|2008/2009 NBA Regular Season|
|January 28th, 2009, 7:30 PM|
|FSN Prime Ticket, 710 AM
The Back Story:
The Big Picture:
The first wave of reinforcements may be arriving for the Clippers tonight. The return of Brian Skinner Monday night from a bout with the flu was certainly helpful in it's small way, though it was offset to some extent by the fact that Ricky Davis' knees did not allow him to play in the second half. But some of the big names are getting close at this point. Baron Davis is listed as probable against the Bulls, and Marcus Camby is listed as Questionable, which is better than Doubtful. It's therefore possible, though still not likely, that the Clippers could actually have the NBA maximum 12 players in uniform on their bench tonight. Just when Cheik Samb was getting used to all of that luxurious room over there. I don't expect Baron to start in his first game back, and who knows how effective he'll be after a 4 week absence. (4 weeks! Has it really been four weeks!?!? For a bruised tail bone? Jordan Farmar was out 4 weeks AFTER KNEE SURGERY. I'm just saying.) But it will be nice to start putting a team that is at least supposed to be competitive out there. It's up to Baron and the others to make it so.
There aren't many teams who have been worse in the last month than the Clippers and the Bulls. After a win on the 20th of December, the Bulls were one game below .500 at 13-14. Since then, they are 4-13. The Clippers have 2 wins in the same time period, and the Grizzlies, Wizards and Kings are the only other teams that have been anywhere close to that bad. The Clippers of course, have played all of those games without Kaman and Randolph, most without Davis, and a few without Camby. What excuse do the Bulls have? Despite lucking into the first overall pick in the draft and getting Rookie of the Year candidate Derrick Rose, the Bulls just aren't clicking. There total lack of an inside game continues to be a huge problem. Rose mitigates that somewhat by penetrating into the lane, but the team remains a jumping shooting team - and many of their jump shooters seem to have lost it. Luol Deng and Andres Nocioni are both quite a bit below their career shooting percentages, and on the entire roster, only Joakim Noah and Aaron Gray are shooting over 46%. They are 26th in the league in shooting percentage. Of course, the Clippers are 30th, so it's hard to talk too much smack in that situation. Drew Gooden is doubtful for this game with a strained groin muscle. That's bad news for the Bulls in that Gooden is probably their most effective big - but good news in that it forces Vinny Del Negro to play young, energetic bigs Joakim Noah and Tyrus Thomas. With Thomas and DeAndre Jordan both playing big minutes, look for a lot of dunks in this game.
- Trying something new. I've never been a huge 'game thread' guy. But after consecutive games against the Warriors and the Blazers, I'm getting a little jealous. Blazer's Edge had 940 comments on the Clippers-Blazers game - IN THE FIRST HALF! Now, GSOM and BE have two of the biggest user communities in the entire basketball blogosphere, and you can't force that sort of thing. But I am going to try to encourage more participation in game threads. One minor change will be to break out the Preview (this post) from the Game Thread. As a rule, I'll have Previews available in the morning, and Game Threads a half hour before tip. I'm looking for support from you guys for ways to make them more fun, but the biggest thing is just getting people on them. Unfortunately, my dad life means that I will remain an infrequent contributor, but they're still interesting. Poor citizen Lawler's Law is forced to troll on the other teams site to get into a conversation. Let's not let that happen people.
- The first meeting. In the first meeting of the season between these two teams, the Clippers had a 4 point lead in the final seconds. But Eric Gordon fouled Ben Gordon as he shot and made a running, leaning, crazy three, to tie the game. The Clippers had one more chance to win the game in regulation, but Al Thornton ran the wrong play and missed the shot at the buzzer. The Bulls pulled away in OT, thanks to some offensive foul calls (I was offended, at any rate).
- Rookie of the Year race. I think the pundits tend to hand out the hardware too early, especially for Rookie of the Year. O.J. Mayo was being touted as a lock early. But Derrick Rose has a strong case as well. And a lot of people now seem to think that Russell Westbrook has inserted himself into the discussion at this point. But the one guy who's playing better than any of them in January is Eric Gordon. EJ is averaging 22.4 points per game in 2009, while Rose is down to 14.9, and Mayo is at 16.5. That's a big difference, and it goes without saying that if it persists for the rest of the year, Gordon will deserve the award. Of course, Gordon's role will necessarily diminish some when some other Clippers get healthy, but it's worth noting that Mayo and Rose have been top options for their teams from day one. EJ totally outplayed Westbrook last week. It will be interesting to see how he fares against Rose.
- Drew Gooden. Here's the injury update on Gooden from ESPN.com: "Gooden said results of tests on his groin came back negative." Tests on his groin came back negative? There's a punchline there somewhere, right? I mean, we can just use the old standby: "That's what she said." Come up with a better one in the comments.
- Deng and Nocioni. In the first meeting, Luol Deng was completely invisible - until he hit a huge jumper in overtime. Nocioni, on the other hand, carried the Bulls. He made huge shots, drew offensive fouls, and just generally was a nuisance to the Clippers. He's not having a particularly good season, so we'll see if he can torch the Clippers again. But if the Bulls don't get something from Deng and/or Noc, they are vulnerable.
- DeAndre Jordan. DeAndre has set a career high in three of the five games he's started. He got 6 blocks against Minnesota, 23 points against the Lakers, and 20 rebounds against the Warriors. He had a relatively quiet 6/8 Monday against the Blazers, so he should be ready to bust out something impressive tonight.
- Superstar for one game. Nocioni was this guy last time. I picked Tyrus Thomas, which of course completely nullified him. I'll pick Joakim Noah. He's very active on the offensive glass, and we know that DeAndre Jordan has some issues boxing out. Noah could be a real pest tonight.
- Get the Bulls perspective at Blog-a-Bull.