Clippers Coach Vinny Del Negro said that Kenyon Martin, who signed a free-agent contract with the team Friday, will play in his first game against host Cleveland on Tuesday night.
Del Negro said Martin will play about 15 minutes against the Cavaliers.
Del Negro said he just wants Martin, a 6-foot-9 power forward, to rebound, play defense and make shots if open.
“He worked out well yesterday,” Del Negro said. “We tried to get him up to speed as quickly as possible and to grasp everything quickly. So we’ll just get him out there and hopefully monitor his minutes and get him in game shape as soon as possible.”
Martin last played Dec. 21 for the Xinjiang Tigers in the Chinese Basketball Assn. He had 13 points on six-for-12 shooting and nine rebounds in 29 minutes.
He averaged 13.9 points and 9.7 rebounds in 12 games for the Tigers.
Chauncey Billups went to get an MRI on his injured left Achilles' tendon on Tuesday at a local Cleveland hospital, and the Clippers were still waiting for the results after they finished practice on the Cavaliers’ practice court.
The hope among the players and coaching staff was that Billups, 35, didn’t suffer a season-ending torn Achilles.
“All I can say is that it was very quiet in the locker room and very quiet on the bus and very quiet on the plane because everyone knows how important Chauncey is and how much they respect him and what he brings to the team,” Clippers Coach Vinny Del Negro said after practice Tuesday. “You feel bad for him more than anything. So, we’ll see what the results are and go from there.”
Del Negro said that he’ll start Randy Foye at shooting guard Wednesday night against the Cavaliers and continue to bring Mo Williams off the bench.
“Now they are going to need me more than ever,” Foye said after practice. “I’m ready.”
The Clippers on Tuesday waived forward Solomon Jones, trimming their roster to 14 players.
That gives the Clippers room to sign a free agent -– perhaps someone like J.R. Smith after he becomes eligible to play in the NBA after the season is over for his Zhejiang Golden Bulls team in the Chinese Basketball Assn.
Kenyon Martin got calls from his former Denver Nuggets teammate Chauncey Billups and from Clippers all-star guard Chris Paul, and he met with the team’s front office and Coach Vinny Del Negro. All of them expressed their hope that he would join the team.
The calls and talks worked, because Martin agreed Friday to a one-year contract at the mini-mid-level of $2.5 million.
Just before the Clippers took off Friday afternoon for Washington, D.C., to start a six-game trip that begins Saturday night against the Wizards, Del Negro said the 6-9 Martin provided the Clippers with badly need quality depth in the frontcourt to help out all-star power forward Blake Griffin and center DeAndre Jordan.
The plan was for Martin to take a physical Friday night or Saturday and to join the team in Orlando by Sunday or Monday.
But Del Negro said he didn’t think Martin would play in a game with the Clippers for a few days. When he does, Del Negro said, Martin will be the third big man on the team.
“He’s a pro and I think he’s going to fit in perfect for us,” Del Negro said on the team’s plane. “I’ve talked to him a lot and kind of explained everything and he’s very comfortable with the situation. Now we’ve just got to get him in here and figure things out as we go forward.”
Martin averaged just 8.6 points and 6.2 rebounds with the Denver Nuggets last season in 48 games, but he has averaged 13.5 points and 7.2 rebounds over his 11-year NBA career in New Jersey and Denver.
Martin recently played for the Xinjiang Tigers in China before he left the team in December. He had been required to wait until their season was over before he could join any NBA team. But he was cleared to return to the NBA on Thursday by FIBA, the international basketball federation.
The Clippers won Martin’s services over the Miami Heat, San Antonio Spurs, New York Knicks and Atlanta Hawks.
It helped that Martin has a home in Los Angeles, that the Clippers were willing to provide him with the playing time that he sought, and that Billups and Paul sold him on the Clippers.
Clippers forward Caron Butler missed Friday night’s game against Minnesota because of a hyperextended right knee and will be listed as day-to-day.
Clippers Coach Vinny Del Negro said Butler got an MRI on the knee Thursday that was negative.
Del Negro said Butler injured the knee during the Utah game Tuesday night, but played Wednesday night against the Dallas Mavericks, his former team.
Del Negro said “you could tell” Butler’s knee was bothering him against Dallas.
“He said feels a little bit better today,” Del Negro said. “But with this season and this stretch and things we’re on, I think it’s best to give him a little break tonight and hopefully he can get some therapy tonight and tomorrow and we’ll see how he feels on Sunday.”
The Clippers host the Toronto Raptors on Sunday at Staples Center.
Photo: Clippers point guard Chris Paul is treated for his hamstring injury in the fourth quarter of the game against the Lakers on Saturday night at Staples Center. Credit: Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times
Otherwise, the Clippers felt good about how the week ended.
They lost to a tough Portland team in a tough place to play Tuesday night at the Rose Garden Tuesday
They returned home to play a back-to-back game against the Miami Heat Wednesday night and won that game.
They finished off the week with a stirring victory over the Lakers, breaking their five-game winning streak.
“I think instead of taking baby steps, we’re skipping a step,” said Chauncey Billups, who had 19 points on six-for-12 shooting against the Lakers. “And I think these two games –- even the Portland game, to be honest with you –- we got better. That’s all you can really ask for.”
Well, the Clippers could ask for better health.
Paul will be re-evaluated Sunday.
He had just made a 12-foot jumper for a 95-82 Clippers lead with 4:01 left when Paul grabbed his leg.
“I thought it was a cramp, but he let me know it wasn’t,” Paul said about Clippers trainer Jasen Powell. “It was something. I’ve never had it.”
DeAndre Jordan extended his long legs, each of them soaking in a bucket of ice.
He had just used those legs, the ones seemingly with springs in them, the ones that carry him to lofty heights on the basketball court, to block six shots against the Miami Heat on Wednesday night.
Now Jordan was resting, a well-deserved rest for the Clippers’ defensive anchor.
“DJ was unreal,” said Chris Paul, who was equally as unreal during the Clippers’ impressive 95-89 overtime victory over the Heat.
Paul orchestrated the Clipper attack.
He had a season-high 27 points on 11-for-21 shooting.
He had 11 assists and six rebounds.
Perhaps most impressive, especially since he has the ball in his hands so much, Paul had just one turnover in 44 minutes, 53 seconds.
But Paul wanted to give credit to his big man, the 6-11 Jordan, who controlled the middle.
“I don’t think his six blocks tell the whole story, because not only did he block those shots, but he gained possession,” Paul said.
Jordan said he repeatedly has been told by Paul and the media to try to keep possession of the ball when he blocks a shot rather than knock it out of bounds.
Wednesday night, Jordan succeeded for the most part.
He blocked a shot by Norris Cole in the fourth quarter and was able to gain possession of the ball himself.
Jordan blocked a shot by Mario Chalmers in the fourth that Mo Williams tracked down.
And then in the overtime, with the Clippers holding a three-point lead, Jordan blocked a shot by Chris Bosh with 48.9 seconds left.
Blake Griffin got the rebound.
“I’m just trying not to block too hard,” Jordan said. “I’m trying to learn how to tip it to teammates or tip it to get a fast break going. My timing is getting a lot better and I’m not swinging as aggressive.”
Jordan provided the Clippers with some offense as well.
He had four of his eight points in the overtime.
His four-foot jump hook gave the Clippers a 90-86 lead in the OT.
His dunk off a Paul pass gave the Clippers a 94-89 lead, securing the victory over the Heat.
“Overall, we had a great team win,” Jordan said. “I’m just glad I could contribute.”
Blake Griffin’s name has been mentioned as one of the candidates who will be considered to try out for the USA Basketball team that will play in the 2012 Olympics in London.
The Clippers star said after practice Saturday that he hasn’t heard from anyone yet, but that if he gets the call that he gladly will participate in the tryouts.
Jerry Colangelo, the director of USA Basketball, has been talking to several NBA players about playing in the Olympics. Colangelo has to announce his 18-man roster that will be considered candidates for the team by Jan. 18.
Griffin wasn’t on the 2008 Olympic team or the 2010 world championship team, but the 6-foot-10 star has become one of the NBA’s top players in a short time.
“It’s great to be considered to play for your country in the Olympics,” Griffin said. “But that’s a long ways away. If it happens, I’ll be grateful and I would be proud to try and represent our country. But right now I’ve got a season to worry about.”
Griffin is averaging 25.2 points and 9.6 rebounds after five games for the Clippers this season.
He averaged 22.5 points and 12.1 rebounds last season, a season in which he was named the NBA’s rookie of the year and won the slam dunk contest during All-Star weekend in Los Angeles.
Photo: Clippers power forward Blake Griffin elevates for a basket over Bulls guard Kyle Krover and forward Taj Gibson during a game last week at Staples Center. Credit: Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times