I stopped by Playa Vista today and got to watch a fair amount of the Clippers' practice. Unfortunately, I also got to see Craig Smith sort of roll onto Marcus Camby's ankle and watch Camby hobble off the court. (I guess my iPod touch wasn't connected to the Wi-Fi after all, because I thought I sent a quick Tweet out about that, but it didn't get sent. Fortunately Lisa Dillman got the job done.) I don't think it's serious - I've seen a lot of ankle injuries and it wasn't a full force, step on a foot, roll the ankle with all your body weight on it thing. Smith fell, and sort of rolled into Marcus. It was actually the kind of play that could produce a very serious injury, like a hyper-extended knee or something. But since the team has said it's a sprained ankle, I'm actually relieved. If it's a sprain (i.e. if x-rays were negative) I don't think it's a bad one.
Sebastian Telfair practiced today, but coach was non-committal on whether or how much he'd play this weekend. He wanted to wait and see how Bassy responded to the practice today. He was also pretty inscrutable regarding rotations - wouldn't say who he was thinking of resting, though he did say that he'd like to start working back to a more normal rotation. Of course Camby will be out for these games - no reason to rush him out there, especially when DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin are probably the two players who benefit most from the pre-season reps. The weekend is further complicated by the back-to-back, not to mention the crazy mini-tournament format. Since the team doesn't yet know who they're playing Sunday, they haven't done any prep on that team. So they'll just have a walk through about Sunday's opponent Sunday morning, and that will have to do.
For those who want to look for clues in the practice about what the coach is thinking about his lineup, he's not tipping his hand yet. During three-team drills today, the first team remained the same - Kaman, Camby, Thornton, Gordon and Baron. When Camby limped off, Griffin switched his jersey, as you would expect. DJ remains on the second unit, deservedly so, with Craig Smith being forced down to the third unit. The Clippers are just deeper at the big spots, and I expect Smith to get rotation minutes, but he's the fifth guy up front. Ricky Davis remains on the second unit, pretty much by default - they are thinner on the wings.
As for Saturday's opponent, Utah is one of the playoff teams from last season that the Clippers hope might possibly slip up this season and open the door. The Jazz are pretty hard to explain. They went to the Western Conference Finals in 2008 - and then with the same team, and nice improvement from young players like Deron Williams and Ronnie Brewer and Paul Millsap, they regressed last season. Like the Clippers, they suffered some injuries - but also like the Clippers, injuries don't seem to completely explain their issues. In fact, Utah was finally fully healthy at the end of the season, which is exactly when they were playing their worst ball. They went 4-8 in their last dozen games, and fell to the eighth seed and a first round matchup with the Lakers, who promptly ended their season. And to complicate matters, they had a strange off-season. Carlos Boozer by most accounts has one foot out the door, but because of the salary cap and economy, decided to play his option year rather than becoming a free agent (same for Mehmut Okur). That left the Jazz in the position of having to pay to retain Paul Millsap, Boozer's backup and heir apparent, while still paying Boozer, who they've been trying to move. So for now, the small market Jazz have one of the biggest payrolls in the league and are going to be taking a massive luxury tax hit. And that's a situation that won't last long.
All of this is pretty irrelevant to pre-season - who knows if we'll even see Williams and Boozer in this game? But the Jazz are a team to watch when the season starts. They have plenty of talent. But the way the closed last season, plus the strange off-season they had, makes you wonder where their heads will be this season, especially with Boozer and Okur in contract years with little chance of being re-signed.
The Jazz, like the Clippers, are 3-1 in pre-season so far. If the Clippers don't give anyone the night off, I would expect Griffin to replace Camby in the starting lineup with Baron, Gordon, Thornton and Kaman. But Baron is due for a night off soon, so don't be surprised if Bassy gets the call in one of these games.