Note: I was sitting down to write a recap of the preseason, and then I noticed that Citizen Zhiv had done it for me. So that's a little time-saver for me. Well played, Zhiv. See my comments in the... well, comments.
Let's start with the good news, and there's a fair amount of it, but it doesn't disguise the fact that this has been a bad preseason for the Clips. It hasn't been a "horrible" preseason, and the downbeat elements of the past two weeks may not have any impact on the regular season. The outlook for the team is still bullish. But there are a lot of unanswered questions about the team and how it will play and gel.
The good news (in order of importance):
Eric Gordon had one spectacular half. This is probably the most important item from the preseason, because it was a concrete example of the beloved "ridiculous upside." Gordon needs minutes, good looks and shot selection, and he needs to be on the court with Baron Davis, but we got to see that he could become very productive and even a force in the not-so-distant future. He came back after a summer league injury and a first-day-of-practice injury and seems ready to take on his role on opening day as part of the BDavis-Mobley-RDavis backcourt team. This is very good news.
Al Thornton played pretty well. We didn't actually get to see much action, but Thornton had the solid, standard preseason of a young veteran and, again, that's without playing with Baron Davis. Good news.
Mike Taylor had some great preseason games. He seemed to fall back to Earth a bit, which is predictable, but he can play. He can be exciting and stir things up a bit, which is a good complement and alternative to Jason Hart, who is not very exciting but should be steady. It's a pleasant surprise, and good news that Taylor earned a spot on the team, and perhaps he'll beat out Hart and become consistently effective as time goes on.
Paul Davis, Brian Skinner, Hart, DJordan, and Steve Novak were all okay, quite acceptable for preseason. It's nice to see that Davis3 is healthy and able to do his (limited) job. Cat Mobley and Ricky Davis are important rotation players who fall into the same category. Mobley played defense and filled his blanket role, RDavis hit some shots from time to time, and Mobley-RDavis-Gordon added up to an acceptable preseason effort--again, given the absence of BDavis.
So that covers very good, good, and okay/acceptable.
Bad was the Marcus Camby flu, followed by the Marcus Camby heel injury. Bad was the Tim Thomas groin injury. Bad was the Baron Davis flu, followed by the Baron Davis finger injury. Bad was Kaman's lackluster (to put it mildly) first few games, followed by a sequence of so-so efforts, Kaman .8 followed by Kaman 1.5 and Kaman 1.8, with nary of glimpse of Kaman 2.0, let alone Kaman 2.5 or 3.0.
But some of Kaman's lassitude and mediocrity can be attributed to not having Camby and BDavis around--although I would argue that he should be able to get more out solid rebounding/defending horses like Skinner and Davis3. The fact that Kaman had a slow, similar preseason last year is some comfort, but not much--we don't like to see players go backwards in their effectiveness levels, which requires a good effort to just get back to where they were. But we can hope, if not assume, that Kaman isn't the Clips main concern.
Kaman's interaction with Camby, however, is the Clips' primary concern right now. Perhaps this would be less of an issue if the schedule wasn't front-loaded, and the early games had some soft front lines against which they could build confidence and chemistry. Looking at it from another perspective, Andrew Bynum and Pao Gasol have had a whole lot of practice time and plenty of preseason game time to figure out some things about playing together. Kaman and Camby have had zero. This is bad. They can make a lot of progress with a few days of practice and in a few games, but they'll be starting from scratch. It's bad. Not horrible or very bad, but bad.
Camby's general arrival in LA has been bad. We're still thinking that he's going to be a great veteran and glue guy, doing lots of little things, but he has gotten off to a very rocky start. One thing I didn't realize is that the Lakerworld would be extra critical of him because of the playoff thumpings of Denver. TJ Simers brought this up and Camby has already managed to get his negative attention, just to compound the early storyline of his disgruntled departure from Denver. All of this should work itself out fairly quickly, but the guy has to start playing some basketball, and then he needs to stay healthy.
The unfortunate sequence of events and absence of BDavis has been bad, not so much for him and how he's going to perform once the season starts, but for the entire rest of the team, which wants to gain the confidence that they'll get from playing with him. The good news there is that they did manage to get some practice time with him and one game. This allows all of the players, along with us as fans, to know that the Baron Effect is real. We saw it. The Clippers were at least a 1000% better basketball team with Baron Davis on the floor, and that was with no Camby, no Gordon, and Kaman in doofus mode.
The Clips are trying to have a completely new team and new energy this season. But they weren't able to begin the process in the preseason. Too bad.