It’s become a postgame locker-room tradition in recent days, DeAndre Jordan playfully discussing a Clippers teammate who had contributed to a victory with that very teammate standing nearby.
Lance Stephenson had already dressed and was ready to depart Staples Center on Friday night after the Clippers’ 111-90 walloping of the New Orleans Pelicans, but Jordan’s take on Stephenson was just too much fun to miss.
Jordan on Stephenson’s energy: “He got a dunk, which I didn’t think was going to go down, but he definitely was full of life.”
Jordan on his advice to Stephenson going forward: “Just to stay Lance.”
Stephenson continually laughed as Jordan spoke, the small forward standing behind the scrum of reporters encircling Jordan’s locker.
The lighthearted scene was a welcome change for a player who had struggled in the season’s early going while shuffling in and out of the starting lineup and not playing at all in one game.
Stephenson went from a nowhere man to seemingly everywhere against the Pelicans, particularly in the first half. He dived on the court to corral a loose ball, lunged to save a wayward pass by teammate Chris Paul and whipped a no-look pass to Austin Rivers for a layup.
“I just tried to make small plays and not do too much,” said Stephenson, who called it his “first decent game” as a Clipper after finishing with 10 points, five rebounds and four assists.
Stephenson’s little offerings added up to something big for a team that expected more from its bench and finally got it against the Pelicans. Rivers scored 17 points, Josh Smith grabbed 12 rebounds and Stephenson made the kind of all-around impact his team needed.
“He was trying to do energy plays — rebound, make plays, go downhill, make plays for everybody else, keep the game simple,” Clippers Coach Doc Rivers said. “When he does that I think he is terrific for our team, and overall I thought he did it most of the game.”
Even more impressive than Stephenson’s bounce-back game might have been his staying positive amid his diminished role before Friday. He often stood and cheered his teammates’ highlight plays and never sulked in the locker room.
“I love Lance,” Clippers forward Blake Griffin said. “I think he has a great spirit and I think he wants to be great, he wants to help out and wants to be a great teammate. He’s funny, he’s always talking, always saying something, listening to music really loud.”
That is, when he’s not tuning in to hear what Jordan has to say.
Jamal Crawford’s moving into the No. 100 spot on the NBA’s all-time leading scorer’s list Friday apparently didn’t impress Doc Rivers.
“I thought he was like 30th. I really did,” Rivers joked of the 16-year veteran. “I thought he was better than that. No, that’s pretty impressive. You think about a guy that high and he’s come off the bench for 98% of his career, it’s pretty impressive.”
Crawford has actually started 429 of his 1,037 NBA games — 41.4% — but he has not been a full-time starter since the 2008-09 season. His nine points against the Pelicans gave him 16,162, surpassing Juwan Howard. He’ll enter the Clippers’ game Sunday against Minnesota needing at least 14 points to push past Timberwolves reserve guard Andre Miller, who has 16,175.
“It’s pretty cool,” Crawford said of his milestone, “but it doesn’t happen without great teammates, great coaches and I think it’s a team effort, accomplishing something like that.”
CLIPPERS vs. MINNESOTA
When: 12:30 p.m., Sunday.
Where: Staples Center.
On the air: TV: Prime; Radio: 980, 1330.
Records: Timberwolves 8-8; Clippers 8-8.
Record vs. Timberwolves (2014-15): 3-0.
Update: Minnesota is already halfway to matching its win total for the entire 2014-15 season, putting itself well ahead of schedule in its rebuilding efforts. Of course, it helps having the No. 1 overall pick from each of the last two drafts. Guard Andrew Wiggins (21.8 points per game) and center Karl-Anthony Towns (14.2 points, 9.4 rebounds) are supreme talents that the Timberwolves intend to build around. “That young team,” said Clippers Coach Doc Rivers, “is the team of the future in the West.” Rivers said he keeps a pen given to him by late Timberwolves Coach Flip Saunders either in his pocket or his desk, a constant reminder of his longtime friend who died from cancer in late October.
Times correspondent Melissa Rohlin contributed to this report.