An Athletic Exodus

In an on-going trend seemed destined to eventually rid the team of anyone who has ever caught a lob pass, James Singleton has asked to be traded.  Art Thompson III reports in the OCR:

"I don't want to sound like I'm whining," Singleton said. "I just want to play, and I don't think it'll be here. I'm never getting the opportunity, and so I told my agent to call them and ask them to trade me."

As for the request, it's a strange one.  Undrafted out of Murray State (go Racers!), the Clippers rescued him from the European Leagues and gave him a two year contract last season.  The fact that he started and had double-doubles in his first two NBA games may have raised his expectations a bit, but on the whole you'd think he'd still be in 'I'm just happy I don't have a road trip to Bosnia' mode.  He's being paid $675K and will be a free agent this summer.  I suppose it doesn't hurt to let Elgin know you'd like out 3 weeks before the trade deadline, just in case he can work something out, but I sure wish he hadn't told the press.  At the very least, it makes it unlikely that he'll want to re-sign with the Clippers this summer, so if we have no plans to play him after the All Star break, you might as well trade him if you can get something in return.

The bigger issue is the fact that the most athletic Clippers all feel unappreciated in MDSr's system.  This is all the more jarring when you think back to the teams early in the decade.  Darius Miles, Quentin Richardson, Keyon Dooling... these guys could fly.  Who remembers Lamar Odom's no look lob to DMiles for the dunk in April 2001?  Who remembers Keyon Dooling dunking over Mutumbo and then picking up the T for giving him the finger wag?  Who remembers Sean Rooks throwing lobs to Odom on the high-low?  Our center used to throw lob passes!  It was a lot of fun.

In less than a year, Chris Wilcox was traded, Corey Maggette was almost traded, and Maggette and now Singleton have asked to be traded.  The trend is unmistakable.  

It's not necessarily a bad thing; it is what it is.  The Clippers front court was very crowded with low post players when Wilcox was traded.  Some members of ClipsNation lament that Kaman was given the edge over Wilcox seemingly from the day he was drafted even though they were both lottery picks (it was a surprise that Wilcox was available at the 8th pick in 2002, while Kaman was considered a stretch with the 6th pick in 2003).  I actually agree with the team's choice of Chrises  - Kaman is unique and has more upside.  But the treatment of the two lottery picks within the system is still telling - Kaman was continually rewarded with minutes and now $52M.  Wilcox was buried on the bench until he was shipped out of town.  As it happens, the trade for Radmanovic was a terrific move.  The Clippers three point shooting was worse at this point of the season a year ago than it is now, if you can imagine that, and both players were going to be free agents.  

Now that Maggette and Singleton both want out you have to ask yourself - what's going on?  Do these players all have an unrealistic opinion of their own abilities?  You could make an argument that the US basketball system of AAU teams and shoe companies running dunk contests instead of passing drills has had an effect.  The guys who win those dunk contests are treated like superstars, regardless of whether they can play the game.  So do they simply feel unappreciated because of their outsize egos, or does MDSr in fact favor cerebral play over athleticism?  Of course these virtues are not mutually exclusive, but if your smartest player is also your best athlete, the coach's job is pretty easy.

Singleton is in a difficult position this season - in fact since Radmanovic was acquired last February minutes have been hard to come by.  The Clippers have lots of options at the 3 and 4 positions.  Certainly with the team struggling, and particularly in the myriad games where they simply seemed lethargic, I would have had him in the game for his energy.  But if the team is playing well and everyone is healthy, Singleton is not in the rotation.  That's just how it is.

It is interesting to note that James Singleton really ought to be a coach's favorite.  He hustles, he rebounds, he works hard on defense.  He's no QRoss - James makes mistakes frequently on defensive rotations.  But the effort is always there, and all coaches love that.

Of course there's little question how I feel about the Maggette situation.  He feels underappreciated because he is underappreciated.  Keep Corey - Play Corey!

The results in the first three seasons of the MDSr era speak for themselves.  The team has won more and more games, with hard work on defense and steady execution on offense.  But would it kill us to throw a lob every once in a while?  Can't we have both execution and athleticism?  It's exhilarating when James Singleton swoops in for a follow dunk.  Although I don't think anyone keeps the stat, I feel certain that he leads the team in follow dunks, even in his incredibly limited minutes this season.  

At the rate athletic players are asking for trades, I'm a little worried about that dunk Livingston threw down on Wednesday.

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