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Hollinger on Thornton and Baron

When Citizen edu_argentina posted a FanShot last week pointing out some of John Hollinger's overly pessimistic analysis concerning the Clippers, I said that I was actively ignoring him.  Well, I lied.  It irritates me, and I have a few things to say about it.

First of all, for a guy who is supposedly data-driven, we've long suspected that he nonetheless takes the simplistic and decidedly unscientific  "it's the Clippers" angle to arrive at his conclusions.  Well, I for one never thought that he'd just openly admit it.  He's got Baron Davis ranked as the ninth best point guard in the NBA, with a drop off in production from last season.  He also hints at a "Clipper tragedy."  Now, I think there are several reasons that one could cite to explain the potential for a decline in Baron Davis this season.  For one thing, most statistical measures, and PER is no exception, reward offensive play, even when adjusted for the pace of the game.  So the simple fact that he's moved from the Warriors to the Clippers could account for a statistical drop off.  You could even make the less clear cut argument that his effectiveness would be reduced on a less free-wheeling team.  And you can explain your pessimism simply by pointing to Baron's age and saying he's due to lose a step.  Hollinger hints at all of that, but he goes a step further (emphasis added):

Throw in that he's 29 and has a history of injuries, that this is the Clippers, and that he joined the squad mainly for non-basketball reasons, and this one has the makings of a classic Clipper tragedy. While the Clips got the best player available in free agency once Elton Brand opted out, this marriage seems doomed from the start.

'This is the Clippers?'  Well, there you go.  Nice analysis there, John.  Rock solid.  I'm also fascinated by this 'non-basketball reasons' thing, as if Baron Davis is going to skip a bunch of games this season while he's attending movie premieres.  The irony of course is that Elton Brand chose Philadelphia over LA in large part because it is closer to his home and his family - for 'non-basketball reasons' if you will.  Has anyone fretted over him having a poor season because he'll be too busy at picnics and reunions?  Quite the contrary - the conventional wisdom on Brand is that he made a decision that will make him happier and more comfortable in his personal life, and that in turn will reflect as higher productivity as a player.  Which is in fact the most logical analysis.  A happy player is a productive player.  Why that same, simple, obvious, conclusion doesn't apply to Baron Davis is beyond me.

As for Thornton, we've touched on Hollinger's seeming blind spot for the guy in the past.  He prediced he'd be a bust, and he seems determined to prove his prediction correct, at least anywhere that he's allowed to write.  Never mind that he was first team all rookie.  He's a bust, because Hollinger says he is.  Any forward-looking analysis attempting to predict the performance of a second year player would take several obvious factors into consideration.  For instance, Thornton played much better in the second half of his rookie season than in the first half.  That bodes well for year two, right?  Also, Al was playing out of position at the power forward last year, but will play his natural NBA position this season.  So that's good too, right?  And it's insincere to fault Thornton for forcing shots without pointing out how little help he had last season.  I agree that Al needs to play more under control, take better shots, and pass more.  But that was barely an option last season, as there was rarely anyone to pass to.  An improved cast of characters around him should improve his efficiency.

Sure, Hollinger hits on his old-favorite, that Thornton is old for a rookie.  Whatever.  And he needs to be more consistent and more efficient, which by the way, is true of every second year player, including Kevin Durant.  Isn't that yet another obvious thing that will simply improve with NBA experience?  But his Thornton bashing agenda seems to be betrayed by not one but two references to a penchant for goal tending: 

...he made some of the worst goaltending violations I've ever seen..... Thornton ... had a bad habit of goaltending shots that were abundantly, clearly on their way down.

This is one of the 'holes' in Thornton's game?  Fascinating.

Now, let's take a guess as to who watched more Clippers games last season, John Hollinger or ClipperSteve.  I'm guessing it was me.  A bad habit of goaltending?  Really?  I totally missed that.  I watched almost every minute of every game.  And then I wrote recaps.  I tend to harp on little things - basketball IQ things.  But when you search Clips Nation for 'Thornton' and 'goaltend' you find one occurrence - I pointed out a dumb goaltend in a game in Orlando last season.

Now, that doesn't prove that it didn't happen more.  But I ask you Citizens - did Al Thornton have a bad habit of goaltending?  If you actually watched Clippers basketball last season, you know that he had some bad habits, including a tendency to foul three point shooters.  In all the thousands and thousands of words on this blog about last season, there's one reference to a Thornton goaltend.  Nothing in the comments.  Nothing in the FanPosts.  I mentioned it once, and no one else mentioned it ever.  Yet Hollinger feels like it's important enough and noticeable enough to bring it up in his preview of the guy - twice.

Because, you know, older rookies have a bad habit of goaltending.