Some of those guys have been together for a long time like DeAndre (Jordan) and (Blake) Griffin and (Austin) Rivers. —Ricky Rubio on the Los Angeles Clippers
LOS ANGELES — The Los Angeles Clippers team that the Utah Jazz will face Tuesday night at Staples Center (8:30 p.m. MT) will look little like the team they defeated in a bruising seven-game first-round playoff series last spring.
Only five players are back from last year’s Clippers team that edged out the Jazz during the regular season before falling in the playoffs. Gone are longtime starting guards Chris Paul and J.J. Reddick along with starting forward Luc Mbah a Moute, sharpshooting sixth-man Jamal Crawford and veteran Paul Pierce.
The Jazz and Clips will play the first of four games against each other Tuesday at the same place Utah eliminated the Clippers from the playoffs last April 104-91 in a memorable Game 7.
At least there are a couple of recognizable faces on the Clippers team. Blake Griffin, a former No. 1 draft choice by the franchise and seven-year veteran is back, along with all-star center DeAndre Jordan, who are the anchors of this year's roster. The 6-foot-10 Griffin is a seven-year veteran, who is averaging 29 points a game this season, while Jordan is leading the NBA with 18.5 rebounds per game.
Also back are Austin Rivers, son of coach Doc Rivers and reserves Wesley Johnson and Brice Johnson.
Despite the Clippers’ loss of several starters and their top reserve, Utah coach Quin Snyder calls them “very, very good” and says they are a “terrific offensive team,” with the firepower they’ve added to this year’s team. The Clippers are off to a fast start with a pair of easy victories, defeating the Lakers 108-92 and the Suns 130-88.
The Clippers picked up Lou Williams from the cross-town Lakers and though he isn’t starting, he’s second on the team in scoring behind Griffin at 15.0 ppg. They also got forward Danilo Gallinari from Denver as well as Patrick Beverley from Houston and Milos Teodosic from the Euroleague.
“We’re obviously familiar with Blake and DeAndre and between Teo and Beverly and Lou, those guys complement each other very well,” said Snyder, who coached Teodosic in Moscow a few years ago. “Teo adds a dimension to any team that’s very unique with his ability to pass the ball. Patrick Beverly is one of the best on-ball defenders in the league and Lou Williams is able to score with anybody in the league.”
“Gallinari is another player who is extremely versatile and has an ability to play- make and shoot the three and Austin Rivers can get to the rim.”
The Clippers have also added Sam Dekker, another player in the Paul trade to Houston and center Willie Reed, who played for Miami last year.
Ricky Rubio has seen the Clippers a lot over the years and calls them “a great team with a great coach.”
“Some of those guys have been together for a long time like DeAndre and Griffin and Rivers,” he said. “Now they have new guys like Gallinari bringing something extra. We’ve got to be ready.”
Rubio has been one of the bright spots for the Jazz so far this year as he is tied for the team lead in scoring at 14.7 points per game and also averaging 8.3 assists, 5.3 rebounds and 1.7 steals per game.
“I’m playing with more confidence, that’s why the last 3-4 months of the season I played well with confidence,” he said. “It kept building and I had a good summer of working out and I’m being more aggressive and looking for my shot.”
Rubio is expected to start along with Rudy Gobert and Derrick Favors inside and Joe Ingles on the wing. If Rodney Hood isn’t able to play — he practiced some Monday, but was listed as questionable for Tuesday — the Jazz will likely start rookie Donovan Mitchell or Thabo Sefolosha on the other wing.
The Jazz head over to Phoenix for a Wednesday night game before returning home to face another Los Angeles team, the Lakers, Saturday night.