Our Old Clipper Friend Bobby Simmons

Checking Saturday's San Antonio box score in advance of the Clippers' meeting with the Spurs in Mexico City tonight, I was surprised to see former Clipper Bobby Simmons on the roster.

Believe it or not, Bobby Simmons has finally come to the end of the 5/$47M contract he signed with Milwaukee after winning the NBA's Most Improved Player award as a Clipper in 2004-2005.  Simmons is now likely suffering from the backlash that is often visited upon players, who, through no fault of their own, sign contracts that were bigger than they deserved. 

Looking at his career, his 04-05 season with the Clippers is definitely an outlier.  He averaged over 16 points per game that year, which is more than twice as much as any other in his 9 year NBA career save his first season with the Bucks.  That year he averaged 13.4 points, but his productivity dropped across the board compared to the prior season (though not by much).  He then missed the entire 06-07 season in Milwaukee with a stress reaction in his ankle.  After two seasons in Milwaukee, one in which he was productive, though not as productive as they'd hoped, and a second in which he was injured, he was now an albatross.  His contract was weighing down the payroll in Milwaukee, and all they wanted to do was get rid of him. Of course, it was fairly obvious that his contract was going to be a problem when they signed him, but whatever.

They got their chance on draft day in 2008 when they traded him along with Yi Jianlian to New Jersey for Richard Jefferson.  In his first season with the Nets, Simmons was actually pretty productive, shooting a career high 44.7% from three point range and recording a stellar 58.2% effective field goal percentage.  However, when the Nets opened last season with a record 18 straight losses, the rebuilding that had begun with the trade of Jefferson went into high gear, and the 29 year old Simmons was buried in the rotation in favor of youngsters like Yi and Chris Douglas-Roberts and Terrence Williams.  Bobby played in all 18 of those opening losses - and then played in only 5 additional games all season as the Nets stuggled to 12 wins (at least they avoided the worst record of all time).

So since he left the Clippers, Bobby Simmons has missed one entire season to injury and another to benchwarming (he told NBA.com's Fran Blinebury that the latter was harder to endure).  He accepted a training camp invite from the Spurs for a chance to make the team and backup Jefferson, the guy he was traded for two years ago.

He's still only 30.  He actually played well two seasons ago.  He can hit that corner three.  Does anyone else feel like this could end up being another steal for the Spurs?

Looking at the San Antonio roster, you'd have to say that Simmons has a pretty darn good shot to make the team.  They currently have 16 players on the roster - but only 11 with fully guaranteed contracts.  (The Spurs remain one of the most ruthless teams in terms of salary - they'll start the season with James Anderson on his rookie contract and 5 or 6 more players making the NBA minimum - but they find talent they can plug in around their stars.)  So essentially he's one of five players fighting for three spots.  His rivals are younger, and actually have some guaranteed money in their deals, so Simmons needs to play well and hope that Gregg Popovich wants to go with an experienced player.

I'm not at all convinced that Bobby Simmons should be out of the NBA at age 30.  He was clearly not worth the $10.5M he made in New Jersey last season, nor really any part of the $47M contract.  But that's not his fault.  Was he supposed to say 'No' when Milwaukee threw that offer sheet at him?  But just because he's been overpaid for 5 seasons doesn't mean he's not worth a minimum contact now.  I assume he'll make a squad this season - if not in San Antonio, then with another team that needs some help at the small forward.

Say, aren't the Clippers a little thin at the three?

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