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Work it Out, Part 2

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The Clippers current situation is only compounded by what appears to be a stubborn streak in MDSr.  Consider:  For more than two seasons after MDSr took the Clippers job, Corey Maggette was a starter.  He started 141 or 152 games that he played in from the beginning of the 2003 season until he was injured in the Miami game last December.  The 11 games he didn't start occurred when he was getting back to speed after an injury.  Moreover, the Clippers were 12-5 at the time of Corey's injury, and he was averaging 23.9 points in 38 minutes per game as a starter prior to being injured.  

But some time during Corey's rehab, MDSr decided that he wanted him coming off the bench (or maybe he decided he wanted him gone), and he seems to be stubbornly resisting the alternative.  I understand what he was going for.  Instant offense off the bench, a defensive stopper in the starting lineup.  But a team that was constantly improving is now regressing, and this is the obvious difference.

The Clippers are clearly out of sync.  The coach has tried 13 different starting lineups in 38 games to try to find a combination that works.  Sure, some of that has been dictated by injuries, but it's mostly MDSr struggling to find the right mix.  But his second leading scorer (first on a per minute basis), his third leading rebounder - he warrants three starts in all of this experimentation.  Tim Thomas has started 15 times.  QRoss has started 23 times.  Hell, Aaron Williams has started 7 times.  The team is 4 games under .500.  And Corey Maggette has started 3 times.

Basically, MDSr has given everybody EXCEPT Corey a chance to pull the team out of their stupor.  Given that part of the problem may be the vicious cycle of Corey trade rumors, fueled by Corey's dissatisfaction, fueled by Corey not starting, leading to more losses, leading to more dissatisfaction, leading to more trade rumors...  you'd think the obvious thing would be to try Corey in the starting lineup.  It's not like anything else is working.

Here's something even more astounding.  During the Clippers 12-5 start last season, up until Corey's injury the starting lineup most frequently employed was Cassell, Mobley, Maggette, Brand and Kaman.  Basically, although it was short-lived, we're talking about the most successful starting lineup in the history of the Clippers.  Those 5 have yet to start a game this season.  13 different starting lineups, but one glaring omission.  Even last season's team was only 35-30 after Corey was injured.  Why is MDSr so adamant in keeping Corey on the bench?  It simply hasn't been successful.

Of course there's no guarantee that this would solve the Clippers issues.  It's very unlikely that there is any magic bullet out there.  Rather, the team is going to have to work hard to rediscover the energy and rhythm that took them to within a game of the Western Conference Finals last season.  But isn't this a fairly obvious thing to TRY?  To start your best scorer?  To start a lineup that was successful last season?

Now, many of you are probably saying to yourselves, "But the Clippers problem is defense.  Corey's a good scorer, but a poor defender, and starting him isn't going to solve the Clippers biggest problem."  Well, it's clear that defense is the biggest difference between this year's team and last year's.  The Clippers are now 1-15 in games where they allow 100 points, 16-6 when they don't.  So there you have it.

But we've all watched enough basketball to know that offense and defense feed off each other.  Some of this is practical (it's easier to score off of a rebound or a steal than when you're inbounding after a make) and some of it is emotional (you score, you're pumped, you play hard on D, you get a stop, you're pumped, you execute on offense, you score, you're pumped, etc.).  And I'm not talking about style questions - yes the Suns score points and give up points, because they shoot early in the clock, and Suns' games have more possessions.  I'm talking about the same team, with the same basic philosophy - offense and defense feed off each other.

Besides, Corey's not that bad a defender.  He's a poor help defender, often missing reads and rotations.  But there's a good solution for that.  Put him on a top scorer.  Challenge him to take someone out of the game.  Let the other guys read and help, but tell Corey to man up on somebody.  He's a great athlete and a hard-worker.  I thought he did a fine job when he was on LeBron on Saturday.  Give him the task and he'll respond.

We've tried the defensive lineups.  I love QRoss, but even MDSr seems to have grown less enamored of him.  But the defensive lineups didn't work.  Let's try a scoring lineup.  Let's start Corey, play him big minutes, and see what happens.  What's the worst that can happen?  We'll be 4 games under .500 with losses to Toronto and Atlanta?  

There are all sorts of options for guys to sit.  Sit Mobley.  Sit Livingston.  I don't care at this point.  But start Corey.  

Work it out.