At some point, you stop analyzing why the Clippers are losing and instead you just feel sorry for them. After this game, I think I'm there. And maybe you look for some nice effort here or there, in an 'everybody wins', 'Special Olympics' sort of way. Because, I don't know if you noticed, but the Clippers third best player right now is a guy who wasn't in the NBA a week ago, and got his first NBA start tonight.
For tonight's game, the Clippers played without their franchise player, their highest draft pick of the last 10 years, their prize free agent signee from 3 summers ago, and their undisputed leader. These four players would be their starting power forward, point guard and shooting guard and their backup point guard, under normal circumstances. So yeah, I'm starting to feel sorry for them.
Here are the players I feel particularly sorry for right now:
Chris Kaman - He's been an absolute revelation this season, but he's not in fact cut out to be a first option on offense. Not a lot of people are. And it sure doesn't help matters that he very rarely has any shooters to pass to. He'd be so good as a second or third option, allowed to work off the ball a little. Right now he's in a sort of NBA hell - demanding instant and constant double teams (since he's clearly the Clippers best option, and hey, why not double, what's the alternative, stay home on Brevin Knight?) but not getting any respect from the officials. It's a tough place to be. Let's hope he doesn't get ground down by the situation. Already these last couple of games (6 for 19 and 5 for 15) have felt like maybe Chris is hitting a wall on offense.
Josh Powell - OK, sure, this season should be his best chance to show what he can do. But it's tough being a 12th guy. You want so badly to get in the game, but then you get in and you look like you haven't played in an NBA game in 8 months, because, you know, you haven't. And no, hoisting 20 footers is probably not the best way to respond to the situation, but he was not particularly worse offensively than anyone else on the team in the second half. So far, he's not looking like the 'diamond in the rough' signing we were hoping for.
Corey Maggette - Yeah, he's getting his 20 points per game as the Clippers only scoring threat other than Kaman. But the current situation where the team goes into a collective slump and simply can't score tends to bring out the worst in Corey. He gets a case of what the Sports Guy calls Hero Complex and tries to do way too much. I usually know whether Corey is going to get a good shot within a split second of when he touches the ball. Either he gets the ball in a good place, with an advantage on the defender, or he doesn't. If he doesn't, nothing good is going to happen. He should just give it to someone else. Instead, he tries to make something happen, invariably with the result of a missed shot that never had a chance, or a turnover, usually a charge.
Al Thornton - It's all just part of the NBA learning curve, but Al also has a touch of Hero Complex. Of course, someone has to take these shots. The NBA encourages (nay compels) teams to shoot the ball with 24 seconds - it's like a rule or something. It seemed like the majority of the third quarter possessions in this game ended in forced shots late in the clock. Throwing the ball to a rookie with 3 seconds on the clock and then yelling 'shoot, shoot!' is just cruel.
Tim Thomas - He never told anyone that he wanted to defend Chris Bosh. Clearly he doesn't want to defend Chris Bosh. Ever. Why put him in that situation? It's really not fair.
Toronto was completely uninspiring in this game. Their defense in the first half was so lax that the Generic Clippers shot 51%. Of course, as is often the case, all they had to do was dial their defensive intensity up to 'mildly interested' for the Clippers to wilt. They held the Clippers to 11 points in the third quarter and 17 in the fourth. And they STILL only won by three.
But Richie Frahm had a nice game in his first NBA start. Way to go Richie! And Chris Kaman did a good job on the boards and had three blocked shots. Great job, Chris! Way to hustle even when the shots aren't falling! And Josh Powell earned an extra possession by diving out of bounds. Great hustle Josh! I knew you could do it! You're all winners! Hey, the important thing is you tried your hardest!