|Jan. 30, 2008 - 7:30 PM|
|Sam Cassell||PG||Anthony Johnson|
|Cuttino Mobley||SG||Joe Johnson|
|Quinton Ross||SF||Marvin Williams|
|Tim Thomas||PF||Josh Smith|
|Josh Powell||C||Al Horford|
Here's my plan for tonight's game. If Chris Kaman, Corey Maggette and Al Thornton are scratches (Kaman and Maggette are still battling the flu, while Thornton was in the hospital with a stomach virus yesterday), I'm sticking with the Cavs and Blazers on ESPN. Out of the eight Clippers expected to be in uniform, whom exactly do I want to watch? Dan Dickau is probably the most entertaining player on the team after Sam Cassell, and point guard is suddenly the one position where the Clippers are deep (three of the eight are points) so Dickau doesn't figure to get a lot of minutes. I'll Tivo it and watch it later to see the Hawks. If Kaman and Maggette can play, then it gets interesting.
The Hawks have the seventh best record in the Eastern Conference. I'm not kidding. Really, stop laughing. Sure, they're five games below .500, with a worse record than Sacramento. Sure, they'd be 12th in the West, which coincidentally is what the Clippers are. But, they're seventh in the 'parity through mediocrity' East. They have no center to speak of. They have no point guard to speak of. They do have a whole bunch of pretty good wing players. Their four leading scorers are all around 6'8", around 230. They're all pure wings, although Josh Smith plays power forward for them (or is it Marvin Williams?) and Joe Johnson handles the ball a lot out of necessity. Rookie Al Horford is actually doing a pretty good job for them at center, though he should be playing power forward. And rookie Acie Law might be able to help at the point guard eventually. But poor Marvin Williams, despite having a really good third season, continues to suffer from being neither Chris Paul nor Deron Williams. And Sheldon Williams and Zaza Pachulia both fall into the category of 'under 25 center on whom a team in desperate need of a center has given up completely' (an unwieldy category, but a category nonetheless). On the plus side, Johnson is really good, Williams as I mentioned is playing better, and Josh Smith is arguably the best athlete in the league and a statistical monster.
- Skeleton crew 2. It's not actually a horror movie, but it feels like one. After 9 Clippers lost to the Hornets Monday, it's entirely possible that 8 Clippers will lose to the Hawks tonight. If K2 and Maggette are unable to play, the 5 30-somethings on the floor for the Clippers will mail this one in. On the plus side, Josh Powell will be gaining valuable experience for his future with the Clippers - which by all rights should involve a lot of sitting behind the bench wearing a suit on the inactive list.
- Staples Center - where the East goes for a Win. Browsing through the worst road records in the putrid Eastern Conference, you start to notice a pattern. Miami, 4 road wins. Charlotte, 4 road wins. Milwaukee, 5 road wins. All of them beat the Clippers in Staples Center. Atlanta is 6 and 14 this season on the road. That's really, really sad. The Clippers' .317 winning percentage would be .390 if they could simply win home games against teams that the entire league beats. Of course, it's that extra effort to lose games that gets you those ping pong balls. Anyone can lose to Dallas.
- Future Free Agent? I never posted a real 'Fix the Clips' entry, did I? Part of the problem is that between the 15 entries received, most of my more intriguing ideas were taken. For instance, I like the idea of trading for JJ Redick, but someone else came up with that idea also. Anyway, one approach is to let Corey opt out and use the money under the luxury tax to target a free agent up to the mid level exception (the Clippers have little hope of clearing the space to offer more than the MLE). Josh Childress is pretty much the first and last name on that list for me. You could pay less for less established players (Gerald Green, anyone?). But Childress would be a great fit for the Clippers, could move right into the starting small forward spot vacated by Maggette, and MIGHT (just might) be available for the MLE. Few teams will be able to offer more. Few teams will be able to offer him the starting job. And Atlanta might not match, given that they have to pony up for Smith this summer, and Marvin Williams the next summer. Plus, all they got is wings. Conversely, you could try to interest the Hawks in a trade before the deadline.
- The Atlanta Aliases. Apropos to nothing, I was looking at the Atlanta roster and couldn't help noticing how many standard issue surnames they have on this team. They start two Johnsons, a Smith and a Williams, and they have another Williams and a Jones on the bench. Are they playing basketball or checking into a disreputable hotel? They need to get rid of Pachulia and Stoudamire - those guys just don't fit in. In a semi-related note, this game will likely make NBA history as the first time three Josh's play at the same time (Smith, Childress and Powell).
- Defenseless. Without K2 in the lineup, the Clippers have allowed 125 and 107 points and an effective field goal percentage over 60%. Is that all attributable to Kaman's absence? Certainly not. Sometimes your opponent gets hot. But the absence of a shot blocker at the rim makes a big difference. It's not just the 3 blocks a game he averages - he's altering and intimidating many more shots as well. There's also the distinct possibility that perimeter defenders are less likely to get up on shooters without a backstop behind them. They're working without a net out there. I happen to think that a large part of the defensive debacle of late is due to a lack of interest - Tim Thomas and Sam Cassell were never what you would consider great defenders, but they've also been around long enough to know that these games are pretty meaningless at this point. But that mountain K2 has been a big part of the Clippers solid defense this season, and his absence has hurt.