Just thought I'd re-post this from last February 17 following the Camby and Thornton/Telfair trades. Some said this view was an over-reaction at the time, but it seems pretty relevant today.
Many Clipper fans are celebrating the recent trade of Thornton and Bassy, but IMO the celebration is a bit premature. While I do believe Plan A is to go after LeBron or another top free agent this summer, there is a very good chance that plan fails.
Nobody knows what the backup plan would be. It could be to fill out the roster with cheap players and field a team earning close to the league minimum just like the pre-Dunleavy Clipper teams. The only difference between dumping players to gain cap space and dumping players so you don't have to pay them is motivation, and we really don't know what LA's motivation is.
Based on past Clipper history, nobody should just assume the Clips will definitely spend their cap space. It's far more likely that the team will do whatever it takes to make as much profit as they can for Sterling. If that means bringing in LeBron and challenging the Lakers, the Clippers would be crazy not to do that. They would sell more tickets and merchandise, boost the franchise value and do it without significantly exceeding the salary cap. If making money requires selling a hard working, highly respected veteran player to a rival, the Clips just showed they'll do that without blinking. And if profitability means fielding a mediocre but cheap team, no one should be too surprised to see that happen again either.
Yes the Clippers are above the league minimum payroll, and Gomes and Foye IMO are valuable role players who I'm glad were signed. But right now with $46.4M spent on ten players, the Clippers are much closer to the minimum ($43.5 M) than they are to the salary cap ($58M). They might make it to $50M by signing Sofo, Warren and another minimum contract or two (still closer to the minimum than the cap).
I don't post this to pat myself on the back and say I got it right or to say anyone else got it wrong. I really wanted to be wrong if it meant the Clippers would be better. But sometimes it's important to remember what we were thinking in the past in order gain perspective on the future, even a gloomy future. Below are a few exerpts from the comments to this post.
"If the Clips cheap-out on this one, then I’m out of here. I really don’t think it will happen, though. Maybe I’m not jaded enough."
"Actually, the Clippers have a GREAT backup plan... So if they can’t get a LeBron or another superstar, they can retain Outlaw (who probably won’t be too expensive, based on the new frugality among NBA teams)."
"Bird Rights ... are more significant than you seem to think ... Sure, the Clippers make money for Donald Sterling, they’re one of the most reliably profitable teams in the league, but since Mike Dunleavy arrived I don’t think their basketball program has sacrificed anything to make a quick or shallow buck…"
"As for what the Clippers will do? I wish we had a real owner – even some uber creepy Russian billionaire, at least he’d have money to burn."