The Clippers' victory over Memphis on Saturday eased some of the distractions that had enveloped the team amid talk of tension in the locker room, inconsistent effort on the court and speculation about Coach Vinny Del Negro's job security.
But breaking a three-game losing streak was what mattered most to the players.
"It's not just important for us to continue winning for other purposes, it's important for everything," guard Randy Foye said. "We need to be successful, man.
"I've never been to the playoffs before, so I'm going to do everything in my power to try and make that happen. Whatever it takes — defense, making shots — I want to get there."
Foye, who is back in the starting lineup as the shooting guard, said the Clippers are still a team. He said the players are still playing for each other, for the organization — and for the coach.
"Oh, yes," Foye said. "I don't know where that rumor came from. I don't know if somebody made that up. That's how it happens. You saw how other coaches have been fired. Coach [Del Negro] has control over the team.
"We're in the playoffs [hunt]. We're a successful team. We're not a team that's 12, 13, 14 games out in the standings. We're successful. We're [fourth] in the West with all of that, losing three in a row. . . . People don't understand it, but three games [in three nights] is tough no matter who you're playing."
Home for a while
The Clippers will play the second of five consecutive games at Staples Center on Monday night against the New Orleans Hornets.
It's a chance, many of the players say, for them to make a move in the standings.
"Obviously, we can't take any games lightly, and we shouldn't have from the beginning," Blake Griffin said. "But we've put ourselves in this position and now we've got to fight."
The Clippers, who didn't practice Sunday because of a team charity event, are in fourth place in the Western Conference, percentage points ahead of the Dallas Mavericks. But they're also only 11/2 games above ninth place.
The team keeps the standings from the West and East on a grease board in the locker room.
"That's really the only time I see them," Griffin said. "It's all evident. We all know two or three games here and you can be out [of the playoffs]. So our focus is really to fight and keep our position and move up at the same time."
Hornets forward Jason Smith, who was suspended two games by the NBA for committing a flagrant 2 foul on Griffin during Thursday night's game, will not play against the Clippers while serving the last game of his suspension. Smith apologized to Griffin.