LOS ANGELES CA - DECEMBER 29: Blake Griffin #32 of the Los Angeles Clippers goes for a rebound against Al Jefferson #25 of the Utah Jazz at Staples Center on December 29 2010 in Los Angeles California. The Jazz won 103-85. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that by downloading and or using this photograph User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
I don't know about you guys, but I don't have a lot of plans for today. Sounds like a classic Core Philosophy opportunity. Too late now to rally up and get the early start at Mt. Baldy, where there is going to be fantastic skiing this year, just like last year. Baldy is a hidden gem of the Southland, an hour closer than Big Bear, and it's higher and steeper and more challenging, especially when you can ski the ridge down to the bottom.
But I digress. (Digression, of course, is one of the hallmarks of the CP. Is life itself just a long digression? What about "the Clipper Digression"?) It seems to me that Doing Nothing is a hot button topic in the Nation at the moment. As you may know, I'm more or less always in favor of it. But I think that's a pretty unpopular view. We've covered this before (a zhiv New Year's Resolution: linking skills), but it's always evolving. So I'll lay out the zhiv on Doing Nothing at the moment, with the idea that it might stir some discussion on a good CP, transitional day. You see, the thing is, Doing Nothing is impossible. We can try, but things are always changing. 2010, not a great annum for this proud Nation by any means, mercifully ends tonight. We evolve. Happy New Year, fellow citizens. Any thoughts on what the Clippers should do in 2011?
So what does the argument for Doing Nothing consist of at the moment? The Clippers are 10-23, with little hope of landing a playoff berth. Obviously, they should do anything that would make the team demonstrably better. They have all sorts of assets, and if they can swing a deal that clearly benefits them, they should go for it, right? But there are all sorts of factors. A zillion of them, actually. It's all very hard to calculate, and a lot of things are unknown and unknowable. Everything has its pros and cons, upside and downside.
What do we know? We know that the Clippers have a fantastic young core. That's one thing. We know that they have a terrible owner and a troubled, tortuous history, that they're a longtime laughing stock and punchline. We know that under their previous coach/general manager they went up and then back down, developed some credibility and seemed to join the real world of the NBA, even built a sparkly practice facility and signed some free agents. We know that the owner is still a significant impediment to free agents or elite players joining the team. We know that the Clippers have no tradition of consistent success, that there is no institutional model for excellence, and in fact their history is just the opposite. They possess a broken, dysfunctional corporate and competitive culture that has been one step forward, two steps back, at best, in not just long term but also recent history.
We also know that for what has to be the first time in their history, or perhaps since they signed Bill Walton as their franchise player, they appear to have one of the truly elite players in the NBA on their roster. Blake Griffin has not "arrived" in full form yet, and he has already paid significant Clipper Carma dues by sitting out an entire year, but everything points to his superiority. His first 33 NBA games have been as impressive as those of any other player in memory, and it would be a good study to compare his production to the rookie seasons of the game's greatest players. Griffin's spot on the roster is a major reversal of fortune for the Clippers, who have obviously had more than their share of lottery picks, including some #1 and top four draft slots. But the choice between taking Mike Bibby and Michael Olowokandi, or Emeka Okafor (rather than Dwight Howard) or trading down for Shaun Livingston, is very different from choosing a Tim Duncan, Magic Johnson or Larry Bird, Shaq, Lebron James, or Blake Griffin. It's funny to remember that pundits and NBA fans jumped to the assumption that the Clippers would mess up their long-awaited moment of good fortune and not draft Griffin. The Clippers have never made the kind of mistake that Portland has made twice, drafting Bowie instead of Jordan, and Oden instead of Durant. I don't know that they ever made the kind of mistake that Detroit and Joe Dumars did by drafting Darko. They have drafted badly, of course, even horribly, and they missed numerous opportunities to take future stars out of high school or from Europe. But their luck in the coincidence of pick and available player was worse. Blake Griffin was their very first, true no brainer. They finally got lucky.
Digression rears its head once again. I don't need to go on, don't need to discuss Eric Gordon, DeAndre Jordan, Bledsoe or Aminu, Kaman and Baron Davis, even VDN, at any great length. We know what the Clippers are right now. We have some idea of where they are going. We know how they started the season, how they have already lost 23 games.
Let's assume that no one is untouchable on the Clipper roster besides Blake Griffin. Eric Gordon is obviously a fantastic complementary piece to Griffin, but he's not untouchable. The Clips have all sorts of assets, and the question is what they should do with them. But let's look at the Do Nothing approach.
The U23 team is a great young group, and it would be easy enough to Do Nothing and wait and build around them. An outstanding Team of the Future is already on the roster, and it's just a matter of waiting for the group to gain experience and play together and learn how to win. We may already be seeing it. On top of that, the Clippers have some solid veterans placed in key roles who can help them along. The responsibility for the 10-11 season being lost so quickly rests on Baron Davis and his failure to prepare, as he did in the summer of 09, for the upcoming campaign. But BD's injury (along with that of Randy Foye) provided a crucial silver lining by speeding up the experience timetable of Eric Bledsoe and Al-Farouq Aminu, and it could be argued that, despite their record, the Clippers are in better shape for the future because those players have received so many minutes so quickly. The injury to Chris Kaman has actually had a much greater effect on the loss column than BD's injury, but it has had its own benefits, increased experience for DJordan, and putting the team squarely on the shoulders of Blake Griffin, not to mention Eric Gordon. From the Club D perspective, it's hard to imagine how the Clippers could be in a better place right now.
The upsurge and improved play with the slow assimilation of Baron Davis back into the lineup is important for a number of reasons. Yes, trade Baron by all means, do something, but we're seeing now that Doing Nothing is working pretty well, and there's still a window, a firm Club Optimism hope, that all of the pain and suffering of the long Clipper road for Baron on the Clippers could have a happy ending. When we see his ability to pass the ball to Griffin and Jordan, and we think that he might be getting stronger, healthier, and springier, while chastened and adjusting to his role as an aging point guard, following the lead of Jason Kidd and Steve Nash, there's a chance that it could all work out.
The return of BD and seeing his contribution is an important factor for looking at what might happen with Chris Kaman. Some of us, frustrated by Kaman's injury and the way in which he has gotten in front of playing a 50 game season, at best, can forget about the Kaman 3.0 All-Star season that happened so recently, or even how sharp and tuned up he was in the preseason. He made us forget by playing like a doofus in the first 8 games, triggering memories of the Klueless and Konfused Kaman of old, our beloved Kaveman with his flowing locks. Now he just looks standard insane, a bit like Kaman Van Gogh: cutting off an ear could be a nice touch. You see a lot of tattoos, and a lot of bling. But how many guys cut off an ear? Kaman could do it. Great YouTube material, that goes along nicely with the fireworks, blowing stuff up, etc. A portrait of Kaman Van Gogh, in the master's style with the swirling green background, would be a good start. (Digression.) We have the Kaman Injury Space Time Continuum issue to consider as well. The KISTC is of course timing his return with excruciating precision in its approach to the trade deadline. Some of us remember plotting the return of FElton, hoping to see Kaman 2.0 play with him, but the KISTC frustrated that. And it disrupted seeing the trio of Kaman, Randolph and Camby play together. With Blake Griffin's injury last year, it happily engaged in a belated exploration of Kaman-Camby, and then Kaman-DJordan, in the 3.0 season. Now it continues to tease it. I, for one, am humbled by the complexity of its physics, and remain hopeful that we'll get to see Kaman 3.0 play with Blake Griffin, DJordan, Eric Gordon, Baron Davis, and everybody else.