After missing the first 5 pre-season games completely, I have now watched two in a row. Citizen John R was feeling a mite poorly, and offered up his seats to me for the game against the Kings. Not wanting them to go to waste, I accepted. And I was treated to a Clipper win, their third in a row this pre-season, 92-90.
The Kings are obviously a familiar opponent. And the things we know about the Kings generally bore themselves out in this game. Mike Bibby kills the Clippers. Check. Chris Kaman thrives against the Kings. Check. Kevin Martin torches the rest of the league, but struggles against the Clippers. Check.
The Clippers played this one without Corey Maggette, who was resting a sore tail bone. They also played the second half without Sam Cassell, who was just resting (hey, he's old). So, if you're keeping score at home, that means they played the entire second half without their three best scorers from each of the last two seasons. And I must say, while they played hard and in the end prevailed, the lack of offensive firepower definitely showed.
- We've mentioned before that this pre-season schedule is less than ideal for Chris Kaman. He missed the first two games, only to come back for games against the Warriors and Suns. The Lakers are a better matchup, but the Kings are the team he really wanted to see. He responded with by far his best game of the pre-season, with 19 points (14 in the first half) on 8 for 12 shooting, 9 rebounds and 3 blocked shots (including back to back possessions in the fourth quarter). When he catches the ball and goes immediately into his move, good things happen. When he delays and fakes and dribbles a lot, bad things happen. It's really pretty simple. I wonder if Kim Hughes has told Chris this stuff?
- There was a play in the third that illustrated nicely the riddle that is Chris Kaman. He got the ball a step or two from the basket on the left side, reached under the hoop and banked in a reverse lefty layup. It was graceful, it was pretty, it was an amazing play for a guy his size. And I just kept asking myself, 'why?' If he'd just gathered and gone up for a two handed dunk right where he was, the worst possible outcome would have been two free throws. Why is he so gracefully avoiding contact, when he should be dishing it out himself? He's an enigma.
- Sam Cassell can still play.
- Quinton Ross can play defense.
- Brad Miller has cornrows. (I had heard this, but you kind of have to see it.)
- The two headed backup point guard of Dan Dickau and Brevin Knight is interesting, but they are both quite flawed. Dickau could not stay in front of Bibby during his 8:40 on the floor. Knight had to come in just to play defense. But the Kings absolutely dared Knight to shoot. Happily, he made his last two shots after missing his first three. I really like Knight's game, but he simply MUST make the open 18 footer. Tonight he hit two important ones (and was fouled on one of them) - but I must say, I didn't have a good feeling when he was taking them.
- Ruben Patterson is the anti-Tim Thomas. He has no size and no shot. But he hustles, plays defense, and just wants it more than other guys out there. The Clippers looked better while the 6'5" Patterson was playing the four than at any other time.
- The second quarter provided one of those 'only in pre-season moments.' The Clippers opened the period with Brevin Knight, Yaroslav Korolev, Al Thornton, Tim Thomas and Josh Powell on the floor. That's a 5'10" point guard and four guys between 6'8" and 6'10". It was weird. And it was ugly. The Clippers committed 4 team fouls in a little over 2 minutes, and the Kings shot free throws the rest of the quarter. I found myself hoping they would just give up an uncontested layup so that we wouldn't have to watch any more free throws. That unit turned a 5 point lead into a 9 point deficit in the first 6 minutes of the quarter.
- Korolev has a tough row to hoe. It's one thing to have to fight to make a team as a long shot. But to have to do it playing with a makeshift unit... that's brutal. Let the guy play some three with the starters - see what he can do with those guys. But playing with Knight, Powell, Thornton and Thomas? There's no way.
- And in fact there is no way for Comrade Korolev to make this team. He's still too timid. He got into this game for all of 6 minutes, and not only did he not take a shot, he never even really looked at the basket. If you can't make something happen in the few minutes you get in pre-season, Yarik, how you gonna stick in this league? Good luck in Europe.
- On the other hand, it was the first time I've seen Guillermo Diaz play and I really liked what I saw. He went aggressively to the basket, he made some nice passes - the kid's electric. Let's cut Williams and keep him, OK?
- Coaches like it when they get a chance to work on game situations in pre-season, so the fact that this game was tied with 90 seconds to go was great for them. However, the fact that each team threw passes out of bounds on their first possession of the final 90 seconds was not so great. In fact, the Kings had a turnover, an air ball and a blocked shot in their final 3 possessions. Was the Clipper defense great? Eh. It wasn't bad. Any way, the Kings ineptitude opened the door for Tim Thomas' game winner with 12 seconds left.
- Al Thornton had a tough day - 3 for 8, 8 points, 5 turnovers. But Ron Artest will do that to you. Welcome to the Assoc. rookie.
- Speaking of Artest, not sure why he played only 20 minutes, never played with the first unit, and was not in the game down the stretch.
Well, that's what I have on that game. If I think of more tomorrow, I'll add it. Hopefully that can be a confidence boost for Kaman. We'll see.
There's one more pre-season game left, Friday versus Golden State. But I don't expect much from that game. With the same two teams meeting a week later in the Clippers season opener, I just don't think either coach wants to tip his hand. I figure the rotations will be even more screwy in that one.
Thanks again for the Tickets, John!