Blake Griffin watches from the bench as the Clippers fall to the Jazz. (George Frey / Associated…)
SALT LAKE CITY -- After three weeks of training camp, Clippers Coach Vinny Del Negro felt it was time to rest three of his starters rather than play them against the Utah Jazz on Saturday night.
Blake Griffin, Caron Butler and Willie Green hadn't missed any practices or exhibition games, Del Negro said, but he wanted to rest their bodies.
So it was left up to regular starters Chris Paul and DeAndre Jordan to pull along new starters Travis Leslie, Matt Barnes and Ronny Turiaf during the Clippers' 99-91 loss to the Jazz at EnergySolutions Arena.
Del Negro said it wasn't going to be hard to evaluate the team with so many players out.
Still, it wasn't a very pretty game for the Clippers, who played the Jazz for the second time in four days.
An example of how poorly the Clippers played was when Turiaf fouled Mo Williams shooting a three-pointer with 0.3 of a second left in the third quarter.
Williams, the former Clippers point guard, made all three free throws for an 80-65 Jazz lead at the end of the third.
But the game still gave Del Negro a chance to play Paul 36 minutes and see him produce 17 points and eight assists.
Barnes led the Clippers with 22 points and seven rebounds and Leslie scored just two points in 11:27.
"Chris wants to get in game shape, so he'll play his minutes tonight," Del Negro said. "So we'll see how he feels.
"It's another opportunity for DeAndre to improve and the chemistry to build."
Griffin had been going hard since the Clippers' training camp opened Sept. 29, but Del Negro said he has always been aware that his All-Star power forward is coming off surgery on July 16 for torn cartilage in his left knee.
Griffin hasn't experienced any problems, Del Negro said; it's just that it was a good time to sit out Griffin.
Del Negro said that Green, who has been the starting shooting guard while Chauncey Billups recovers from a torn left Achilles' tendon surgery, has some swelling in his left knee.
Lamar Odom (knees), Grant Hill (right knee) and Billups all made the trip here, but didn't play.
"We've got some bumps and bruises," Del Negro said. "Blake is coming off knee surgery, and Blake and Caron haven't missed anything.
"I had this in the works. Willie's knee has been swollen a little bit so I want to give him a couple of days here. That's just want I want to do, so I'm going to do it."
Del Negro also talked about how the Clippers recently played in Las Vegas and then immediately left and went to China for a week to play two exhibition games.
The Clippers have been home just six days since they left Shanghai last Sunday, and the team is just now starting to get its legs.
"It's a good opportunity for us to take a look at some other guys," Del Negro said, "and take advantage of the schedule."
The Clippers play again Monday night against the Golden State Warriors at Staples Center.