Clippers get Jeff Ayres to help fill gap while Blake Griffin is out

Clippers get Jeff Ayres to help fill gap while Blake Griffin is out
Clippers forward Blake Griffin sits on the bench with assistant coach Sam Cassell, right, during the second half of a game on Jan. 13. (Danny Moloshok / Associated Press)

Most wakeup calls aren't pleasant. Jeff Ayres didn't mind his Friday.

"It was awesome," Ayres said Saturday by telephone. "It was great news to wake up to."


His agent, Mitch Frankel, was on the line, informing Ayres that the Clippers were signing him to a 10-day contract. Ayres packed his bags, hopped a flight from Boise, Idaho, to Minneapolis before going on to Toronto to join his new team.

Ayres passed his physical Saturday and is expected to be available Sunday when the Clippers play the Toronto Raptors at the Air Canada Centre.

The Clippers could use the depth at power forward with Blake Griffin slated to miss the game against the Raptors and considered doubtful for the rest of the Clippers' five-game trip as he continues his recovery from a quadriceps injury.

Not that Ayres, a five-year veteran who spent last season with the San Antonio Spurs, thinks he is on the verge of replacing Griffin's production.

"If I have an opportunity to play," Ayres said, "I want to make the most of it and be me. I'm worried about what I can control and going out there and being a professional."

Ayres is an Ontario native whom many basketball fans in Southern California probably remember as Jeff Pendergraph at Etiwanda High and Arizona State before he changed his last name in 2013. The thinking was that he would rather honor the name of his biological father than a stepfather who had not been in his life for years.

The Sacramento Kings made him the first pick of the second round in the 2009 draft before trading him to Portland. Ayres has also played with Indiana and San Antonio, compiling career averages of 3.0 points and 2.8 rebounds in 10.1 minutes a game.

He was with the Spurs last season during their first-round playoff series against the Clippers.

"Will it be weird?" Ayres said, repeating a question about joining the team that vanquished him in the playoffs. "Maybe for five seconds, but what happened is in the past."

Ayres praised San Antonio Coach Gregg Popovich for explaining that the Spurs were moving on after having signed David West, a former All-Star, to a veteran's minimum contract this summer.

"There's no animosity or anything like that," Ayres said. "I understand the business and appreciate how honest he was."

Ayres played for the Idaho Stampede of the Development League this season, averaging 16.3 points and 9.5 rebounds in 23 games. He sounded like someone who already had role acceptance mastered before he played a minute with the Clippers.

"Whatever I have to do," Ayres said, "I want to do."

Bittersweet situation


Doc Rivers wanted Tyronn Lue to become a head coach. Just not under these circumstances.

The Cleveland Cavaliers promoted Lue on Friday from his role as an assistant to take over for Coach David Blatt, whom they fired despite his guiding the team to the NBA Finals in his first season and the best record in the Eastern Conference through the midpoint of this season.

"I'm obviously happy for Ty," Rivers said, "but not this way."

Lue served as an assistant under Rivers with the Clippers during the 2013-14 season and before that with the Boston Celtics. Rivers said it was apparent Lue was coaching material from the time Rivers coached him with the Orlando Magic during the 2003-04 season.

"I remember it was about a week before I was going to get fired and I knew it was coming," Rivers said. "I said, 'Hey, listen, you're going to play for a couple of more years. Whenever you want a job, there's a job.' And I didn't think he would call me, but he called me in Boston and said, 'I'm ready.'"

Rivers didn't have an opening at the time on his Celtics staff, but Danny Ainge, the team's president of basketball operations, created one and Lue immediately excelled.

"You come across guys as a coach that you think are going to be special at coaching," Rivers said, "and he's one of them."

Did Rivers have any advice for his protege?

"It's just a hard spot to be in," Rivers said. "That's what I'm going to tell him. He's just got to be him. Obviously, what they're going to do, they're probably going to do most of the same stuff, the defense and the stuff they were running was with Ty and Dave anyway, so we'll see the changes."

Up Next


When: 3 p.m. PST.

Where: Air Canada Centre.

On the air: TV: Prime; Radio: 980, 1330.

Records: Clippers 28-15; Raptors 28-15.

Record vs. Raptors: 0-1.

Update: The Clippers departed Newark Liberty International Airport after sitting for more than an hour on the runway while their charter flight was de-iced early Saturday morning, but their next opponent might make them wish they had been snowed in. Toronto has been a bad matchup for the Clippers recently, sweeping the season series last year and thwacking them when the teams met in November at Staples Center in the low-water mark of the Clippers' season. The Raptors have won seven consecutive games, their best stretch of the season.

Follow Ben Bolch on Twitter @latbbolch