T.J. SIMERS

Clippers' big kids shouldn't need a baby-sitter now

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Had he avoided injuries, Chauncey Billups would have made a difference. He has the ability to get in the face of another player and demand more without turning them off. He doesn't chirp as much as Paul.

But he's also not playing for the Clippers these days or even practicing, yet another reason why the team is in trouble as it approaches the playoffs.

They need Billups, but at a level of play that Billups displayed before getting hurt a year ago.

Del Negro has done a masterful job for the most part in dealing with a deep team; everyone wants more playing time. But he's not a hand-holder. He's not big on sitting beside a player, throwing an arm around his shoulder and nursing hurt feelings.

He might want to develop a half-court offense that works, but that's a problem for another time.

The Clippers are fortunate because they have a number of veterans who understand what kind of effort the team will need once the playoffs begin.

But as much money as Jordan is making and as secure as Griffin is in being a NBA star, do any of the veterans have what it takes to get through to the immature twosome.

This should be one of the all-time joy rides in sports, the Clippers, the gawd-awful Clippers, going 16-0 in December and becoming the talk of the NBA.

They rocked the NBA world, but the buzz is gone.

And although it's true they have posted a record never seen before by Clippers fans, how do they get by the first round and then take on San Antonio or Oklahoma City while looking cross-eyed at each other inside a team huddle?

They don't, and so they have maybe two weeks to grow up and grow together as a team or this season of hoopla will have been much ado about nothing.

t.j.simers@latimes.com

Twitter: @LATimesTJSimers

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