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Clippers' Austin Rivers has role of defending small forwards too

Clippers' Austin Rivers has role of defending small forwards too
Clippers guard Austin Rivers steals the ball from Celtics forward Evan Turner during a game last season. (Winslow Townson / Associated Press)

He had been asked by the Clippers coaching staff after the season to expand his defensive role on the team to defend small forwards, one challenge that only brought another for Austin Rivers.

To survive against the taller and bigger players he was now being asked to defend this season, Rivers would have to bulk up some.

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So the 6-4 Rivers stayed in the weight room over the summer — and even now during training camp — to work on strengthening his body, adding about five pounds to push his weight to 215.

He didn't want to lose the quickness that has allowed him to defend both guard spots, but Rivers wanted to get stronger.

"I didn't initially really even know about it until they started hinting I've got to start lifting a little more," Rivers said. "I was like, 'Hold on man, I've been lifting like every day.' They want me to start guarding threes, and they mentioned the idea of me possibly coming out the gate starting some at the three, so it's cool. It's one of those things I'll have to adjust."

Rivers defended 6-9 small forward extraordinaire Kevin Durant last season with moderate success. In the exhibition game against the Raptors on Wednesday night, Rivers had the challenge of defending 6-7, 220 pound DeMar DeRozan

Rivers felt he did "a good job" on DeRozan.

But…

"Relatively speaking, he did have 20 in the first half, DeMar DeRozan," Rivers said. "Other than that it went well. No, but it was a good first time of me really guarding someone like that. … They [Clippers coaches] want me guarding the quicker ones [point guards], that way Chris [Paul] doesn't have to do it all — which is already kind of a known thing going into the season. But the three was definitely new. I'm excited."

Besides bruising small forwards LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony, Rivers said not many of threes post up like in the '90s.

So in Rivers' eyes, he can use his quickness against today's type of small forwards who won't take him down low to overpower him.

"Now, everybody's face-up. Everybody's running up and down shooting threes," Rivers said. "Threes are like Chandler Parsons, Andre Iguodala — slashers. I can guard those types of wings, because they're not heavy-set post-up players."

Felton likes Clippers team

Since Raymond Felton signed with the Clippers as a free agent in July, he said the perception of the team not always in harmony is not the reality he has seen.

As a 12-year veteran, Felton heard the stories that Paul, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan had issues with each other.

Felton heard the stories that Clippers team members weren't always in synch.

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But Felton now says he didn't know the team was "as close as it is."

"You hear a lot of negative stuff through the years about this team when you're on other teams," Felton said before practice Sunday. "But being here, this team is actually closer than you think. That surprised me. To see that, and add the couple of things I feel like I can add personality-wise off the court, I think we're going to be alright."

The things Felton heard about the Clippers while playing in Dallas the last two seasons didn't stop the point guard from joining them.

"I'm a firm believer in not believing what you hear," he said. "People can talk about a team or talk about a certain guy and give a perception about him, but when you meet him, it's a totally different thing. I've seen that a lot with this team since I've been here."

broderick.turner@latimes.com

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