Before we move on to the preview for tonight's game, let's spend a little more time on Wednesday night's debacle. And then let us never speak of it again.
The Clippers' lineup Wednesday featured six new players in the ten-man rotation. Of the new guys, point guard Baron Davis is clearly the focal point, and he was playing for the first time since October 9th, with tape on his very sore finger. Likewise Tim Thomas was playing for the first time in weeks, and Marcus Camby didn't play at all. Then they ran into a team that is loaded with talent, has something to prove, and is already executing at mid-season form. It was a recipe for disaster, and everyone followed the recipe perfectly.
Those are the excuses. And the truth is, if the question going in was "Will this group of Clippers already know how to play together", the answer was obviously "No." But that's OK. I mean, we knew that might have been the answer, else we wouldn't have asked the question. Defensive rotations were constantly blown, offensive spacing was a catastrophe - there were at least two passes thrown into the backcourt and another into the second row. They looked like they'd basically never played together. What a suprise, right? But all of these things will get better with time on the court together.
The individual performances are another story. Chris Kaman has got to play better. Al Thornton did not look good. We weren't sure starting the season which one of those two was going to be the second scorer and which was going to be the third scorer. But Wednesday night, neither looked qualified to be an NBA starter, much less a major option in the offense. That's a very bad sign.
But it's one loss, against a team that may win 65 or more games this season. That game was going to be a loss in almost any scenario. 0-1 after one game. It happens to about half the league.
The players held a long meeting afterward, and things apparently got a little loud. Thornton described Baron as "a rowdy little fella." Good. Two years ago, as the Clippers were sleepwalking through a season of high expectations, I wondered why the team hadn't had a meeting. It was mid-January, the team was playing disinterested basketball, and no one much seemed to care.
For that matter, where is the 'player's only' meeting? Don't Sam and Elton need to get these guys behind closed doors and scream at them a little? This team is clearly playing way below its potential, and there's certainly no good explanation for it. MDSr was still talking about the Russia trip in January, for FSM's sake. That was October. Forget it. Stop making excuses and work it out.
In that same post, I also said "We all know that Elton is not the super-vocal, rah rah, type of team leader."
Well, the team now has a "super-vocal team leader" and his name is Baron Davis. Thank the FSM.
This kind of thing can get old. You can't go to the well too often or people just start tuning you out. So a 'closed door meeting' after the first game of an 82 game schedule may seem a little extreme. But then again, as badly as they played, that was a perfect time. And I think we can all agree that game 38, when the team coming off a playoff appearance is 17-21, is WAY too late.
In seven years with Elton Brand as the leader of the team, the Clippers never developed a personality. Or perhaps they developed his personality - it's hard to tell the difference between that and no personality. This team will develop a personality. If they don't, it's going to continue to be 'rowdy' behind closed doors.