View Original Notice ? Clippers, Trail Blazers share lessons learned
In the NBA, they play it forward.
So the lessons All-Star guard Terrell Brandon imparted on a young Chauncey Billups when they were both playing in Minnesota? Billups passed that knowledge on to Eric Bledsoe when he was an up-and-coming guard alongside him in the Clippers’ backcourt.
Mr. Big Shot’s mentorship was “big,” Bledsoe told The Athletic’s Shams Charania in 2018 when he discussed his time playing in L.A. with Billups and Chris Paul.
“To see them in big-time moments, to be around them, they’re Hall of Fame players,” said Bledsoe, who has just begun his second stint with the Clippers this season, his 12th.
“To be able to be in the same gym with them, to see how hard they work. They got on the court and competed. That’s what I took away from them – no matter what the score was. Down 20, up 20, they competed every single night.”
Billups – who spent last season with the Clippers as an assistant coach – said he remembered his time playing with Bledsoe fondly.
“I enjoyed playing with Bled when I did,” Billups said before Friday’s game in Portland, when the Clippers and Trail Blazers were set to meet for the second time this week, following L.A.’s 116-86 win Monday night at Staples Center.
“Just an unbelievable athlete, obviously. I spent a lot of time trying to get him to see the game and talk – open up his mouth, actually. It’s kind of similar to the same things I’m doing with (Portland’s) Anfernee Simons right now to be honest with you. Ant is really quiet too, like Bledsoe. But I think at that position, you have to be vocal.”
Bledsoe got the message, loud and clear, about competing. But despite that initial prompt from Billups – who spent several years as a television broadcaster, getting paid to talk about the game for a live viewing audience – Bledsoe hasn’t necessarily upped his word count.
Before a practice earlier this month, Clippers coach Tyronn Lue said he was surprised to find out just how quiet Bledsoe is.
“Yeah, just extra quiet,” Lue said. “But sometimes it’s not a bad thing.”
Not so long as he competes as he learned to do in his first couple years in the league, especially on the defensive end.
“It’s going to be something that’s important to us because I think he gives a chance for (Paul George) – kind of like Pat Beverley (did), gives PG a chance to rest off the ball a little bit until the fourth quarter, where he doesn’t have to guard the best player every single night,” Lue said of Bledsoe, a two-time All-Defensive Team selection who still is finding his footing offensively this season, averaging 11.4 points while shooting 40.5% from the field and 15.4% from 3-point range.
“PG’s going to need that level of rest with Kawhi being out, so I think it’s very important for us.”
So too was the advice that Brandon, a Portland native, gave to Billups, the new Portland head coach, in the early 2000s.
“He taught me so many things that I ended up teaching a lot of other guys, and I’m so grateful for him,” Billups said. “I don’t know what my career would’ve been without having spent time with Terrell Brandon, so that’s why I took so much pride doing that to other young guys.”
The Clippers continued to operate without several key members of their team Friday. That includes the big names, Kawhi Leonard (anterior cruciate ligament), Serge Ibaka (back) and Marcus Morris Sr. (knee).
Also missing: L.A.’s three rookies.
Jason Preston is out indefinitely after undergoing foot surgery earlier this month, Brandon Boston Jr. didn’t accompany the Clippers to Portland because he was assigned to the team’s G League affiliate in Ontario, and Keon Johnson has yet to make his official NBA debut, having been stuck on the sideline with an illness.
Lue said Johnson wasn’t active Friday, but “he is feeling better.”
When he finally gets a chance to get on the court, Lue said he will be looking for defensive effort from the 21st overall pick.
“As a young player, the first thing you got to focus on is playing hard,” Lue said. “And him being a defensive guy, just coming in and making things happen defensively, the offense will take care of itself.”
As for Boston’s Agua Caliente assignment, Lue said the former Chatsworth Sierra Canyon High standout stayed in California for the one-game trip north because his time would be better spent on the court.
“Just give him an opportunity to play,” Lue said. “To play the NBA style of basketball, learn the rules. With having a team with some veteran guys, he’s really not getting an opportunity right now. I think it’s just good for him to get down to the G league, play, and compete, and continue to work on his game.”