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NBA teams trying to catch Warriors, Cavaliers

All the talk was optimistic, and that was to be expected when an NBA team introduces a new player.

But as hopeful as the Los Angeles Clippers brass sounded at the news conference after the signing of veteran Danilo Gallinari, the reality of the situation didn’t match the tone of the words.

Losing point guard Chris Paul to the Houston Rockets was a potentially crushing blow.

The Clippers’ problems, though, aren’t unique.

They are like most teams struggling to catch the champion Golden State Warriors. And in the Eastern Conference, the chase also is on to narrow the gap with the Cleveland Cavaliers, who have gone to the NBA Finals the past three seasons.

The question: How to narrow that gap?

For the Clippers, it’s not about trying to become the next incarnation of the Warriors, a three-ball shooting team that revolutionized the game.

“I think a lot of teams make mistakes when they try to match up to the Warriors or how the Warriors play,” said Doc Rivers, the Clippers’ coach and president of basketball operations. “I don’t think anybody’s going to beat the Warriors the way the Warriors play. I think the way to do it is build your team the best way you think you can build your team, and hopefully that will be enough.

“One of the things that I looked at is I wanted to get bigger, not smaller. I want to be more versatile with our bigs. You can be big and slow, or you can be big and versatile. I think we’ve become big and versatile. I think that’s a way of being very effective in our league as well, and that was our thinking in going into this (free-agent period).”

Kings make their moves

Like the Clippers, the Sacramento Kings staged a news conference at which just about all the right words were spoken.

But unlike the Clippers, the Kings have created genuine hope this offseason, drafting De’Aaron Fox, Justin Jackson and Frank Mason III. And then they brought in veterans Vince Carter, George Hill and Zach Randolph.

“We definitely believe this is the right way to (build),” Kings general manager Vlade Divac said. “It’s too early to say where we’re going to be in the years ahead, but we are going in a good direction.”

They might be heading in the right direction, but still aren’t close to catching the Warriors. The Celtics, who made the Eastern Conference finals, are much closer to nipping at the Warriors and, in their conference, the Cavaliers.

They strengthened themselves by adding free agent All-Star Gordon Hayward from the Utah Jazz, but had to clear salary cap room and deal Findlay Prep product Avery Bradley to the Detroit Pistons.

The Celtics, though, drafted Duke’s Jayson Tatum No. 3 overall, and if the NBA Summer League at the Thomas & Mack Center and Cox Pavilion is any indication, he will be an impact player. And the Celtics might not be finished adding pieces, so their roster soon will become clear and the guessing game can begin regarding next season and beyond.

“This is a fun time of the year for everybody because it’s just anticipation,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens said. “We’ll know later.”

Power remains in West

The Clippers have been contenders and would love to return to being a serious title threat.

But the many free-agent signings throughout the Western Conference didn’t make their task easier.

“I’m shocked,” Rivers said. “I was hoping all these free agents went East. Everybody’s coming West. I think Gordon Hayward’s the smartest one. He got the hell out of town when he went to the East. I really don’t understand the logic of this, but it is what it is. It’s just going to be a harder conference, if that’s possible.”

Contact Mark Anderson at manderson@reviewjournal.com. Follow @markanderson65 on Twitter.

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