Doc Rivers said the trades the Clippers made Thursday were more about freeing up cap space than improving the team for the final 26 games of the regular season.
The team traded veteran forward Antawn Jamison to the Atlanta Hawks and reserve center Byron Mullens to the Philadelphia 76ers in moves that brought them within $1 million of the NBA’s luxury tax threshold.
“That’s more cap room for this summer,” Rivers, who is also the team’s senior vice president of basketball operations, told reporters in Memphis. “From a coaching standpoint, those are moves that [don’t] necessarily make your team better, but from a team standpoint it was the right thing to do because it gives us a little more room cap room.”
The trades leave the Clippers woefully thin at the power forward and center spots, with only Ryan Hollins as a backup to Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan. The team will likely add a free agent big man for depth.
Former Atlanta power forward Ivan Johnson recently worked out for the Clippers but did not impress those in attendance, according to a league executive who spoke on condition of anonymity because the workout was private. Johnson averaged 6.5 points and 3.9 rebounds for the Hawks during the 2011-12 and 2012-13 seasons before playing for the Zhejiang Golden Bulls of the Chinese Basketball Association, whose season ended this week.
Other center-power forward options for the Clippers include Glen “Big Baby” Davis, who was reportedly negotiating a buyout with the Orlando Magic, and free agent Jason Collins, both of whom previously played for Rivers with the Boston Celtics. The Clippers could have competition for Collins from the Brooklyn Nets, who were reportedly considering signing him to a 10-day contract.
Collins, the first openly gay player in major professional sports, has been working out in Los Angeles in hopes of signing with a team.
Rivers said earlier this week that he would also consider signing guard Sasha Vujacic to a second 10-day contract to add roster depth. But Rivers said he was in no rush to add to a roster that now stands at 12 players and that he would consider the best available players at all positions, not just in the frontcourt.
“I’m looking for anything — the best wing player, the best big player … whatever it takes,” Rivers said. “I like our team and we do have to play better and I told our guys that we have to improve our play defensively.”
Jamison and Mullens were both largely disappointments after signing with the Clippers over the summer.
Jamison, a two-time All-Star, was averaging a career-low 3.8 points and 2.5 rebounds in only 11.3 minutes per game. Mullens was averaging 2.5 points and 1.2 rebounds in 6.2 minutes per game.
“I think Antawn did everything we asked him to do,” Rivers said. “What I really decided was, if we’re going to go small, I like Duds [Jared Dudley] at that position more rather than a four with his ability to stretch the floor and then we bring in Turk [Hedo Turkoglu].”