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Clippers' Mike Taylor is a quick study

The rookie point guard, drafted out of the Development League, provides instant, fast-moving energy, whether coming off the bench or, more recently, in starting lineup.

March 31, 2009|Lisa Dillman

Mike Taylor, the fast-moving, Skittles-eating rookie point guard, proves his originality nearly every day in the laboratory of individuality known as the Clippers locker room.

And no, he doesn't need batteries to keep the never-ending energy stream moving, according to his fellow rookies.

Taylor's words, too, follow his original actions. The fourth start of his young NBA career came Friday at San Antonio against the Spurs and point guard Tony Parker, and start No. 6, which depends on the health of Baron Davis, could be Wednesday against the New Orleans Hornets and Chris Paul.

So since the topic was his elders, the NBA's elite point guards, this question came Taylor's way:

Would he rather be Chris Paul or Tony Parker?

"If I had to choose? I'd be Mike Taylor," he said, without hesitation, after practice Monday.

That answer did not surprise Bryan Gates in the least. Gates coached and mentored Taylor (as did Randy Livingston) with the Idaho Stampede last season and watched him become the first player in NBA history to be drafted directly from the Development League.

"He doesn't lack confidence," Gates said in a telephone interview. "He's got a lot of positive swagger to him."

Confidence, not cockiness.

His self-belief sustained him in Idaho, and through the usual steep learning curve of an NBA rookie, and then a broken thumb, suffered at Indiana on Dec. 19.

More recently, he let his finely tuned instincts take over and quit thinking.

"Especially being a point guard and being with a coach [Mike Dunleavy] that expects the world out of his point guard, it's kind of hard not to think," Taylor said. "What I would do, let alone what Coach would do. It's hard not to over-think. I kind of got caught up with that earlier in the year, instead of it just naturally taking place."

Taylor, 23, slowly rounded back into form and had a stellar performance with a career-high 35 points against the Knicks last Wednesday, followed by 23 points (10 for 13 from the field) two days later against the defense-minded Spurs, in some ways just as impressive as the showing in New York.

"There's one thing, if you know the whole deal, you have to admire him for sticking with it," Gates said. "There's been a lot of times where Mike could have thrown up his hands and said, 'Poor me.' He's just kind of stuck with it.

"He just loves to play. If you wanted to play H-O-R-S-E with him in the parking lot, he'd play H-O-R-S-E."

Said fellow Clippers rookie Eric Gordon: "He's really offensive-minded for a point guard. He's really energetic, that's the best thing about him. He's a character, so he's always on.

"He's just goofy. He stays goofy constantly."

Then there was a bit of goofiness attached to Taylor without his doing. The Knicks' Nate Robinson suggested last week that the team's scouting report had Taylor, who is 6 feet 2, listed as a center. For the record, the Knicks were not thrilled with Robinson (the Daily News cleverly called him a hand grenade in high tops) and said he was wrong.

"I heard about that," Taylor said, looking amused at being called a center. "Sixty, 70 games into the year, everybody should know that by now."

Whether or not Robinson was kidding, the Knicks certainly knew who Taylor was by the end of the game. He kept Davis on the bench to start the second half, and Taylor started the final two games of the trip, at San Antonio and Houston, when Davis was out with what he called a stomach ulcer.

The key for Taylor has been harnessing his vaunted speed.

Dunleavy spoke about Taylor using his speed more intelligently, which comes with experience.

"It's like when you go into those dark alleys and bad things happen to you, and you try to go in the land of giants through the cracks and alleys, that's when you get jumped," Dunleavy said.

"Sometimes the referees don't see you get chopped up. They don't see you get mugged. For him, to think in those terms, of attacking big, make them move their feet, go around them, keep your dribble -- he's been doing a better job of that. Use your strengths against them."

Etc.

Marcus Camby (sprained left ankle) did not practice Monday and is out for Wednesday's game. Best-case scenario would have the center back this weekend, at Denver on Saturday or against the Lakers on Sunday. . . . Davis practiced Monday and said he was feeling better but still has a measure of stomach discomfort. . . . Guard Alex Acker went down hard near the end of practice and suffered a bruised right knee.

--

lisa.dillman@latimes.com

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