LOS ANGELES After some recent losses against the NBA's best teams and in some of the league's toughest environments, the Los Angeles Clippers talked about being capable of winning big games. And, they talked about still being a work in progress.
But with 19 games left in the regular season, can the Clippers really make a big leap?
Coach Vinny Del Negro thinks so, and it can happen on the perimeter.
Offensively, the Clippers are still in the process of integrating veteran guard Chauncey Billups into the offense. The process, which began last season with Billups moving to shooting guard, screeched to a halt once Billups ruptured his Achilles' tendon.
Over a year later, Billups is back and feeling better physically, but the process of moving to shooting guard is still ongoing.
"I go from being a point guard to basically spotting up and waiting. That's tough for me," he said after a lengthy practice Saturday. "It's a challenge. I'm used to kind of controlling the game, having the ball in my hands, having an affect on what's going on."
Billups has dealt with setbacks ranging from tendinitis in his left foot to a sore lower back in trying to come back from the Achilles' injury. For the most part, those problems have disappeared.
"I'm feeling much better as far as my movements and my conditioning and stuff. I'm feeling a lot better now, but I still have a little ways to go," Billups said. "I just think I'm going to get healthier all the way through. There won't be a stage where I'll be totally 100 (percent), but I think that I'll get healthier throughout the season."
Del Negro also said the Clippers can get better defending the 3-point line. In the team's 20 losses this season, opponents are hitting 46.7 percent of 3-point shots, according to ESPN Stats & Info.
"We worked on it today a lot," Del Negro said. "Hopefully, it'll translate. We know we have to get better at it."
With Jamal Crawford (sore left ankle) and Eric Bledsoe (sore left calf) unable to practice, the Clippers signed Maalik Wayns to a 10-day contract Saturday. Wayns averaged 12.4 points and 3.0 assists in nine games with the Rio Grande Valley Vipers of the NBA Development League.
Wayns played 21 games for the Philadelphia 76ers this season.
"We've got some players out. We need some bodies for practices," Del Negro said. "He's a good kid who plays hard."
Wayns presence on the practice floor comes at a time when Crawford and Bledsoe are both day-to-day. The Clippers do have the luxury of a light schedule, playing only twice in the next seven days.
Crawford injured his ankle in the Clippers' victory over Milwaukee last week, while Bledsoe's injury has been nagging him since right after the All-Star break.
"I don't think he's regressed. I just don't think he's getting any better," Del Negro said of Bledsoe. "With our schedule right now, I'd like to see if we can heal him up."
Crawford said he won't let the light schedule dictate when he does or doesn't come back.
"I love to play. I want to be out there," he said. "It's hard when you miss a game here or there to stay in rhythm. I want to play."