Hey, GOOD NEWS! The last few games, and last night's Suns game in particular, have shed some light on where the Clippers need to be heading. This is important, obviously, because we have some big decisions looming in the offseason. If we're going to step boldly into the future, then we need to develop a clear and savvy team concept right away.
So, then, it's time to take a good look in the mirror... Who are we? WHO ARE WE??? :-) IMO (and I think KA agrees), we are clearly neither Dunleavy-cerebrals nor Nellie-ballers. In other words, we need to break ties with the "Set Offense" without reverting to the "Run and Gun." Somewhere in between lies the Clipper's new optimal identity. Someone may want to come up with a more clever name, but for now I'll call it a "Fast Control" style.
Last night vs the Suns, we got to see a few glimpses of it, along with several self-defeating ventures into both goofy extremes.
It so happens that Blake has its rhythm down. He runs the ball down court and gets it moving around. We can all see it, all feel it. It's fluid and quick, but under control. Crisp passes, frequent drives to the basket, and crafty kick-outs. His squads tend to do well, and the general malaise is lifted. The Clippers are better this way.
EJ looks better at it, too, especially last night. The pacing seems to wake him up, and he looks focused and confident... and having fun again. This is the way he should play.
Baron and Kaman, on the other hand, both look like they need to make an adjustment... NOT that I'm bashing them! For the record, I am against trading either player. I'm even a little sympathetic, as they've both been forced to focus on isolation sets the whole year. But the time has come to ease up, and they both need to hear the music.
IMO, Kaman 3 needs to revert back to Kaman 2. I don't want to see the 20-9 guy anymore. Give us back the 15-12 workhorse! We should know by now, heaven didn't design Chris to be a #1 option, and certainly not in a "Fast Control" system. His mind usually isn't working fast enough, let alone his passing or other reactions. Instead, he should be rebounding, bruising things up inside, and prioritizing on D. He'll still get his occasional shots, and we'll still be grateful when they go in. But hey, 15 shots in 19 minutes is WAAAY too many. It's been clear for a while, and again last night, that his focus ought to be elsewhere.
Baron, meanwhile, exhibits signs of playing at ALL THREE SPEEDS. More than anyone else, he needs take an afternoon and learn the new dance. Feel the beat, BD! ... He had it for a few moments out there last night. On one play in particular, he beat down his man, rolled to the side and made a sweet 12 footer. Announcers exclaimed, "I don't know why he doesn't do that all the time!" …He really IS good at it, and it fits within the “Fast Control” system. At these moments, he's working within the flow and not chucking things up chaotically.
Other times, though, he stands around, or maybe settles for the jump shot, or else consumes 12 seconds trying to feed Kaman. Pretty clearly, these are the remnants of his efforts to work within the mental walls of Dunleavy's system. You can shake off the plaster now, my man. --At still other moments, perhaps reveling in his freedom, he reverts back to Nellie ball and tries to go hypersonic again. He steals the ball and goes one-on-three, and either commits a charge, loses the ball out of bounds, or launches a ridiculous bomb from the top of the key. The other night vs Detroit, as we all saw, he rushed the break and challenged the defense, even though there were only 15 seconds left, and we were only up by 2! Hey Baron, you're an adult now. Use your head, play to your strengths, and stop trying to be superman.
He might steal a page from Outlaw, who last night completely defied his ESPN scouting report and showed some very astute court vision. Travis was playing "Fast Control" and made several sharp passes within a fluid offense. And he shot well. I'm glad we'll get to see him for twenty-some-odd more games, so we can decide if he's a keeper.
Can you imagine having Griffin step into the better glimpses of last night's offense? Remember when we caught up in first part of the 2nd quarter and looked GOOD doing it. We had the ball zipping and swishing. BG's power and athleticism would have made us even more unstoppable.
Soooo, here's the general vision: Let's spend our remaining games this season honing our “Fast Control” system, keeping a lookout for which free ag ent thrives the best: Blake, Outlaw, Gooden, Butler, and/or Smith.
We're going to NEED to keep such a lookout, because the fact is that we may not be in a position to keep all five of these guys. Of course, if we land Lebron, we won't get to keep ANY of them. But let's assume for the moment that we whiff on Lebron and other top-tiers. In that case, we may very well end up signing a less expensive (though still above MLE) wingman, such as Josh Childress or Rudy Gay. If so, then we'll have to be selective about who we try to resign. Indeed, after our draft pick, we'll be lucky to have the cap space for just two of our free agents.
Hence, I pose the question now: From what you've seen so far, and assuming all five players are amenable, which pair do you think best fits into our future? --I suggest that this should boil down to which two guys prove most compatible with "Fast Control." (Thanks to Swamigusto for encouraging me to fanpost this lingering dilemma).