Chauncey Billips, right, shown with Clippers teammate Chris Paul, enjoyed… (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles…)
When the Clippers lost those back-to-back games to the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers, it didn't sit well with Chauncey Billups.
Though Billups is recovering from surgery to repair a torn left Achilles' tendon, the 15-year veteran let his teammates know that their play was unacceptable.
All the Clippers listened closely to what their leader had to say, and then responded in the right way by winning their next two games.
"Chauncey gave us a pretty stern talking to," center DeAndre Jordan said. "So we had to pick it up."
The Clippers did so in a big way on back-to-back nights, beating the then-undefeated San Antonio Spurs and then the Portland Trail Blazers in a tough environment at the Rose Garden.
Jordan smiled when asked what Billups told the team.
"You know what? I would tell you guys, but this is on camera and I don't want to get fined," Jordan said, laughing.
The Clippers, who returned to practice Saturday after taking Friday off, face a solid Atlanta Hawks team Sunday afternoon at Staples Center.
It stands to be another test for the Clippers.
"The mood is good, but I think we have a better mind-set than we did at the start of the season when we were 2-0," Blake Griffin said. "I think we came in and we didn't do what we needed to do against Golden State and against the Cavs. I think now we realize that we can't take any of these teams for granted."
Rotating big men
For Clippers Coach Vinny Del Negro, trying to play his five big men has been a delicate balance.
Jordan and Griffin start and then Del Negro brings in Lamar Odom, Ronny Turiaf and Ryan Hollins.
Del Negro said it's not easy to play them all.
"Sometimes it's tough," Del Negro said. "Lamar is working through a few things right now. I think Ronny has given us some real good minutes, especially defensively. Ryan gives us good energy off the bench. It's a good problem to have and it'll work itself out.…But I'm looking at the team atmosphere, the team first, and then everyone has got to fit into that."
Hills sees team doctor
Del Negro said that Grant Hill, out since Oct. 14 because of a bone bruise in his right knee, had his second MRI of the season on Friday and that it revealed nothing worse on the knee.
Del Negro said there isn't a timetable for Hill's return.
Del Negro has dealt with getting fired; he was let go by the Chicago Bulls after the 2010 season.
So he felt bad when he heard that the Lakers fired Coach Mike Brown on Friday.
"It's no fun," Del Negro said. "There's a lot of things that you have to deal with. You're trying to manage a lot of things, from personalities to talent to systems. It's everything that's involved. You never like to see anybody take the heat like that. I don't care who it is or what organization it is.…It's part of the business and it's part of the reality of it and you just have to try to deal with it the best you can."