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Clippers - Celtics Preview

With a win tonight, the Clippers can move two games above .500 for the first time since Nov. 22, when they were 6-4.  The opponent is more than likely to oblige.  Since superstar Paul Pierce shut down his injured left foot on Dec. 21, the Celtics have been the worst team in the NBA by a wide margin.  They are 2-19 in that time.  They have yet to win a home game without Pierce, losing 10 straight.  The fact that this is a home game is not really an advantage.  The Celtics have a significantly worse home record (4-18) than their abysmal road record (8-15).  Their home record would be tied for the worst road record in the NBA with Seattle, if only they didn't live in Boston.  The current 13 game losing streak ties a record for this storied franchise.  In fact, one might worry that this is a dangerous game for the Clippers as the Celtics will be desperate to avoid the ignominy of an all time futility mark - but who are we kidding?  These guys stink.  The Clippers crushed them in Staples Center back in December.

Ross goes up among the Celtics Kids
Quinton Ross
                                           © Henry Chen, all rights reserved
The Celtics entered the season with Pierce, former All Stars Wally Szczerbiak and Theo Ratliff and about 100 promising players under the age of 25.  At the time the problem seemed to be finding enough minutes to figure out which of the youngsters were worth keeping and developing.  Szczerbiak has missed 18 games, Pierce 21 and counting, Ratliff is out for the season, and even Brian Scalabrine has missed 10 games.  So as it happens there have been plenty of minutes for the kids (actually, there are 10 of them - I was exaggerating when I said 100.)  The injuries left the Celtics on several occasions with Michael Olowokandi as the lone veteran in uniform.  And as we know, Kandi is not really the guy to show the youngsters how hard work and discipline help you succeed in the NBA.

Boston has 8 players under 25 averaging 17 or more minutes per game.  Actually, that's not true.  Tony Allen turned 25 on January 11, but he was lost for the season when he tore knee ligaments on January 10.  I kid you not.  He was lost for the season the day before he turned 25.  It's like Logan's Run
 at Logan Airport.  They should have Jenny Agutter sing the National Anthem.  The fact that Allen had led the team in scoring in 7 of the 10 games between when Pierce went down and when he was lost just adds insult to... to... well it adds it to something.  If you're curious, the next Celtic player to turn 25 is Ryan Gomes, on Sept. 1.  I foresee some sort of boating accident on Labor Day.

As young players go, they've got some talent.  Gerald Green is a highlight reel dunker with one of the most beautiful shooting strokes in basketball and is shooting over 39% on his threes.  Al Jefferson is a rebounding machine, currently 10th in the league at 10.6 rebounds per game.  Ryan Gomes can score and rebound in the low post.  They've got some pieces.

But it's just not enough.  With Sebastian Telfair nosing out Shaun Livingston for 'Most Disappointing HS to NBA Point Guard from the 2004 Draft', and not nearly enough scoring or defense, this team is not going anywhere any time soon, with or without Paul Pierce.  

It will be interesting to see what they do this summer.  They should get a good draft pick in a great draft, but as it happens they're the last team that needs more young players.  Moving Pierce and some of the current crop of kids for a mix of veteran role players, to then put around Green and Jefferson and maybe Oden would seem to be their best option.  

But that's for next year.  For this year, it's all about developing the youngsters.  Oh and setting franchise records for futility.

The Clippers had better not lose this game