Two days ago (Saturday) we finally got a taste of Los Angeles Clippers’ action as the preseason kicked off with the day before. Who would have thought the story lines coming out of the game would actually be the story lines coming out of the game?
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a huge fan of games that don’t count for anything except for team chemistry — which can be overrated — but no one, including me, though the Clippers’ backup point guard Eric Bledsoe would be the second leading scorer in the NBA after three days of preseason play.
I always thought he was a good, capable player, but I never thought he would be able to lead a team in the way he did against the Nuggets. Not only did he score 25 points — two points behind the Memphis Grizzlies’ Rudy Gay’s preseason leading 27 points — he had eight rebounds, six assists and five steals.
He was obviously a go-to-scorer and the key of the defense.
This is awesome for Clippers fans because Bledsoe is coming off a pedestrian 2011-12 season to say the least. In 11.6 minutes per game, all of his numbers were well short of the bar he set his rookie season; for example his points per game went from 6.7 to 3.3.
The showing on Saturday should give him some more playing time in coach Vinny Del Negro’s game plan — which means the Clippers’ bench will help win games rather than give up leads like it did last season.
Of course it didn’t hurt that Chris Paul and Chauncey Billups sat out to continue recovery from thumb surgery and an Achilles tendon tear, but Bledsoe gets all the credit in the world for performing at such a high level when given the opportunity. His opportunity was 34 minutes of playing time against the Nuggets.
Once the two veterans return, Bledsoe’s PT is going to go down. There isn’t any reason it shouldn’t since Paul is one of the best point guards in the league and Billups — who starts at the two-guard spot but does move over to man the ship — is a proven crunch time player.
However, there is also no reason he shouldn’t get at least 15-minutes a game — 20 would be more suitable.
Maybe the Clippers need to pull a San Antonio Spurs’ move and rest Paul and Billups at the end of the season and give the minutes to Bledsoe. Honestly, it doesn’t really matter how he gets minutes — he just needs to get them.
Again, this is preseason basketball, but a performance such as Bledsoe’s Saturday showing has to count towards something this season.