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Clippers top Raptors, 98-84; hope to return

The Los Angeles Clippers capped off their first training camp in Hawai’i Tuesday night by holding down the Toronto Raptors, 98-84, in front of another enthusiastic and appreciative crowd of about 7,700 at the Stan Sheriff Center.

Afterward, even despite a 121-113 loss to the Raptors on Sunday, Clippers coach Doc Rivers and star players Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan unanimously declared the 10-day trip a success and said they’d like to do it again here in the future.

“Yeah I would love to come back, 10 days in Hawai’i? I would do that (again),” Rivers said. “Really, everyone treated us like gold, I mean, this was an amazing trip. We got to see things and as far as the camps that I’ve been on, this is as nice a camp setting that I’ve been on. It was terrific.”

Said Griffin: “It was a lot of fun. The fans here have been unbelievable. Everybody in Hawai’i was great, the guys loved it. The energy in the arena both nights was amazing, so (a return) is definitely something I would look forward to.”

Jordan, when asked if he would like another training camp in Hawai’i, said, “Yes, yes. I enjoy Hawai’i, I’ve been here a couple times before, with my family. When we come out here, we have a whole ‘nother fan base, guys who love our team (players) 1 through 15, and just to see those kids smile yesterday at Stevenson Middle School was cool. I’m hoping we can come back.”

Griffin and Jordan visited Stevenson on Monday, interacting with students in a new computer lab furnished with almost $40,000 worth of equipment donated by the L.A. Clippers Foundation. They also took a three-hour boat ride, and last week visited Pearl Harbor.

Rivers said those elements added more to the training camp than just basketball.

“Team building, and education” Rivers said. “Going to Pearl Harbor was an education for our guys. And that’s in the form of team building as well — seeing other people work, the military and the teamwork, that was important. Going out in the water … we did a lot of activities this week. So we got a lot of basketball in, and we got a lot of Hawai’i in, and I thought it was great for both of those.”

The Clippers went through some personnel changes this past offseason, the most significant of which came when star point guard Chris Paul was traded and European standout Milos Teodosic was signed as a free agent in July. Teodosic had eight assists in his NBA debut on Sunday and again dazzled the crowd and teammates with several nifty passes Tuesday, including a 65-foot shovel pass to Beverly for an easy layup at the other end.

“He’s a difference-maker, he really is,” Rivers said of Teodosic. “He passes, and he’s flashy and simplistic, which is hard to be. The thing I like about Milos is, if you count time of possession, you wouldn’t think he was the point guard. Because he didn’t have the ball in his hands long, he just moves it, and I think it creates passing and passing and passing — you could see that on the floor.”

Rivers said Teodosic should only get better as he gains NBA experience, which should also make the Clippers better.

“I love him because he is tough on himself,” Rivers said. “He was upset that he didn’t make a shot (0-for-5 on Sunday), and so he came out today and made his first one. He’s a great shooter, but right now he’s just trying to get his legs up under him, and that will happen. When you look at our group, the starters who played today, Blake can handle the ball, Gallo (Danilo Gallinaro) can handle the ball, Patrick Beverly can handle the ball, and then your best passer is Milos. So we have four guys on the court at the same time who can create plays. It makes us really hard to guard.”

Rivers also liked what he saw from the Clippers’ defense, after some disappointment on that end Sunday.

“I just loved our defensive intensity, I think we must have taken at least five or six charges, which is really nice,” Rivers said. “And for the first three quarters, offensively, I thought we were fantastic. The spacing, the ball movement, the passing … it’s infectious. You know, the more you pass, the more the next guy passes and it spreads around, so it’s good.”

Griffin led the way with 18 points, four rebounds, three assists and one steal. Jordan added 15 points and eight rebounds, and Teodosic finished with five assists.

Rivers was pleased to get every player some playing time over the two games — yet another positive.

“Overall, I really liked this camp,” he said.

When asked if he has a say in whether the Clippers will return to Hawai’i for another training camp, and if he thinks it will happen, Rivers replied:

“I do, and we will, most likely,” Rivers said. “If you guys invite us back — it’s up to you guys.”

Photos courtesy Brandon Flores

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