Ten days ago, the Clippers were considering giving Cuttino Mobley time off to allow his strained groin muscle to fully heal. At the time, it seemed like a difficult but prudent decision to get Cat back to the level at which he started the season. Of course, it also seemed a little late, since Cat had already played three games on his injury, limping up and down the court. But instead of resting at that point, he played 147 minutes in 4 games in 6 days - by FAR the most grueling stretch of his season so far. And what do the Clippers have to show for it? One win against Denver - true, a win they likely would not have gotten without Cat, whose 14 points, 5 assists and tough defense were instrumental - but at what cost?
Before his injury, Mobley started the season white hot and nasty. In the first 3+ games, he was 31 for 50 (62%) and 5 for 11 (45%) from three. That's a ridiculous eFG of 68%. He sat out two games, and since his return, he has shot 24 for 67 - an equally ridiculous 36%. He's 5 for 18 from three since his return. Turns out you need your legs to shoot.
When he played 46 minutes against the Hornets last Saturday, I thought that he must have been declared 100% by trainer Jasen Powell (I did not see that game, so I don't know how he looked). Why would anyone play 46 minutes if they were injured? The fact that he was 5 for 15 and 1 for 5 on his threes in that game had to be just one of those things - a bad game, no big deal. But here we are, 4 days later, and Mobley is sitting out practice.
This would all be a little less disturbing if not for a couple things.
- In his first two seasons with the Clippers, Mobley was a much less aggressive offensive player than he had been previously in his career. His scoring average, shots per game, three point attempts - basically every offensive category was at a per minute career low. But for three games this season, he was an aggressive, go to scorer, which, it just so happens, the Clippers desperately need right now. So we've seen the killer Cat - and now we are once again stuck with the pussy Cat. The really galling part? The main thing that Cat cited for his early season success was his health. He felt better than he had in a long time. No lingering injuries. That's why he was back.
- This team and its coach spent a LOT of time making a LOT of excuses for the disappointing, underachieving 06-07 season. Moscow traffic was being brought up four months into the season. Give me a break. Let's not use Cat's adductor as an excuse for the rest of this season. If he has to sit out a few games to eliminate that excuse, then PLEASE do so. I just can't take the whining.
Still, 46 minutes against New Orleans? When Thornton only played 14? And Ross was in the game for 36 minutes guarding Chris Paul, so we're talking about defending Mo Peterson or Peja Stojakovic - surely Al can do that. "See that guy? Don't let him shoot. He can't drive or really move for that matter. Just don't let him shoot."
(It's all more than a little hypocritical of MDsr. He's said in the past that if you don't practice you don't play. Apparently this rule doesn't apply to Cassell and Mobley. I think it's a silly rule - it certainly shouldn't apply to a guy like Cassell. But don't say it if it's not true.)
Just to be clear, I'm not in the 'tank the season' camp. It's hard to get on board with that strategy if you fancy yourself a purist, and besides, it rarely works. Minnesota, Seattle, Sacramento, Portland, Philadelphia, New York, Charlotte - there are some pretty bad teams out there, and you'd have to go pretty far into the tank to finish below many of them. Then you could still end up like Memphis, Boston and Milwaukee - dropping three places based on the ping pong balls. Better to play hard and see what happens - if you end up with the 14th pick again, so be it. At least you have your dignity.
But playing Cuttino Mobley when he's so far away from 100% seems to be the worst of both worlds. You're desperately trying to eke out a couple wins (unsuccessfully), to the detriment of the season's long term prospects since Mobley will take significantly longer to heal, while letting Al Thornton collect dust on the bench (Thornton couldn't guard Shane Battier? Really?) That gives you no wins now, fewer wins later, and no development of young talent. With a series of five very winnable games starting on Sunday (Indiana, Milwaukee, at Seattle, at Sacramento, Miami) we'll see just how much this ill-advised strategy has cost the team. It's highly unlikely Cat will be 100% for those games, yet he would have been if he'd been resting during this 2-7 (probable 2-8) stretch. How many will they win with Cat hurting? How many would they have won?
If he's hurt, let him rest. Put the Blanket down. Even Linus had to cope on laundry day.