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Clippers are on schedule, Paul believes

Players bonded on trip to China and are 'right where we need to be,' guard says. L.A. faces Utah tonight.

October 17, 2012|Broderick Turner
  • Shane Battier, center, of the Miami Heat tries to block a pass from Chris Paul, left, of the Los Angeles Clippers during their NBA preseason basketball game in Shanghai on Sunday.
Shane Battier, center, of the Miami Heat tries to block a pass from Chris… (Kin Cheung / Associated…)

In two weeks, the Clippers will open the regular season after training camp and the dress rehearsals of exhibitions are over.

After the first 2 1/2 weeks of practices and three exhibitions, at least in the eyes of guard Chris Paul, the Clippers have made the right strides to be ready for that Oct. 31 game against the Memphis Grizzlies at Staples Center.

"I think we're right where we need to be," Paul said after practice Tuesday. "We never want to peak too early. We're showing a lot of good signs in a few areas, but we still need a lot of work in other areas. So, tomorrow is another good test for us."

The Clippers will play the Utah Jazz on Wednesday night in an exhibition at Staples Center.

It'll be interesting to see how the Clippers perform in their fourth preseason game.

They just returned home Sunday afternoon after spending a week in China playing the Miami Heat in two exhibitions.

China is 15 hours ahead of Los Angeles, so it wouldn't be a surprise if the Clippers have tired legs.

They took Monday off after the 10-hour flight back from China and practiced Tuesday.

"Nobody had their legs at the end of practice," Paul said. "But we had to find them. We got some good work in today, and tomorrow should be interesting."

Still, Paul said the team bonded during the trip.

He talked about how the players built camaraderie during the flight to China and outings to such sights as the Great Wall.

"The things that are priceless are the conversations that you have with your teammates," Paul said. "That's what's priceless. Me and LO [Lamar Odom] have been enemies for I don't know how many years, but we had so many great conversations that we got pretty close over the past two weeks."

Over that span, center DeAndre Jordan has displayed an improved offensive game.

He had 18 points, on eight-for-eight shooting, and nine rebounds during Sunday's game against the Heat in Shanghai.

In three exhibitions, Jordan is averaging 13 points on 81.8% shooting, and 6.3 rebounds. But he's shooting only 16.7% (three for 18) from the free-throw line, including a two-for-six effort against the Heat.

"DJ has been outstanding," Paul said. "He worked really hard and everybody is getting a chance to see it. But it's not just his offensive game. That's what I want him to know. He's just got to keep impacting the game the way he does on the defensive end and running the court, because he can be one of the best big men in this league as long as he keeps his mind to it."

While the Clippers were in China, Chauncey Billups remained in Los Angeles, worked out and continued to rehabilitate his surgically repaired left Achilles' tendon.

Billups said he practiced Tuesday and felt good, although he's not expected to play probably until December.

"I think one of the things in getting over injuries like that is the mental aspect of it," he said. "And I've been great with that. I don't even think about it at all. I just think about my move and what I'm doing, just basketball instincts. That hurdle has been cleared, so it's just about me becoming me again."

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twitter.com/BA_Turner broderick.turner@latimes.com

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