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Defense, intangibles make Mbah a Moute a key for Clippers

The Los Angeles Clippers’ Luc Mbah a Moute is the kind of player teams need to be successful. He’s a versatile defender who does his job without fanfare. ... Mbah a Moute looks on during an NBA basketball game against the Indiana Pacers, Sunday, Dec. 4, 2016, in Los Angeles.
The Los Angeles Clippers’ Luc Mbah a Moute is the kind of player teams need to be successful. He’s a versatile defender who does his job without fanfare. ... Mbah a Moute looks on during an NBA basketball game against the Indiana Pacers, Sunday, Dec. 4, 2016, in Los Angeles. The Associated Press

Luc Mbah a Moute quietly plays in the background in Lob City.

At their best, the Los Angeles Clippers have plenty of flash – Chris Paul throwing lobs to Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan, and J.J. Redick and Jamal Crawford providing perimeter scoring.

So where does Mbah a Moute fit? He’s the kind of player teams need to be successful. Mbah a Moute is a versatile defender who does his job without fanfare.

Clippers coach Doc Rivers believes Mbah a Moute deserves some attention for his defense, but he thinks that might happen only if the forward becomes more offensive.

“If Luc scored 12 points, 14 points a night, he’d be on the all-defensive team,” Rivers said. “It’s funny how that works, that you actually have to score points to be on the all-defensive team, which is the biggest joke in the world.”

This team has so many weapons offensively, I try to contribute as much as I can to make sure I’m a threat out there, stretch the floor, make plays and just go out there and do my job.

Luc Mbah a Moute, Clippers forward

Mbah a Moute has played on five teams in his nine seasons and never has averaged more than 9.9 points. This season, he’s averaging 6.5 points, more than double his 3.1-point average last season with the Clippers.

On all of his teams, Mbah a Moute’s defensive skills have been touted. But he began his career by playing five seasons with the Milwaukee Bucks, followed by one season split between the Kings and Minnesota Timberwolves and one with the Philadelphia 76ers. Those teams aren’t among the NBA’s elite.

“I’ve been on some good teams and some not-so-good teams. I think that helps,” Mbah a Moute said. “A lot of those guys that make those (all-defensive) teams play on good teams. So if you’re on a winning team and most of the time winning teams play good defense, that gets noticed more. It’s something I’ve done since I came into the league.”

Mbah a Moute’s strength is in his versatility. He’s 6-foot-8 and 230 pounds and can defend all five positions. In the modern NBA where some teams have discarded traditional positions, Mbah a Moute’s willingness to defend anywhere makes him a key for a team in championship contention.

“He is one of the best defensive players in the league, bar none,” Rivers said. “But because he’s not a scorer, no one really notices, but that’s his value to a team. Plus his IQ and he’s an off-the-chart teammate. You would want Luc on your team even if he didn’t play; that’s how good of a guy he is on your team. It’s good to have those types of guys on your team.”

In the summer of 2015, Mbah a Moute re-signed with the Kings, but his contract was voided because of a failed physical. He filed a grievance against the team, and the matter was settled. His departure from the Kings led to his signing by the Clippers and a return to Southern California, where he played at UCLA.

“It’s been good,” he said of his Clippers stint. “Defend, cut to the basket, make open shots. This team has so many weapons offensively, I try to contribute as much as I can to make sure I’m a threat out there, stretch the floor, make plays and just go out there and do my job.”

If Luc scored 12 points, 14 points a night, he’d be on the all-defensive team.

Doc Rivers, Clippers coach, on Luc Mbah a Moute

The ‘This Can’t Be Life’ Award

Social media has made fan voting for the All-Star Game as personal as ever for players and fans.

And Philadelphia center Joel Embiid already might be a social media All-Star.

After missing two seasons because of injuries, Embiid has shown he could be an exceptional player. He has incorporated the “WWE Universe” into his All-Star campaign by reaching out via Twitter to pro wrestling star Triple H, who used social media to vote for Embiid.

Embiid thanked Triple H by mimicking his prematch ritual of spewing water into the air before Friday’s game against the Charlotte Hornets.

Some players are funny on social media but can’t match the hype on the court. Embiid does and it only gets better.

The ‘Keeping it Way Too Real’ Award

Rajon Rondo is smart and doesn’t hold his tongue. The veteran point guard, who had fallen out of the Chicago Bulls’ rotation, recently told reporters he was told the team was only trying to “save him from himself.”

Rondo’s response: “I thought it was bull ... .”

Jason Jones: @mr_jasonjones, read more about the team at sacbee.com/kings.

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