I'm always looking for new ideas. I'm an idea man, see? Always thinking, always looking for the next big thing.
In an effort to keep this Questionable Blogger series fresh, I'm trying something new this time around. Rohan Cruyff (not his real name) has been blogging about the Hornets at the SBNation blog At the Hive for many years now. I first met Rohan in Las Vegas at the NBA Summer League in 2009, I guess. Turns out he's a Hornets fan living in L.A. He's also a pretty decent basketball player. He's also a rocket scientist (no kidding, he really is -- or at least he's a grad student rocket science).
Rohan and I have been known to chat on the Google from time to time, and we wondered if a more conversational approach to the Q&A might be interesting this time around. So that's what we did. Oh, and the Hornets and Clippers play again in L.A. in about four days, so we're planning on having a part two to this discussion between games.
SP: What's the latest on Eric Gordon? At the time of his surgery, he was supposed to be back in late March IIRC, but I read something recently that said he was out for the season... I assumed the writer just misspoke
Rohan: Yeah, there's been a lot of confusion on that front.
After he had arthroscopic surgery on the knee to clear debris last month, the medical staff had held him off from physical activity for a couple weeks. But he's since begun rehabbing on his own, and the team said he expects to practice with them next week.
So I wouldn't be surprised if he gets the April return the team was forecasting in mid-February.
SP: It's too bad for Hornets fans and for EJ that he's been hurt... the guy is really good. I think you're going to like him, if you ever get to see him.
Is there consternation in N'Awluhns that he's "injury prone" (whatever that is)?
Rohan: I can't speak to the city itself, but I've seen plenty of that type of sentiment on message boards. (ie, what has he ever done to demand such a big contract, etc). Though that's probably a "message board" thing more than a "Hornets fan" thing.
Overall, I'm with you on Gordon... he fits really, really well on both ends of Monty Williams' system (though to call the "offensive" end a "system" this year would be quite generous).
SP: I assume the Hornets will match, even if he signs a very large offer sheet... it would be tough to insist on a perceived high level asset in the Paul trade and then watch that asset walk after playing a handful of games.
What's your take on that? It's a tough spot for the Hornets to be in, I'll say that much.
Rohan: There's an argument from a market value perspective that Gordon is a max-worthy player.
But quite honestly, there are multiple "max-worthy" players as dictated by market value that don't and really shouldn't get max deals. Gordon's right on the edge there, even before getting into his health issues.
Your point is a good one on the perception issue. Losing the biggest asset in the Chris Paul deal would be massive from a PR standpoint.
Rohan: Definitely. Gordon's a bit different, because I legitimately think he can be a top 4 or 5 defender at his position.
SP: You look at his draft class... Rose, Westbrook and Love all got max money... Gordon was on Team USA with those guys, where he played more than RW or Love, and is clearly the 'next' guy in that class... we know what his agent is going to say
Rohan: Here's my "Gordon's worth a max" piece from January.
SP: If he's the guy from the first half of last season (before the injuries started slowing him down), he's definitely worth a max deal in the NBA marketplace.... it'd be nice if you got to see him be that guy again before you have to sign him though.
New topic? You pick.
Rohan: Clippers as contenders. I firmly believe they're not title contenders this season, nor will they be a year from now.. because their defense is just atrocious.
Wrote about this for Hoopspeak today.
At what point does 2013 free agency enter into your mind?
I mean.. it's really early at this point, but from my perspective, the lack of D is crippling and a systemic issue predicated on VDN and the personnel.
SP: 2013 free agency? Well, that became a big deal for Clippers fans the minute Dwight Howard waived his ETO. Having Paul and Howard synched on their FA year is not a comfortable topic for Clippers fans.
As for the defense, I hesitate to say it is a personnel thing. Look at Chicago. Carlos Boozer was considered a terrible defender at Utah. Derrick Rose was not particularly good as an individual defender. Great team defense is about system and effort. Not individuals, if you ask me.
Rohan: Fair enough; I agree with you. But is there a tipping point where individuals outweigh system?
SP: Well, if you and me and Michael Levin [Liberty Ballers] and Nate Parham [Golden State of Mind] and Chris Clark [Silver Screen and Roll] played for Tom Thibodeau and worked our asses off, we would still not be a very good defensive team in the NBA, so sure, there's a tipping point. [Note: I've actually played ball with all of these guys, and they are really nice guys and really good bloggers ... but you get my point.]
SP: Dudes with legit NBA physical talent? DeAndre Jordan, Blake Griffin, Chris Paul, Caron Butler, Nick Young? You telling me those guys couldn't play GREAT defense if they wanted to and had the right scheme in place?
Rohan: What are we calling "great" here? Top 5? Top 10?
SP: Could they be Top 5? Sure. Why not. And as far as I'm concerned, any team can be top 10 if they're well coached and bought in. Don't forget, the biggest part of defense is effort.
Rohan: Okay, so what are, say, the top 3 defensive shortcomings of the Clippers thus far? Effort, as you allude to, has struck me as the biggest one this year - is that accurate?
SP: Effort is absolutely number 1. The Clippers have, on several occasions, strolled thru three quarters of a game and then clamped down with some stellar defense in the 4th. The only difference being effort.
Number 2 I'll call rotations, but you could call it scheme or game plan or other things as well. The Clippers are far from sharp on their rotations, and frequently don't seem to know what they're supposed to be doing. Doubles are predictable, basic approach is safe -- there's not much happening.
Rohan: Has that improved/declined through the season at all?
SP: I thought I noticed some improvement in January... but it's all regressed in February. It's hard to disentangle from effort of course. Is that confusion on the rotation, or just plain laziness?
If I have to pick a third issue, I'll go with something concrete. The Clippers backcourt personnel, particularly after Billups went down, was three guys who are 6'1" (or less) and a 6'2" guy. When Randy Foye is your 'big' guard, then your guards are going to get abused from time to time. Nick Young could help there. We'll start finding out this week.
That's the conclusion of part one of our chat. We'll continue sometime between Thursday night's Clippers-Hornets game in New Orleans and the rematch in LA on Monday. Exciting and suspenseful, right?