MEMPHIS, Tenn. — It has become apparent that the Memphis Grizzlies look forward to playing the Clippers anywhere, any time.
And it has become apparent that the Clippers and Grizzlies aren't fond of each other.
"I think our guys get up to play them too," said Clippers Coach Doc Rivers. "The difference is they've beaten us. If we would have beaten them, they would have said the same thing. They beat us last year in the playoffs."
The Clippers and Grizzlies have met the last two years in the playoffs, with Memphis knocking the Clippers out in six games last May and with Los Angeles beating the Grizzlies in seven games in the 2012 playoffs.
"These two teams are not going to like each other until all the players are traded and all the coaches are fired. That's the truth," Rivers said. "There is always going to be something with these two teams. I think it's great. I think it's really good. I love that kind of stuff because I think it's good for our game."
As if on cue, Memphis center Kosta Koufos was called for a technical foul against Clippers forward Blake Griffin and Jerryd Bayless was called for a flagrant-1 foul for pushing Griffin during the Clippers' 101-81 victory Thursday night.
Memphis Coach Dave Joerger, like Rivers, is in his first season as a head coach in this rivalry, but he was an assistant with Memphis for six seasons. He said the dislike between the teams was born out of two former Clippers.
"I do think so it was more Reggie [Evans] and Kenyon [Martin]," Joerger said. "Those two guys made that series nasty."
Still listening to Rivers
Rivers' words continue to ring true for his players.
He has told them that it's not just enough to play hard, but they have to play smart.
Chris Paul talked about that after the loss to Atlanta on Wednesday night, and it was something Rivers was asked about Thursday.
"That's the player's excuse, is, 'I'm playing hard,'" Rivers said. "And I've always said, 'Well, that's good. That's what you're supposed to do.' But you also have to play smart. Hard and smart is important. Hard is great. We need that. But you need hard and smart to be a really good team. And our guys understand that."
Rivers speaks highly of Nelson Mandela
Rivers said he never met Nelson Mandela but had the utmost respect for the former South African president who died Thursday.
"It's important for our players to really know who he was," Rivers said. "And when we talk about sacrifice, like getting back on defense, when you talk about a guy went to jail for 27 years, that's just truly sacrifice. And then to come out happy, not bitter. Still trying to change the world. That just says a lot about him. He may be the most important figure in our lifetime that I can think of, as far as making world change."