — they entered Sunday giving up 100.3 points per game, 19th in the NBA — should hurt Jordan’s candidacy. Rivers referenced Tyson Chandler winning defensive player of the year in 2012 with the New York Knicks despite his team ranking 11th in the league in points allowed.
The Warriors entered Sunday ranked 16th in the league by allowing 99.7 points per game.
Blake Griffin missed his 12th consecutive game because of elbow surgery, and Rivers removed any drama over whether the All-Star forward would miss a 13th, saying Griffin would sit out the game against the Minnesota Timberwolves on Monday night at Staples Center.
Griffin did not accompany the Clippers to Oakland, and there remained no definitive timetable for his return from the surgery that has sidelined him since Feb. 8. The Clippers’ next games after Monday are Wednesday at Oklahoma City and Friday at Dallas.
“It could be four days, it could be a month,” Rivers said. “I’ve never seen this, and I don’t know the answer.”
Shooting guard Jamal Crawford also missed a second consecutive full game because of a bruised right calf he sustained March 2 against Minnesota. Rivers said Griffin’s return appeared more imminent than Crawford’s.
The Clippers will honor the third-longest-tenured broadcaster in the NBA on Monday with Ralph Lawler Night during the game against the Timberwolves. All fans will receive a T-shirt bearing Lawler’s “Oh Me, Oh My!” catchphrase.
CLIPPERS VS. MINNESOTA
Where: Staples Center.
On the air: TV: Prime Ticket; Radio: 980, 1330.
Records: Clippers 40-23, Timberwolves 14-47.
Record vs. Timberwolves: 2-0.
Update: Minnesota has been playing better despite losing four of its last five games, including a 110-105 setback against the Clippers on March 2. The Timberwolves defeated Portland on Saturday and are considered an up-and-coming team with rookie Andrew Wiggins leading a young and athletic group of players.