Kittles could flourish with Clippers
By Warren Blatt, Sports Network NBA Editor
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - When the Los Angeles Clippers decided that they were not going to match the Phoenix Suns' offer sheet to restricted free agent Quentin Richardson, acquiring a starting shooting guard became the top priority.
The Clippers were fortunate enough to acquire Kerry Kittles and cash considerations on July 29 from the New Jersey Nets in exchange for a future second-round draft pick.
The 30-year-old Kittles is a seven-year veteran. He was originally selected out of Villanova by the Nets in the first round (eighth pick overall) of the 1996 NBA Draft. The 6-5 Kittles is able to play either guard position and is happy to be a member of the Clippers.
"I was excited (about being traded to the Clippers," Kittles said. "Obviously New Jersey was going in a different direction. I had eight great years there and to come back from a career threatening injury with me knee was important for me. I'm 30-years-old now and I've had some success with playing in some big games back east and now I'm on a totally different team and it's exciting. It's a team that hasn't had much success in the past but hopefully I can bring something to this team and add some inspiration and win some games."
The Clippers know that they have a guard who adds versatility to their roster. Kittles gives head coach Mike Dunleavy the option of shuffling his lineup to cause matchup problems for the opposition. Kittles' ability to play multiple positions is a big positive for LA.
"Well that's up to the coach (where Kittles will play)," said Clippers vice president of basketball operations Elgin Baylor. "He can play some point guard and he can handle the basketball. Defensively he's going to help us because the coach is going to do a lot of pressing. His outside shooting is going to help us also. Kerry's character and chemistry I like and his leadership and playoff experience is also a plus. He has a lot of knowledge which will be beneficial to our players."
Kittles, averaged 13.1 points, four rebounds and 2.5 assists in 82 games for New Jersey in 2003-04. He plays tough defense and is a career 37.8 percent shooter from three-point range.
"One reason we liked Kerry was defense," said Baylor. "Last year we were 27th in the league on defense. Offensively we were one of the top scoring teams in the league. We had leads but had trouble keeping them. Kerry's defense is a quality that was very attractive to us and he's going to make us a better defensive team."
With 25-year-old Elton Brand and 24-year-old Corey Maggette already in place, the Clippers have added a solid veteran in Kittles, who has played in two NBA Finals and has participated in 54 playoff contests during his career. Brand and Maggette have never been to the postseason during their time in the league.
"I've talked to Corey and he's excited," said Kittles. "I was with Corey and Elton when they were rookies so I remember those guys when they first came in."
The 6-8 Brand will start at the power forward, while Maggette will fill the small forward spot. The two Duke products are budding stars and should fit in very well with the veteran Kittles.
Having a player like Kittles, who has been through the pressures of playoff basketball in the NBA, should help the youthful Clippers strive to become a more seasoned squad.
"My experience speaks for itself," said Kittles. "If young guys are willing to listen and ask questions about the game I'll help them, that's what I'm here for. I won't be in their face yelling at them but if they want to learn I will always help them."
Can the Clippers, who won just 28 games last season, turn it around quickly?
"I think we'll have our ups and downs just like every team does," said Kittles. "But I think it depends on how fast we mesh and how fast our young guys mature. Our learning curve will be very important and we'll see how well we plug in. I think we'll be competitive and compete every night and have a real chance to win down the stretch."
Richardson's athleticism and scoring will be missed, but Kittles may just be the type of player that LA needed. Kittles knows what it takes to win in the NBA and could flourish as the new leader of the Clippers.