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Clippers vs. Sonics - Game Preview and Open Thread

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LA Clippers logo
vs.
SuperSonics logo
1-0 0-2
Staples Center
Nov. 4, 2007 - 12:30 PM
Probable starters:
Sam Cassell PG Earl Watkins
Quinton Ross SG Damien Wilkins
Corey Maggette SF Kevin Durant
Tim Thomas PF Chris Wilcox
Chris Kaman C Nick Collison
The Big Picture:  

The Clippers get their first up close look at phenom Kevin Durant today.  It's a second home game against a beatable opponent to begin the season, and with a road trip starting in Chicago on Tuesday, they need to take care of business.  There's plenty of potential on this team with the arrival of Durant and Jeff Green, but even so, this is a rare game for the Generic Clippers (No Brand) - one they actually SHOULD win.  Of course, Seattle is 0-2 after opening the season against arguably the two playoff teams from last season; this game will probably feel like a vacation for them after Denver and Phoenix.

The Opposition:  

The SuperSonics have a lot to look forward to, even if fans in Seattle don't.  Kevin Durant is at least as good as advertised - there has certainly never been a 19-year-old this smooth.  And the team will be way under the salary cap in a couple summers, looking to put a big name free agent or two with their prize youngster.  The opportunity to play with Durant will probably be a draw for future free agents - the opportunity to live in Oklahoma, perhaps less so.  I've been dubious that the team could do much this season - Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis combined for almost half their points last season after all.  But after watching Durant the other day, I may change my mind.

Still, this team has issues.  Who's the point guard?  The tough defender Earl Watson?  The clever passer Luke Ridnour?  The smooth scorer Delonte West?  Who's the center?  The hard-nosed Nick Collison (really a power forward)?  Or one of the three projects they've drafted in the first round of each of the last three drafts (the injured Robert Swift, Johan Petro and Saer Sene?  One gets the impression that good things are coming for this team, with erstwhile Spurs PJ Carlesimo and Sam Presti forming the new braintrust.  But it's at least a three year plan... right?

The Subplots

  • The Rookie of the Year.  Barring an injury, you can engrave the trophy now.  Still, Al Thornton hopes to join Durant on the All-Rookie team, even if he won't be getting any actual ROY votes.  Based on the pre-season, these are two rookies that will have both the skills and the opportunity to contribute this season.

  • Chris Kaman, monster.  For the second time in two games, Kaman goes up against a font line he SHOULD dominate.  Nick Collison is 6'9".  Petro and Sene are both 21.  There's no reason to think that anyone on Seattle's roster can handle Kaman in single coverage.

  • Sam Cassell gets the matchup he wants.  It was hard for Cassell to stay on the floor against the Warriors, with Baron Davis and Monta Ellis out there the whole time.  Earl Watson is more like it.  It's less of a problem on the defensive end, and though Watson is strong, he's only 6'1", and Sam loves to post up smaller point guards.  Ridnour is even worse, though West might have a chance.  Look for Sam to have a big game on offense.

  • Who guards the freak?  I assume that Dunleavy will again start Quinton Ross and bring Cat Mobley off the bench.  I also assume that Ross will draw the unenviable task of guarding the 6'9" Durant.  It's actually a great assignment for Q - Durant's game is currently mostly on the perimeter where the size disadvantage won't hurt Q too much.  I'm looking forward to seeing what happens.

  • Who steps up for the Clippers?  I have Kaman and Cassell having big games.  Mobley and Thomas each went for 20+ against the Warriors.  Maggette is going to go off at some point.  And Thornton's certainly going to want to do well in his matchup with Durant.  In the Clippers scoring-by-committee approach, whose turn is it?