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Bobcats 107 - Clippers 100

Some of you have been wondering why no recap of this game.  Have I been too busy conducting phone interviews with the national media?  Or was the whole 'swept by Charlotte' thing just too painful?  Really, it's neither of those things (although the game certainly was painful to watch).  

I had plenty of time to write a recap yesterday, but I just didn't do it, and I wasn't really sure why.  Then as I was reading some of the comments on ClipperBlog I realized what was going on.  Let me explain.

There were several comments on the game thread along the lines of "After that game, I'm not going to renew my season tickets" and "I heard a lot of people saying they weren't going to renew their season tickets."  And then it hit me.  Writing a recap of that game is pretty much pointless, just as making a decision regarding next season based on that game is absurd.

The Clippers had 9 players in uniform.  Of those, two are in their late thirties and in the final year of their contracts, and are highly unlikely to be on the Clippers roster in a month, let alone next season (Sam Cassell and Aaron Williams).  Two more would not be on the active list if all 14 current Clippers were healthy enough to play (Josh Powell and Dan Dickau) and if in fact they are on the roster next season, they certainly are not expected to be in the rotation (please FSM, don't let Powell be in the rotation).  Of the other five, three of them are in their 30's and are each at least 10 year vets.  That gives them a 'been there, done that' air and the fatalism to understand that one more loss in a lost season is no big deal.  Sure, they are pros and they know how to score (hence Thomas' 29 points).  But defense is hard work, and it's a long season, and the team's not making the playoffs, and they're playing short handed, and they've got a long road trip coming up, so let's not get all crazy with the hustle here.

Sometimes short-handed games like these can be a lot of fun for the fans.  Maybe you get to see some young prospect who hasn't been getting minutes.  Maybe you field a team consisting of a savvy vet surrounded by 4 young guys desperate to earn some playing time even after the injuries clear up.  When the Warriors had 7 healthy players for a game against the Clippers last January, it was Baron Davis and Matt Barnes and five guys under 25; three of them weren't old enough to drink at the time; three of them had been in the D-league earlier in the week.  And let's face it, although Barnes was 26 and had been in the league for awhile, he wasn't that far removed from the D-league himself.  That's a fun team to watch, even if in the end they don't have much of a chance to win a game.  Those guys are going to work their asses off.

What a difference, right?  Three guys under 21 and Baron was the oldest player on the court for the Dubs at 27.  By contrast, 5 of the 9 Clippers in uniform were over 30 and Dickau is 29.  And let's face it, while Ross is going to play hard every chance he gets, he's pretty much a known quantity after being a starter for the better part of three seasons.  So in the end, even from a 'let's see what this guy can do' standpoint, there were only two Clippers worth watching - Al Thornton (6 fouls in 19 minutes) and Josh Powell (if I never see them run another play for Josh Powell it will be too soon).  So that was fun.

By the way, there's an interesting statistical analysis of Team Age and Team Success by Tom Ziller on BallHype right now (hat tip to TrueHoop).  The Clippers and the Heat live squarely in the Quandrant of the Hopeless, characterized by a very old roster that is very bad.  It's not a nice neighborhood.

By the other way, Thornton's game Monday is a good example of where per minute measurements break down.  Obviously a player's court time is going to have a huge impact on his productivity, so it has to be taken into consideration.  But here we have a game that probably looks great for Al from a PER standpoint (over 16 points and 10 assists per 40 minutes, solid shooting percentage, fairly low turnovers).  But he had a horrible game, because he wasn't on the court, and the Clippers needed him on the court.  In that regard, K2 deserves a lot of credit for staying out of foul trouble this season and staying on the court.  

Getting back to the original point, why would a season ticket holder make a decision about 2008-2009 based on that game?  The Clippers had $40M of next season's payroll out of action (and their lottery pick hampered by foul trouble).  80% of the starting lineup was not represented.  Did they play well?  Absolutely not - they were brutal to watch.  But the team on the floor bears little resemblance to the team you're likely to see next season.  And lest you forget, next year's season tickets will be for NEXT SEASON'S GAMES.  

Look, I don't have season tickets.  I have a wife and kids, and they like me around, and it just doesn't make sense for me.  So I'm not telling anyone what to do with their money.  If you don't want season tickets, don't buy them.  But basing the decision on that game would be silly.  Surely we all believe that the team we saw Monday compared to the 08-09 Clippers is apples and oranges, if not apples and helicopters.  

About the game.  Yuck.  How do you shoot a season-high 55% and lose to Charlotte?  By letting them shoot 57%.  For the second consecutive game, the Clippers allowed an opponent to shoot over 60% (62% to be exact) in eFG%.  Forget the All Star Game and the Most Improved Player race.  How about Defensive Player of the Year for K2?  The Clippers have gone from an above average defensive team with him to horrifically bad without him. How many uncontested layups did Charlotte get?  In t course of the game the Clippers stopped exactly nobody.  Of the eight Bobcats who played more than 3 minutes, 7 of them scored in double figures and Matt Carroll scored 8.  Derek Anderson scored 10 straight points in the first 150 seconds of the second quarter - and he hadn't scored 10 points in a game this season.

Deep breath.

It was an ugly, ugly game.  The Bobcats were almost as bad defensively as the Clippers.  But there's no point in dwelling on it.  And it shouldn't factor into your season ticket renewal decision process.

Last thing - a shout out to Barry's Tickets for hooking me up with great seats for the game.  Just my luck, I see the ugliest game of the year from the best seats I've ever had.