One of the teams that the Grizzlies have been compared to recently is the Los Angeles Clippers, who they will be playing tonight. That’s not because both teams are model franchises either, unfortunately. With that thought in mind, we had a Q&A session with Clips Nation about where they think their team is, while they asked us some questions that you can see here.
The Clippers started off the season with high hopes, given the acquisitions of Baron Davis and Marcus Camby, as well as drafting highly touted prospect Eric Gordon. Then they made a trade that brought in Zach Randolph, a proven frontcourt scorer. But things just haven’t seemed to come together, as the team is languishing at the bottom of the Pacific Division with the abysmal Sacramento Kings. Is it a matter of having talent, but not a real team? Or is the coaching to be blamed, as is so often the case this season?
I think you can blame any number of things for the Clippers disastrous season, and there’s some validity to all of them. You might say they’re worked together to form some sort of perfect storm of suckitude. In no particular order:
- Injuries. I hate injuries as an excuse, but they do happen and they do make a difference. For the second consecutive season, the Clippers are going to suffer the most player games lost to injury in the NBA. What’s especially frustrating about this season is that they all seem so minor. Unlike last season, when Elton Brand was out with a ruptured Achilles and Shaun Livingston’s knee completely disintegrated, it’s been a series of bizarre and mundane ailments that have kept the Clippers from ever fielding their strongest team. Tonight Chris Kaman will miss his 47th consecutive game with a strained tendon in his foot that was at first deemed day-to-day. Sure it’s day-to-day – for 100 days, it’s been day-to-day. Marcus Camby recently missed a handful of games with a ruptured eardrum for FSM‘s sake. That’s not an injury report you see every day.
- Chemistry. The team went into camp with only five returning players from last season. Baron and Camby were the major new pieces, and they each missed the majority of training camp with injuries. The early season trade that netted Zach Randolph sent away two of the returnees in Cat Mobley and Tim Thomas, and Paul Davis was eventually waived. With Kaman a non-factor due to his injury, the Clippers literally fielded a team that had never played together before – Al Thornton is the only healthy player who was here last season. Kaman was hurt the day Randolph joined the team and the two of them have yet to play together. They just have no identity at all.
- Baron Davis. Baron was supposed to be the best point guard in franchise history and he was the one that was going to give them an identity. But he has been dreadful as a Clipper. He’s shooting 36% on the season. 36%! That’s an unimpressive three point field goal percentage, and it’s his overall percentage. Whether he is apathetic or simply washed up (or perhaps it’s both), he has shown zero explosiveness. The guy who posterized AK47 in the 07 playoffs hasn’t had a single dunk worth mentioning since coming to LA. With Eric Gordon likely out of the lineup in tonight’s game, the Clippers will desperately need a big game from Baron – and I have no reason whatsoever to believe that they’re going to get one.
- The Coach. I’m not generally speaking a blame the coach guy, but at some point the injury excuses and the chemistry excuses just wear thin. The Clippers show every sign of having completely quit on Mike Dunleavy Sr, and it’s not necessarily right, but it’s easier to change the coach than to change the players. He does not appear to be able to motivate them at all. They got up all on their own and played defense against the Celtics and won – then they went to Sacramento the very next game and lost. How do you explain that?
I read the Sports Guy’s account of hanging out with Baron Davis through the trade deadline earlier this week. Have you had a chance to read it and, if so, what is your take on what was said and conveyed? Do you feel that BD was dealt with unfairly by anyone or that he deserves to be traded?
The Clippers rank dead last in team FG%, but 8th in FGA. They also rank near the bottom in 3PT%, FT%, FTA and PPG. That indicates a team that shoots a lot of jumpshots, but doesn’t drive to the basket often enough. Is this a matter of the players settling for jumpers, in your opinion, or is the offense geared towards that methodology? Also, they are one of 14 teams to give up more than 100 PPG defensively. How would you describe the team’s approach to defense?
The field goal percentage issue is in large part a byproduct of the injuries. Or rather, the injuries combined with the offensive philosophy. One of the issues I have with Dunleavy (and it came up in the Sports Guy’s article as well) is that he said the Clippers were going to push the tempo with Baron Davis this season. But they didn’t and they never really even tried to. Dunleavy’s offense has for years been inside out – built around Elton Brand and to a lesser extent Chris Kaman. But with Kaman available for only 15 games, and Zach Randolph missing a large chunk of time as well, the Clippers have played many, many games this season with absolutely no threat in the post. The result – a whole bunch of jump shots. It’s worth noting that the team is 11-11 in games that Randolph has started, and shooting a MUCH better percentage in those games. There are also individual cases of settling for jumpers rather than driving to the rim. Al Thornton settles too frequently. Baron Davis settles.
Defensively, I would describe the approach as stinking. Does that make sense? Their approach is to stink on defense. Zach Randolph is a horrible defensive player. Baron Davis and Al Thornton are also very weak. And Camby, for all of his weak side shot blocking prowess, is actually quite uninterested in anything as pedestrian as defending the pick and roll. Eric Gordon is the only starter who plays consistent chops – that’s right, the 20 year old rookie is the best defender. Having said that, they can actually play decent defense when they try. Zach and Baron have rarely tried this season.