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Clippers

Doc Rivers says Clippers could rotate their starting lineup

Clippers coach Doc Rivers, watching his team play in its preseason opener Thursday.
Clippers coach Doc Rivers, watching his team play in its preseason opener Thursday.
(Marco Garcia / Associated Press)

When they are healthy, Kawhi Leonard and Paul George are the only two players who are guaranteed to be starters for a Clippers team with championship aspirations.

Clippers coach Doc Rivers said beyond that he has strongly considered employing a “sliding starting lineup” with this talented and deep group.

“I do think — and I don’t know this — but I do think there is a chance we have a sliding starting lineup,” Rivers said after practice Saturday at the University of Hawaii campus. “Where a different four (power forward), a different one (point guard) ... I don’t know that yet at all. But I thought about that all summer, and again watching us, it leads me to think that’s what we’re going to do.”

Rivers knows players have egos about hearing their name in the starting lineup, but he said “I hope not” when asked whether it could be difficult for his players to be a starter at some points and to come off the bench other times.

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“Some teams do it very well. Toronto did it well last year,” said Rivers, referring to how the starting lineup changes didn’t stop the Raptors from winning the NBA championship last season. “San Antonio does it well most years. We just haven’t done it. I would guess — I don’t know that — it would come down to cooperation.”

Last season, Patrick Beverley started at point guard, Landry Shamet, who was acquired from the Philadelphia 76ers at the trade deadline, spent time starting as the shooting guard, and Ivica Zubac, who was acquired from the Lakers last season, started at center.

Whether or not Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard plays in the preseason, coach Doc Rivers is not concerned about the team’s new superstar showing any rust.

But JaMychal Green, whom the Clippers picked up from the Memphis Grizzlies last season in a trade, and Maurice Harkless, whom the Clippers acquired in a trade from the Miami Heat this summer, could be plugged in as the starting power forward.

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“Let’s be honest, Paul and Kawhi, they are going to start,” Rivers said. “They know that. So you can make the case that anybody else probably can move around. That’s it.”

Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell, the NBA’s top one-two punch off the bench last season, will most likely keep their reserve roles.

Rookie guard Terance Mann has a strong connection to the Clippers because of a longstanding relationship with scouts Leo Papile and Paul Hewitt.

Williams won the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year award last season — his second straight with the Clippers — and Harrell came in third in the voting.

That dynamic duo is best-suited to come off the bench and give the Clippers a scoring punch that few teams possess.

However Rivers works out his starting lineups, he knows he will need willingness from the players to make it work.

“It’s about winning games,” Harkless repeated twice. “We trust Doc. Obviously, he’s a great coach. He’s been doing this for a long time. Whatever he does, we just got to go out there and execute and just win as many games as possible.”


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