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Nick Young likely to start at Memphis in place of Caron Butler

With Butler injured, Young, who has started only three games since joining the Clippers in March, is expected to start on Wednesday. He had a team-high 19 points against the Grizzlies on Sunday.

May 01, 2012|By Baxter Holmes

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — A three-lane street here separates the hotel where the Clippers are staying and the FedEx Forum where they're playing. Nick Young has made that short trek earlier than some of his teammates in the last two days. He's trying to get ready.

The Clippers guard is expected to start in place of injured starting small forward Caron Butler when his team plays Game 2 of its Western Conference first-round playoff series against the Memphis Grizzlies on Wednesday. The Clippers lead the series, 1-0.

Starting would be a different role for Young, who started just three games for the Clippers after coming to the team in a trade March 15. But he's has been effective off the bench for much of the regular season.

He was especially good on Sunday, when he scored a team-high 19 points and hit three consecutive three-point shots late in the fourth quarter to help his team complete an improbable 99-98 comeback win after trailing by as many as 27 points.

"He had a big role for us in Game 1 and he's going to have a bigger role now that Caron is out," Clippers Coach Vinny Del Negro said Tuesday.

Though Young is expected to start in place of Butler, who suffered a fractured left hand Sunday, it's not certain that Young will play the nearly 30 minutes per game Butler averaged during the regular season. Veteran forward Bobby Simmons might also play some small forward.

Still, Young is expected to start, giving the Clippers a three-guard lineup — along with Chris Paul and Randy Foye — that should be able to spread the floor.

"I'm just ready for whatever," Young said.

With Butler out and with starting shooting guard Chauncey Billups also sidelined by a season-ending torn left Achilles' tendon, the Clippers are without two of their most influential leaders.

"It's a huge challenge because Caron brings something to us, not just athletically and physically on the court, [but] just his personality and who he is," Chris Paul said. "He's definitely a strong force."

Butler scored 12 points in 23 minutes in Game 1 against Memphis, but his ability to guard the Grizzlies' leading scorer Rudy Gay is what made Butler especially valuable.

"We went to the same college [Connecticut] and I've been around him a lot so I know a lot of his tendencies," Butler said.

Butler wouldn't divulge what those tendencies are, but he said he's been schooling Young and Simmons on how to guard the 6-foot-8 Gay.

"Bobby has been watching a lot of film," Butler said. "He's prepared for this challenge. Nick is as well."

baxter.holmes@latimes.com

twitter.com/baxterholmes

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