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Clippers Not Out of Contention Yet!

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With the NBA season a full two days old, the Clippers so far have defied gloomy predictions and are currently tied for first place in the Pacific Division, even with the mighty Phoenix Suns and ahead of the Lakers, Warriors and Kings.  If the season ended today, they would be in a three way tie for the final two playoff spots with Phoenix and Minnesota, who like the Clippers have gotten off to a surprising 0-0 start.

Some really early season observations:

  • The NBA really likes Kevin Durant (and already misses Greg Oden).  With only six out of 30 NBA teams in the Pacific Time zone, and double headers to fill two to three nights a week on basic cable, it looks like we're going to see a lot of Seattle and Portland, despite the fact that they aren't going to be very good and Oden is hurt.  Get ready for the second Seattle blowout in two nights tonight against the Suns.  
  • How disappointed would you be if you were a Warriors fan right now?  Even if the Dallas series was something of a matchup fluke, that team finished the regular season winning 16 of 20 when Baron Davis and Jason Richardson returned from injuries to join Al Harrington and Stephen Jackson in the starting lineup.  It seemed to make all the sense in the world to keep that group together and see what they could do over the course of a full season.  Instead, driven by luxury tax fears (and make no mistake, they were in trouble having signed some bad contracts over the years), they traded Richardson for a 20 year old rookie.  So they go out on opening day at home and get blown out by Utah.  And Brandan Wright has started the season on the inactive list where Don Nelson says he'll remain for the foreseeable future, despite the fact that he's a small forward and Jackson is suspended.  So they traded a team leader, the longest tenured member of the team, and arguably the second most important player in their improbable run, for a guy who is NOT READY FOR THE NBA!  And everybody knew it.  Salary cap economics suck, that much is true.  But when you have the team together for 3 months, don't you owe it to the fans to keep it together for a season to see what happens?  Luxury tax be damned.
  • The Clippers caught a HUGE break in the schedule.  Stephen Jackson is serving a seven game suspension to begin the season.  The Clippers play the Warriors not once but TWICE during that suspension.  Not only is this a playoff team and therefore a tough game in theory - it's also a division rival.  So basically, with Richardson gone and Jackson suspended, the Clippers are catching the Warriors with two vital pieces missing from their playoff team, and hopefully before they have a chance to figure out what to do about it.  The bad news I guess is that the Warriors early schedule includes exclusively playoff teams in their first eight games with the exception of the two Clipper games.  So the Warriors are going to be pretty desperate to beat up on LA.
  • Coach MDsr is emphasizing rebounding to the point where Clipper players who miss box out assignments will have to do extra running in practice as punishment.  I agree that this is an area where the Clippers need a group effort, but one can only imagine what kind of shape Tim Thomas will be in by the end of the season.  Thomas has never gotten a rebound except by accident in his career as far as I can tell.
  • Interesting quote from Kobe Bryant in today's LA Times about the boos-to-cheers reception he got in Staples on Tuesday:
    It just felt good to hear them come back around later in the game.  That's the most important thing. They know. A smart fan can kind of read between the lines and can kind of decide for themselves what's really going on. I just let it be. I just want to go out there and play the game that I love to play.

    So which ones were the 'smart fans'?  The ones booing during introductions, or the ones chanting MVP less than a full game into the season?  Because neither one seems real 'smart' to me.