|The Rose Garden
|Mar. 21, 2008 - 7:00 PM
The Clippers have lost 13 of their last 15 and 5 straight. With a home-and-home tonight and tomorrow against Portland followed by road games against the Mavs, Spurs and Jazz, this will be a 10 game losing streak before you know it if they don't take one from the Blazers. If Chris Kaman can play, it increases the Clippers changes significantly. It's not just that he's one of the Clippers' best options. He also puts Nate McMillan into a tough spot, since Kaman would have a significant advantage against LaMarcus Aldridge or Channing Frye and might force the Blazers to stick with Joel Przybilla, whose not much of a threat on offense. Without Kaman, the Clippers don't have a clear advantage anywhere. Maggette and Thornton can each win their individual matchups - but it is unlikely to be enough. For the Clippers to have a chance, someone else is going to have to play well. Maybe Cat Mobley can come up with a big game... or maybe it will be Dan Dickau back in his home town against his former team... or maybe Smush Parker can find his legs. But offense is going to have to come from an unexpected source for the Clippers to have a chance.
There are so many great stories in the NBA this season. Houston's 22 game win streak even without Yao. The New Orleans Hornets at the top of the Western Conference. All the huge trades. But through all of that, you could make an argument that the Blazers are the best story. They got rid of last season's leading scorer and rebounder Zach Randolph in June in a classic addition by subtraction move. But when number 1 overall pick Greg Oden had season-ending knee surgery, it seemed that the present might be pretty bleak, even if the future was bright. But a 13 game winning streak (and 17 wins in 18 games) made it clear that the present is actually plenty bright, and the future is neon. Brandon Roy is far and away the best rookie from his draft, and his closest competition is probably LaMarcus Aldridge. A couple of draft picks that looked dubious (Travis Outlaw and Martell Webster) have begun to pay dividends, and all of their role players have been solid. As you might expect from such a young team, the Blazers have been particularly solid on their home floor - 23-10 so far. So this could be a long night for the Clippers in the Rose City.
- The Bet. Dave from Blazer's Edge is one of my absolute favorite bloggers. Not only is he a tremendous writer (as the popularity of his blog clearly attests), but he's a really good guy as well. Unlike the big media outlets who have dismissed the Clippers as simply hapless based on their reputation, Dave gets it. Check out his preview of the weekend matchups - he's got a real good handle on the future prospects for the Clippers, despite their 21-46 record this season. Anyhoo, Dave and his readers have a bet for us. If the Blazers don't sweep the two games, they have to make up a song about the Clippers and/or ClipsNation. (Apparently it's a 'thing' with them.) If they do sweep, we have to do the same for the Blazers/Blazer's Edge. So they nicely gave us some odds - we only have to win one. But you might want to start coming up with rhymes for 'Przybilla', just in case.
- Probable Starters. What are probable starters when you're talking about the Clippers? The words have lost all meaning. I believe the team has used 97 different starting lineups this season, which is not easy given that they've played 67 games. Basically, I'm pretty sure Corey Maggette will start at small forward (although his knees have been hurting); every other position is a guess. When I started this format for game previews this season, I had no idea that I'd be changing the probable starters EVERY GAME! It's only a matter of time before Smush gets a start.
- Point Guard Shopping. The Blazers have 4 players (Brandon Roy, Steve Blake, Jarrett Jack and Sergio Rodriguez) that would probably start for the Clippers at point guard right now. Hardly seems fair. Jack absolutely killed the Clippers in the last meeting in LA, winning the game in the fourth quarter. Roy is not a point guard per se, but usually ends up playing the point on every key possession. Blake is their current starter. And Rodriguez may be the most talented (of the pure points - not counting Roy). If the Clippers want to trade for some point guard depth this summer, Portland would be one place to look. With a slew of draft picks and the rights to several Euros (Rudy Fernandez who may be coming soon, Joel Freeland, and Petteri Koponen, yet another point guard), the Blazers have a major roster glut looming. It's a good problem to have of course, but Portland is probably the best NBA city to shop for a point guard right now.
- James Jones - MVP. The Suns were so desperate to get rid of James Jones' contract that they sold him to the Blazers along with Fernandez in what may turn out to be the worst trade in NBA history. All Jones has done is make 49% of his threes this season. He also appears to be incredibly important to the team's fortunes. It was shortly after Jones returned from an early season injury that the Blazers won 13 straight. It was after he got hurt again that they lost 9 of 11. Portland is 8-16 without Jones this season - leaving them 27-17 with him.