It is hard to imagine trying to do your job when you're under the microscope daily. All Corey Maggette did last year was get hurt. These things happen. Oh, and he happened to get hurt about the same time that the Clippers got deep, developing an all-defense type stopper (QRoss), and then acquiring a three point shooter (Radmanovic, replaced by Thomas), both capable of playing his wing position, while also adding more offensive options than in prior years.
In fact, I came across my notes from last year's fantasy draft the other day, and in justifying a relatively high pick on Maggette, my reasoning was that he was going to get huge minutes, because the Clippers (who had lost Bobby Simmons but added Cat Mobley) had no one else to play the 3. Who knew how important Q would become? Who knew they'd get another 3 at the trade deadline?
The point is, this isn't the same Clippers team as 2 season ago, when Corey averaged 37 minutes and 22 points per game. No one on this team is going to average 37 minutes, with the possible exception of Elton Brand. It doesn't really matter whether Corey starts or comes off the bench - he won't get as many minutes, and he won't get as many shots. Two years ago Corey was taking shots instead of Marko Jaric - now, it's Sam Cassell. You get the idea.
And in a perfect world, all of this is a good thing. I promise you that Corey would rather come off the bench, play 28 minutes, and average 17 ON A PLAYOFF TEAM, than start, play 37 minutes and average 22 ON A LOTTERY TEAM.
But then you have to go through all of this with a spotlight on you. It's one thing knowing that you were almost traded for Ron Artest. But, is this supposed to be an insult? He was almost traded for a guy who was Second Team all-NBA a few seasons back, and the best on-ball defender in the league. Of course Ron-Ron's a headcase, but on a pure basketball level, the Clippers have to pursue that deal. Corey should be flattered that it would have happened save for unfounded concerns about his foot injury.
But the media keeps telling Corey he should be insulted, not flattered. To then follow up the Artest trade offer with completely bogus rumors about guys like Mike Dunleavy Jr. and J.R. Smith - now that is insulting. But the Clippers' organization insists that they never instigated nor considered these other deals, and why wouldn't we believe them? I mean, you know Denver and/or Golden State would do those deals - so if the Clippers were in, the deals would be done.
T.J. Simers column from Saturday is a perfect example. He finds Maggette slights everywhere he looks. In the bogus trade rumors. On the cover of the media guide. In the Alvin Gentry regime, for the love of the FSM. Now, obviously, this is what Simers does - he stirs things up, whether there's anything there or not. But it's got to make it hard for Corey not to get caught up in it all.
This makes Maggette's acceptance of a sixth man role in a Sunday meeting with Dunleavy all the more commendable. Ignoring the rumors and idiot sports columnists, Corey embraced the simple fact that he'd rather win, and told the coach to use him the right way to help the team. If you're keeping track, that makes three long time starters (Maggette, Mobley and Cassell) who have said all the right things about coming off the bench if need be this season. So far so good on the 'too much talent' problem.
We all know that starting or coming off the bench is not really a big deal. What matters is who gets the minutes, and who FINISHES the game. Certainly, there are some considerations that make some players better or worse in reserve roles. Corey has the ability to be that 'instant offense', Vinnie Johnson type, so it really is a good fit. As we saw against Phoenix on Friday, the Clippers were able to rest Elton while Corey was in, throw a different look at the Suns, and the Clippers went on a run with Brand on the bench.
I don't think the Sixth Man Award has as much cache as it did when Kevin McHale and Detlef Schrempf were winning it. The league isn't that deep anymore, so there are only a handful of viable candidates each year. (Let's face it, the glint is off the rose if Eddie House gets votes.) But it's recognition of a unique contribution, and there's no question that Corey will get strong consideration if he plays well and the team does well.