8:25 PM EDT, April 26, 2013
RATHOLE, Tenn. — Made it.
Got a ride back to the hotel Thursday night after the Clippers' collapse, the final 10 yards covered on foot in a dash to the door. It was touch and go, but bravery won out.
On Friday, there was daylight here. So I took a break from the Memphis email threats to walk the streets while I could. Right away I noticed someone else looking over his shoulder with every step he was taking.
I won't say it was a friendly face, but it was a familiar one: Henry Bibby, the former UCLA great, USC turncoat and now an assistant coach for the Grizzlies.
I've heard that Bibby is nothing like the cold, combative ogre who coached basketball at USC, and that maybe he even deserves another chance to run a program.
That would suggest a total transformation, and Bibby not only agreed, but said he welcomed such a change.
Right away he was happy, charming and personable, and I don't ever remember dealing with that guy. He began by recruiting my help to get him another shot coaching kids, and as you can see, he's a good recruiter.
Ask him anything, he said, no matter how negative it might be — like I wouldn't do so anyway.
He made no excuses when answering, whether the subject was his troubled relationship with his son, Mike Garrett's influence on him, or his own stoic approach to coaching.
He said he takes the blame for anything gone wrong. Then he mentioned John Wooden's name with reverence, and if the Grizzlies go on to defeat the Clippers why wouldn't someone take a longer look at him?
But I want the Clippers to win, and so good luck to Bibby working for the Grizzlies the rest of his life.
I told him I had just motivated Jamal Crawford because I think he's the guy who can swing everything in the Clippers' favor.
"We agree; he's the guy we're worried about," Bibby said, while also making it sound as if they are worried no longer.
"Tony Allen," he continued. "He's such a great defender and he is doing a great job."
"But he can't cover all the Clippers' guards at the same time," I told Bibby.
"Nobody else is doing anything," Bibby said. "And Chris Paul is waiting until the fourth quarter to get going."
No question Bibby knows his basketball.
I've had the same running argument with Paul. I've told him he needs to be more aggressive from the start, while he says it's his job to get his teammates going.
I have reminded him, "Where would you be in your career if you stopped listening to me?"
I'm sure that will change how he thinks.
Then I sat down with Crawford and got the same "we're a team" mumbo jumbo. Good to know all the Clippers will be playing golf together soon as a team.
This team needs Crawford going nuts.
Earlier this season, I referred to Jamal as Kobe Crawford. He's not here to pass; he's here to score and put on a show. And when he gets going, he breaks games open.
"I believe a team wins or loses as a group," he said. Blah, blah, blah.
He has a tattoo behind his left ear that says it all: Gifted.
But he has struggled at times in this series, even disappearing for entire halves. He has to do better.
The Clippers agree. Coach Vinny Del Negro spent time after Friday's workout showing Crawford how to evade Memphis pressure.
"I expect more from myself," Crawford said. "But we've done it by committee all season long, and within that we all have our moments."
I want more moments. This season began with a hotly contested game against Memphis, and Crawford was the difference, coming off the bench to electrify Staples Center.
The rest of the bench followed his energetic lead and the first half of the season belonged to the Clippers.
"I honestly feel like I'm just hitting my prime," he said.
He's 33 but didn't play much early in his career. "I'm excited about growing with this team," he said.
For the Clippers to grow, they must beat Memphis and move on to the next round. Kobe Crawford can make that happen.
He didn't get the All-Star attention he deserved, and finished second in sixth-man-of-the-year balloting, so I told him if the Clippers fail to beat Memphis it will be his fault as well.
I'm big on inspiration.
"Nothing wrong with that," he said before throwing out a challenge to Page 2: "Nobody puts more pressure on me than I do. I expect myself to be really good."
Then how about now, beginning with Game 4?
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