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Clippers coach says team's starters must improve on defense

'Our starters gave more energy on the offense and not as much defense, and that's what will beat you in this league,' Vinny Del Negro says.

December 08, 2012|By Broderick Turner

It was a direct salvo from Clippers Coach Vinny Del Negro directed toward his starters after Saturday's win over the Phoenix Suns.

They had given up 31 points on 50% shooting in the first quarter to the Suns, not a good sign that they were locked in on defense early.

"Our starters gave more energy on the offense and not as much defense, and that's what will beat you in this league," Del Negro said. "We've got to change that mentality as soon as possible because this game easily could have gone a different way."

Del Negro was asked if he had said that to his starters.

"Yeah, I already said it," Del Negro deadpanned.

And what was the response?

"You have to point out the obvious," Del Negro said. "They know it. And talking about it and everything else is great, but you've got to go do it."

Del Negro raised his voice when talking about the starters' shortcomings against the Suns.

"Talking about it, that's great," Del Negro said. "But you've got to go perform. And you can't look at other team's records.... We're scoring plenty of points. We gave them [the Suns] 57 points in the first half. That's ridiculous for me. We're not going to play at the level we want if we have that mentality."

Billups still playing a role

Even when Chauncey Billups doesn't play, he seems to have an influence over his Clippers teammates.

Billups has played in just three games this season, missing the first 14 rehabilitating a torn left Achilles' tendon and the last two with what the team has called peroneal tendinitis in his left foot.

Still, that hasn't stopped the Clippers from relying on the 36-year-old Billups.

He didn't play Saturday and is not expected to compete Sunday when the Clippers face the Toronto Raptors at Staples Center.

But Del Negro said Billups will travel with the team when they leave Monday for a four-game trip.

"He's been to where we want to get to as a team, as an organization," Del Negro said. "He has a great demeanor. Everyone has seen how hard he has worked to get back to this point."

Billups won an NBA championship with the Detroit Pistons over the Lakers in 2004, and he was named the Finals' most valuable player.

"I don't think it's just the ring," Del Negro said. "I think it's Chauncey's overall approach to things, his experience, how he deals with his teammates. Guys see what he does on the floor when he's out there, just all the little instinct things.

"I think you can't talk about the three games that he was out there," he continued. "Our turnovers were down. Our assists were up. You add an experienced player out there, hopefully the results get even better."

broderick.turner@latimes.com

twitter.com/BA_Turner

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