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Clippers vs. Hornets - Game Preview and Open Thread

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Lac1_70_medium
vs.
Noh_70_medium

2-11 7-5
Staples Center
November 24, 2008 - 7:30 PM
TV: FSN West
Probable starters:
Baron Davis PG Chris Paul
Ricky Davis? SG Morris Peterson
Al Thornton SF Peja Stojakovic
Marcus Camby PF David West
Chris Kaman C Tyson Chandler

The Big Picture:

The Clippers will play their first game with Zach Randolph tonight, but with so little practice time, who knows how it will go. While the trade of Cat Mobley and Tim Thomas for Randolph and Mardy Collins clearly gives the team an upgrade of top tier NBA talent, it just as clearly makes their front court very crowded while leaving a big hole at the shooting guard. Yes, there are lots of minutes for three big men and 30+ for each of them would theoretically be fine. And maybe they can actually play all three of them together some as MDsr maintains, although I'm dubious about that. But the simple fact is that having three bigs making $10M+ each is not usually a recipe for success. So we'll see. At the same time, the team was 2-9 at the time of the trade (they're 2-11 now after two short-handed losses), so what they were doing wasn't working and the Clippers are trying something different - which is reasonable. The trade asks a whole slew of new questions - we'll begin to find out the answers tonight.

The Antagonist:

The Hornets were Western Conference Semi-Finalists a season ago, and with a young and improving core - in particular MVP candidate Chris Paul - expectations are very high for this team. Viewed through that prism their 7-5 start has got to be considered a disappointment. You think we were disappointed around here to lose a home game to the Kings playing without Kevin Martin? How do you think Hornets fans felt when the same thing happened last week? (By the way, props to Reggie Theus for having that Kings team playing hard.) I always questoined the Hornets' depth last season, and it seems to be an ongoing issue. The off-season addition of James Posey helps - but wasn't that the one position where they already had some depth? With Mike James deep in Byron Scott's doghouse, the backup point guard is Devin Brown - not a point guard, in other words. The first big off the bench is Hilton Armstrong. And although hopes were very high for second year player Julian Wright coming into the season, he's actually averaging FEWER minutes in the first 12 games than he played as a 20 year old rookie. Byron does get down on guys who don't play his way - witness his J.R. Smith - but the Hornets really need to develop a bench if they expect to move deeper into the playoffs. Still, the starters are terrific. Paul and David West are coming off all star seasons. Peja Stojakovic can still shoot the three (although his overall percentage is actually lower than his three point percentage so far this season) and Tyson Chandler is a terrific defender and rebounder at the center. The two guard remains a little bit of a weak link, something the Clippers now know well. It doesn't help that Morris Peterson has missed the last couple of games with a sore knee, though he is supposed to be back tonight.

The Subplots

  • Boom Dizzle and CP3. In the Q&A I did with At the Hive earlier today, they reminded me about some nasty battles between Baron Davis and Chris Paul in the past. Maybe Baron is just pissed at his former team. Maybe it's something else. But look for some fireworks between these two elite point guards.
    Defending the Screen and Roll. Yikes. Camby doesn't really thrive showing on the screen and roll. Kaman's not bad, but it's not an ideal situation for him either. And good defensive rotations tend to require a lot of team practice and togetherness - not really the 2008-2009 Clippers profile. So we could see a whole lot of Tyson Chandler dunking lobs and David West drilling wide open 17 footers on the pick-and-pop. CP3 could get 20 assists. And if all that happens, it won't end well for the Clippers.
    Zach Randolph. Who knows what's going to happen with this? The guy's a monster on offense. And his best play (which also happens to be a favorite of MDsr) is 'Gimme the ball.' So how much practice time do they need for that?
    Shooting Guard. Ricky Davis is 2 for 14 in his two starts at the shooting guard - he managed to be worse than he had been earlier in the season, which was not easy. Eric Gordon hasn't been nearly as bad as Buckets, but he's looked very much like the talented 19 year old rookie he is, replete with rookie mistakes. The good news is that with either Peterson or Rasual Butler on the other side, the defensive assignment is pretty straightforward - defend the three point line. So maybe it's an opportunity to start the rookie without fear of getting lit up. And no, Mardy Collins is not the answer.
  • Shots for Kaman. Today's LA Times talks about the need to get Chris Kaman more shots. That's a combination of things - more touches for the guy, and more willingness to shoot on his part. Of course, his problem is his tendency to overthink things, and talking about the problem isn't really going to help there.
  • Coaching Changes. Worst record in the league - Thunder. Coach PJ Carlesimo - fired. Second worst record in the league - Wizards. Coach Eddie Jordan - fired. Third worst record in the league - Clippers. MDsr isn't likely going anywhere, for several reasons. Donald Sterling still owes him real money, which is not something he usually parts with easily. The fact that MDsr was made the GM about a month ago only complicates things further. But it's worth noting that no one expected anything from the Thunder, and the Wizards are missing their franchise player, which was MDsr's 'Get out of Jail Free' card last season. The Clippers on the other hand had fairly high, if possibly unrealistic, expectations. So in a normal world, MDsr's seat would be very, very hot, if not already in flames. But Clips Nation is not a normal world. GM Dunleavy is no doubt convinced that Coach Dunleavy just needs some time to work with his new personnel before the team turns their season around. We'll see.