|November 21, 2008 - 4:00 PM
|TV: FSN Prime Ticket
The Big Picture:
I can't believe I'm even writing this preview. The way this day is going, but the time I actually post it Zach Randolph will be a Clipper, Elton Brand will be named Man of the Year by the Boy Scouts of America, and everything I say here will be proven indisputably incorrect. But I'm undeterred. In all of the 'will EB and MDsr talk?' and 'will Z-Bo be a Clipper?' talk, we seem to have forgotten that this is a pretty important game for the struggling Clippers. The team played really well for the last 27 minutes of their last game. Sure, it was against a pretty weak opponent, but it was nonetheless good to see. Can they bring any of that positive energy into tonight's game? Does the dynamic change if Cat Mobley and Tim Thomas are packing for New York? Or even if they're not? Baron Davis is in a nasty shooting slump, and it's hard to imagine the Clippers winning this game if he is outplayed by former Clipper Andre Miller. But if Baron can create on offense, even if he's still not on fire from the field, I think the Clippers can win this game. Kaman and Camby have been playing well, and are starting to develop some rapport on the court, and those two and Baron need to put together good games. Here's what the Clippers can't do: they can't fall behind early and let the Sixers starting running downhill. Philly is an energy team and if they start clicking, they are tough to beat.
The Sixers closed last season very strong, and then added an All Star power forward (whose name escapes me) in the off-season. Expectations were sky-high for the team, understandably so. So how's that going? Well, they've started 5-6 against a very soft schedule. In fact, the Clippers and Sixers have the same number of victories against 07-08 playoff teams (1), and the Clippers have fewer losses to teams with losing records last season (1 such loss for the Clippers, 2 for the Sixers). But just as the Clippers can use personnel changes as an excuse for a slow start, so can the Sixers. The better question may be whether their new power forward fits the style of play that was working for them at the end of last year: trapping on defense and running on offense. On paper so far, it appears to be a good news / bad news story for the Sixers. The good news: second year player Thaddeus Young is having a great start to his sophomore season, leading the team in scoring and shooting 52.5%. The bad news: they have a ton of money tied up in Andre Iguodala, Samuel Dalembert and some other guy, all of whom have had terrible starts shooting the ball.
- Matchups. There are interesting matchups all over the floor in this one. Power forward is interesting for obvious reasons. Although it's worth noting that Camby never defended Brand when he was at Denver. Center is interesting because (1) Dalembert was a precedent in determining Kaman's contract extension and (2) Kaman played very poorly in both Philly games last season. Point guard is interesting because it's Baron Davis, the latest great hope for the Clippers at the point, versus Andre Miller, a former great hope that was incredibly disappointing. And small forward is interesting because it features two second year players, averaging 15 or 16, both leading their team's in scoring. Young was drafted two spots ahead of Thornton, and the Clippers were supposedly very high on him as well.
- Iguodala. What the hell's wrong with Iggy? I actually don't know. Just saw today that he's shooting 38% from the field on the season. Ouch. That's almost as bad as Baron; worse in a way, when you consider that Iggy is ove 46% for his career.
- More to come. Apparently the Clippers have made some trade or other.
- Moving on. Rather than trying to make this preview coherent, I'm just going to add more bullets. Everything above this point was BZ (Before Z-Bo). Now we're in AZ time (After Z-Bo, not Arizona). The immediate impact of the trade on this game is that the Clippers' starting shooting guard is gone. I'm guessing that Ricky Davis will get the call, especially given Iggy's size - that's a tough matchup for Gordon. The Sixers like to play Lou Williams at the two some, and whenever that happens, MDsr will likely counter with Gordon immediately. But the 1 through the three just got really thin, for tonight and beyond. With Ricky picking up minutes at the two (and with him mired in a sub-30% shooting slump), does Novak get some minutes at the three? We're also likely to see Baron on the floor with Taylor or with Hart over the next few days.
- The loss of Tim Thomas. The Clippers are 2-9 on the season. But they are 1-0 without Thomas. Coincidence? Paul Davis got to guard EB in practice two years ago - he's going to get to do it again tonight.
- My take on the Sixers. If you have time (and why would you not? It's not like there's anything else happening), re-read what I wrote about the Sixers in September. Then read what Bill Simmons said about them (item 7 in his NBA season preview).
ClipperSteve: Let's look at the Sixers' 'Big Three.' The Sixers three highest paid players are Elton Brand, Andre Iguodala and Samuel Dalembert. And this will be true for many years barring a trade, as Dalembert is signed for three more seasons, and the wet ink on Brand and Iguodala's contracts says they run for five and six seasons respectively.
Elton Brand, Andre Iguodala and Samuel Dalembert is a 'Big Three?'
If Brand were number 2 in the Philly Big Three, this wouldn't really be a problem. But unfortunately for Sixer fans, Andre Iguodala would seem to have a very similar problem - he's a phenomenal athlete, he works hard every game, he does many things very well on the basketball court - and he's not particularly good at getting his own shot.
Sports Guy: In a league in which you're only as good as your best three guys, the 76ers are paying a second banana (Elton Brand) and a third banana (Andre Iguodala) first banana money, and they're paying a role player (Sam Dalembert) third banana money. In a league in which you need a proven crunch-time guy to battle the other proven crunch-time guys in the last three minutes of close games, they don't have a proven crunch-time guy. (And don't tell me it's Brand. I watched him for four years on the Clippers; he's not that type of player.)
So I ask you. Is Bill Simmons reading Clips Nation? He's Clippers season ticket holder, so it's possible. Bill? Are you out there? I like they way he worded it better, but he's kind of paraphrasing what I said in September, right? Of course, it may just be that great minds think alike. It's not that astounding of an insight, I suppose.