Basketball Talk

While playing basketball for Michigan, Ball had a lot of fun. And during his freshman year he had a lot of fun, too. In his first game, against Illinois, Ball scored 32 points and grabbed 16 rebounds.

Not too many years later, when he got back to college, he had a chance to be the star of his team.

“For me, it was like everything just shifted for me. My confidence grew so much, and my character,” Ball said. “I was ready to dominate that game.”

Ball said he never played like that, and he says he never will again.

“I’m going to come out and be the best player I can be. Just because it wasn’t my rookie year doesn’t mean I can’t be the best player,” Ball said.

Ball’s dad still plays, too.

“My dad really did a good job growing up,” Ball said. “He always told me to get over everything I did in the past and just go out there and do my thing and I’ll see you guys in the playoffs.” Ball doesn’t have to do that. He’s on the next level now. With a new team, a new system, and a new superstar, his future is bright. “He’s been all the things I wanted him to be from Day 1,” Rivers said. “He’s a young guy coming into his own right now.”

It was four minutes before the 3:30 p.m. game between the LA Clippers and Miami Heat, and the first buzzer sounded. With his hands on his head, Rivers walked back to the locker room. The players weren’t sure if he had been taking a leak. The point guard was taking a leak, he explained later, not to avoid losing his cool in front of his players, but because he felt a nagging pain in his knee. Rivers left the locker room, still limping, but back in the game.

Two minutes later, with 3:34 remaining, Rivers went to the free-throw line for a close one. He made all four free throws and scored 15 points in the first quarter, giving the Clippers the lead they would never relinquish. They wouldn’t relinquish it, either, to begin a win streak that has propelled the Clippers to the top of the NBA’s Western Conference. As Rivers went down for the second time in his career, he let loose with a rant, screaming out his frustration at a combination of coaches and management. “I love Mike Brown!” he screamed at a television analyst. “He was a great coach.”

But he went after his teammates: “I don’t get it. When you got all those ball screens, you don’t make those shots. We don’t play the way you play.” The Clippers (41-17) were coming off a 3-2 road trip, where they went 1-4. This game, their 10th of 14 on the road, was at Staples Center, home of the Los Angeles Lakers. “We didn’t play well,” Rivers said. “We didn’t come out and play well. We didn’t have a defensive effort. We just didn’t come out with the same energy we did in L.A. The second unit wasn’t on.” Rivers said Brown was to blame for his