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Clippers at Knicks - Game Preview and Open Thread

LA Clippers logo
Knicks logo
14-30 14-33
Madison Square Garden
Feb. 4, 2008 - 4:30 PM
Probable starters:
Sam Cassell PG Nate Robinson
Cat Mobley SG Jamal Crawford
Al Thornton SF Quentin Richardson
Tim Thomas PF Zach Randolph
Josh Powell C Eddy Curry
The Big Picture:

There will be an NBA game this evening between the Los Angeles Clippers and the New York Knickerbockers in Madison Square Garden.  If you were unaware of that fact, it would hardly be surprising.  You see, the other NBA team in LA, a certain intermittent dynasty called the Lakers, just pulled off the single most one-sided trade in NBA history (it was almost literally one-sided in straight basketball terms) and that has grabbed a fair amount of attention.  Meanwhile, you may or may not have heard that the Super Bowl was yesterday, and apparently there was a team from New York in that.  I may not have this right, but it seems that maybe this New York team beat another team that was favored to win.  Anyway, I guess it's some sort of a big deal if you're into that.  So if no one shows up at the Garden tonight, they just couldn't get there because of the parades.  It's too bad because this is a HUGE game - the loser takes over sole possession of 26th place in the 'Race to the Ping Pong Balls'.

The Antagonist:

What is there to say about the Knicks that hasn't already been said?  As it happens, they no longer have the biggest payroll in the NBA - that distinction now belongs to the Mavericks.  Of course, the Mavs have won 31 games this season while the Knicks have won 14.  Astoundingly, the Knicks are no longer paying the most for every win.  I really thought that distinction would belong to the Knicks for my lifetime, but the Heat, with a payroll of $72.5M and 9 wins have paid over $8M for each win this season, while the Knicks have paid a mere $6.35M per win.  So all the trends are very positive for Isiah right now.  On the court, the Knicks are as dysfunctional as ever.  Stephon Marbury, owner of the second most lucrative contract in basketball, is out indefinitely after ankle surgery, and may well have played his last game for New York.  The Zach Randolph experiment has been a complete disaster, at least from the standpoint of Eddy Curry, who averaged 19.5 points per game last season and is averaging less than 14 now.  Beyond the young players on their rookie deals (David Lee, Nate Robinson, Renaldo Balkman), only Jamal Crawford is within shouting distance of earning his salary on this team.  And he's shooting 41% from the field, so that tells you how overpaid the other Knicks are.

The Subplots

  • A relief pitcher.  The Clippers have played four consecutive games with a baseball team of nine players, losing three of them, two in embarrassing fashion.  Corey Maggette, who did not travel with the team for the first two legs of this road trip, is in New York and is listed as probable for this game.  Chris Kaman has been with the team but has not played in five games and is listed as questionable.  It's too bad - Curry has little or no interest in playing defense, and K2 could have a big game against these guys if he plays.  Without K2, the Clippers low post attack is limited to Cassell and Mobley posting up smaller guards (look for Cassell to abuse Nate Robinson tonight).  To be fair, Tim Thomas has played much better around the basket of late as well.  But as for a true post up player, forget it.  Josh Powell and Aaron Williams are limited on offense, and that's being kind.  The Knicks have also been hit by the flu bug, with Eddy Curry missing the last two games and other players feeling it as well.  But Curry is expected to play tonight.
  • Rebounding.  In the first meeting between these two teams, the Clippers barely pulled out a three point win in Staples Center.  In that game, the Knicks grabbed 59 rebounds to the Clippers' 46.  18 of those were on the offensive end, and that was with Kaman pulling down 18 himself.  In other words, if K2 doesn't play, this could get ugly, like the second half in Cleveland on Saturday.  Randolph and Curry are BIG, and while Curry is not what you would call a good rebounder (or even adequate for that matter), if you don't put a body on him, he will get a few.  If the Clippers hold their own on the boards tonight, they will have a chance to win.
  • A Sweep of the Metro Area?  The Clippers will not sweep many teams this season.  They already have the Nets, the only one so far, and tonight they have a chance to sweep the Knicks, making it a clean sweep of the NY/NJ metro area.  It's not much, but it's something.  I heart NY.
  • Bad Blood Between the Coaches?  When MDsr was mouthing off to TJ Simers two weeks ago, his tirade included the following statement: "I would only make deals to help our future - anything else is suicide. Anything else and you become the New York Knicks."  Now me, I just kind of accepted that.  Seems like a common sense statement, shorthand for a bad situation that you want to avoid.  But I guess Isiah took offense.  (Can he really afford to be thin-skinned at this point?)  Anyhoo, MDsr apparently apologized, saying that he was talking about Dave Checketts, not Isiah (yeah, right), and everything is cool now.  Glad we got that cleared up.
  • Home and Garden.  The Knicks just completed a 0-5 Western Conference road trip.  The Clippers have begun their 7 game Eastern trip 0-2.  The Knicks would love to stop their losing streak with a home win where they are 10-14 on the season.  Bad teams can't win on the road.  Both of these are bad teams right now.  So put your money on the Knicks.
  • The Tim Thomas Reunion Tour.  Starting tonight, 3 of the next 5 games are against the teams where Tim Thomas began his NBA career, Philadelphia, Milwaukee and New York.  In fact, Tim plays a prominent role in the Isiah-Knicks train wreck.  He came to the Knicks from Milwaukee in the second major move of the Isiah era (the seeds of disaster had been sewn in the first deal for Marbury).  And 20 months after acquiring Thomas, Isiah sent him to Chicago in the calamitous trade that brought Curry to the Knicks; it would not have been so bad had Thomas not also sent two lottery picks to the Bulls.  Will Thomas have something to prove against his former teams over the next 8 days?  Frankly, he doesn't really strike me as that type of guy.  We'll see.