CLEVELAND -- Kenyon Martin appears to be one step closer to returning to the NBA, potentially suiting up for the Los Angeles Clippers on Wednesday night as they travel to Cleveland to square off against the Cavaliers, said coach Vinnie Del Negro.
With the loss of veteran guard Chauncey Billups to an Achilles tear, the Clippers will be forced to deviate from their typical rotation. Stepping in as a starter for Billups will be guard Randy Foye with Ryan Gomes logging key minutes off of the bench. In addition to the rotation within the guard position, Del Negro will look to Martin to provide relief for power forward Blake Griffin.
“We’re going to have to handle the adversity,” said Del Negro following the team’s Wednesday morning shoot-around. “I expect our guys to step up - other guys have to continually do a good job for us. We just have to continually come together as a team and handle it.”
Del Negro repeatedly heaped praise on Foye and Gomes, stating that he has confidence that both players will step up and play well. With regard to Martin, both conditioning and understanding of team philosophies appear to be in tact, but the ultimate decision will rest in the hands of the player. In the event Martin does not play against the Cavaliers, he will play Friday against the Philadelphia 76ers with the team expecting the veteran forward to pick up right where he left off prior to leaving the NBA for China this past offseason.
“[Kenyon] is athletic,” said Del Negro. “He brings veteran leadership with our young bigs, some more scoring, some more punch off of the bench. We will see how it all comes together. He’s a veteran guy who knows how to play.”
Other pre-game notes:
• Del Negro says that the team plans to focus their efforts on slowing down rookie point guard Kyrie Irving and keeping center Anderson Varejao off of the glass. While the Clippers will not deviate from their core values on the defensive end, Del Negro did state that he will have to “We have to limit their easy scores as much as possible,” said Del Negro.
• Clippers guard Mo Williams returns to Cleveland for the first time since he was traded, along with forward Jamario Moon, for guard Baron Davis prior to the 2010-11 trade deadline. Williams stated that the Cavaliers’ record-setting losing streak did start to take it’s toll on him mentally prior to the trade, but he still has a lot of good memories from the team’s playoff runs prior to their implosion post LeBron James.
• Power forward Blake Griffin continues to remain undecided about the Slam Dunk Challenge at the upcoming 2011-12 All-Star weekend.