And so today Club Optimism smiles knowingly at the Curse, and says, is that it? Is that the best you’ve got? Because this isn’t so bad. It doesn’t negate the fact that Blake Griffin is on the roster, that the Clips won the lottery and were able to get the best player in the draft. It doesn’t negate the brilliant move by the Memphis Funk in trading for Zach Randolph. Club O. likes the look of the stars as they’re lining up right now, and the fact that the Griffin star is dim and it’s going to have to work its way slowly up from the horizon doesn’t diminish the enthusiasm. The Clips have some bright f-ing stars right now. Take a look at that DeAndre Jordan star, for instance: that thing isn’t twinkling right now, it’s beaming brightly. Kaman-Camby are strong, and the list goes on.
So let’s talk for a second about how this is the best thing that could have happened to the Clippers. The Club is choosing, on this fine morning, drinking coffee and seeing a bright sun shining on a new season filled with hope, to surmise that the Curse’s latest chess move is going to be like the Maggette injury in November 05. It seems at first like a decisive blow, but in fact it’s going to change the game in a positive faction.
As I’ve been reading about the Lakers this week, one thing that keeps coming up is how they calculate their season as consisting of 100 games. We citizens are all focused on the 82 number, from extensive practice and for good reason, but teams that are locks for the playoffs want to get into the 90s and have a look at triple digits. And it’s those last ten or twenty games that really count. Winning 50 times out of the first 80 doesn’t mean as much as winning 5 or 8 or 10 times in the last 20. And obviously that’s when you want to be healthy. Look at the numbers for Pau and Kobe and Lamar: they played 100 games last year. That’s a very nice run of sustained health.
Blake Griffin is going to be available to the Clips soon enough. We can break down the extent of his "broken knee cap," we can compare Liv’s patella problem, we can look forward to lots of stories about how Griffin is going crazy because he can’t play. But at a certain point this season, Griffin is going to be healed and healthy and out on the court. The question is, what will the Clippers look like by the time he comes back? Club Optimism sees this as an opportunity for other weapons to come to the fore, so that when Griffin does come back he provides the extra juice that sends the team over the top and into the playoffs playing phenomenal basketball.
This isn’t like plugging QRoss in for Maggs in 0506. The Clips will respond now with options that are much better than QRoss. The question is whether the rest of their talent will match up to the rest of the Clipper attack from that season. Can Baron Davis do what Sam Cassell did? Yes, and more. Can Eric Gordon match Cat Mobley? Yes, and more. Can Butler/Thornton match QRoss? Are you kidding?
Weren’t we talking at length about the depth of the Clipper big men? Can the rotation of DJordan-Kaman-Camby-Smith-Novak match Kaman-FElton-Rebraca-Wilcox/Radman? That’s the big question. FElton had an MVP season in 0506. In the Club Optimism formulation, Kaman has to show up now in 2.0 form. It’s on him, and in his 7th season, he’s ready and healthy and in shape. And he has great support. Kaman is not going to put up FElton numbers, but he will be productive, he will score and rebound, and DJordan and Camby will match the effort of 0506 Kaman and Big Z. Craig Smith and Novak will match Wilcox and Radman. It won’t be an exact equation, but the Clippers can thrive and win games—and that’s before they add Blake Griffin.
I happen to think that DJordan is the big X factor. Craig Smith is a great option too and he’s no slouch. But I was saying yesterday, when it looked like Griffin would miss the opener, that the Clips might have a lot to gain by additional minutes going to DJordan, perhaps even as a starter. Clipperblog points out in its own aftermath posts, reluctantly calling for continued patience, that the Clips have 96 big man minutes to expend, and finding minutes for DJordan and CSmith (not to mention Novak) with a healthy Kaman-Camby-Griffin getting about 30 apiece could be a challenge. DJordan is more than ready to play 25 minutes a game, and it’s going to be fascinating to see what that does to this team, because now it won’t just be Griffin and CSmith playing beside him, it’s going to be Kaman and Camby. The biggest key for me is how Kaman is going to play when he’s in the lineup together with Jordan, if we will see that at all, if that is an effective tandem. It goes against the grain a bit, as the more obvious approach (and CMDSr’s likely one) is to start Kaman and Camby, and make CSmith the first player off the bench. But DJordan is going to get his minutes, and there’s going to be an extensive mix-and-match going on. I happen to think that, in these circumstances, DJordan is positioned as the player that other teams will have trouble answering, that he’s the best substitute for what Griffin will eventually provide. The veteran trio of Kaman-Camby-CSmith are going to mix it up nicely with other teams, but if DJordan picks up a substantial part of the load early and often, those guys will be that much more effective.
And so Club Optimism is actually pretty psyched right now. The Curse has gotten in a good shot, but we’ve seen much worse, and there’s a lot to look forward to. We’re going to get to the Blake Griffin era in good time. But right now the Clips have the excitement of DJordan, some great vets led by Baron Davis, Eric Gordon ready to go out and kill, exciting new faces like Telfair, Butler and Smith, and Club O. all-time favorite Chris Kaman. Everybody fired up, everybody ready to go.
Let’s get it started!