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Why It's Probably as Bad as it Seems

Club Optimism was riding high there for about a week.  The Clippers off-season was shaping up to be about as good as it possibly could be.  A major free agent (and a point guard and a local hero to boot!) had agreed to join the team.  The most trusted man in pro sports was the only possible problem.  And then it all fell apart.

Still, you can't really be a Clipper fan without being an optimist at heart.  The idea has been suggested by Citizen Mikey P that swapping Brand and Maggette for Baron (a badly needed point guard) and a young big is not that bad a trade.  I have a few problems with this line of thinking.

The obvious problem is that the 'young big' is a long shot at best, and a major long term mistake at worst.  Emeka Okafor, Josh Smith and Andris Biedrins are all restricted free agents.  Any offer has to be big enough to scare off their own teams, the teams that know them best.  To secure any one of them would be betting that they end up being better than their own teams think they can be.  That's problematic, to say the least. 

You could try to trade for a power forward.  But do we really want Zach Randolph?  (I have no doubt that he could be had very cheaply - Thomas or Mobley and a trade exception - done.  Maybe the Knicks even throw in a pick to get rid of him.)  But there's a reason he is available.  Rasheed Wallace?  He's almost 34 years old, and even an optimist understands that the Clippers are not really ready to win now.

But still you probably try for one of the young guys.  Pick the team you think is least likely to match, and throw some money at the guy. 

The other huge problem is Baron himself.

I love Baron Davis.  I think he's a terrific player, and probably a little underrated if anything.  The injury history is disconcerting, but all an optimist has to do there is cross their fingers. 

Baron Davis as the second best player (after Elton Brand) on the MDsr Clippers almost made sense.  If I squinted a little I could see it working.  Davis has made a sacrifice to join his hometown team.  It's clear that Brand, with seven seasons in LA, is the face of the franchise.  There's no debate about how the team is going to play.  Baron knew all of that going in, so the assumption has to be that he's going to at least try to do what the coach wants him to.  Run the offense inside out.  Slow the pace to get the bigs involved.  He can hopefully get a little creative on the pick and roll, but he's got to keep the pull up threes early in the clock to an absolute minimum.  The rules are clear, the roles are clear.  I could almost see it.

By contrast, Baron Davis as the best player on the MDsr Clippers seems like a train wreck waiting to happen.   It seems like there's one train track, and there are two trains, and they're going opposite directions, and neither train intends to stop.

In fact, for the sake of everyone involved, it's really MDsr who needs to change.  The team he now has needs to open things up.  Let Davis get into the open floor.  Let Al Thornton fill a lane.  Take advantage of the youth and athleticism of Eric Gordon and DeAndre Jordan.  Even Chris Kaman, although he doesn't look the part, is a freak of an athlete for a guy his size.  I guarantee you that Chris Kaman wins a straight sprint with 90% of the centers in the league. 

MDsr said he was going to play a more wide open style of basketball when Brand was hurt last season.  It lasted about 4 games.  Against 4 really bad defensive teams.  Come to think of it, I didn't really see much fast breaking in those 4 games.  He's got significantly more incentive to adapt this time around, to be sure.  After all, Brand's injury was supposedly a temporary situation.  But this time around it's simply a reality.  The Clippers will struggle to score in the half court.  The Clippers will get killed on the boards.  (Just like last season.)  The only way to overcome those problems is to generate easy baskets.  And it just so happens that much of the personnel will thrive in an uptempo environment.  So MDsr has every reason to have the team play that way.  I just don't think he can.

I will say this in an optimistic vein.  At least the Clippers have some young talent now.  Last season they were one of the oldest teams in the league.  This season, they figure to have 6 players with one or fewer years of NBA experience, plus Shaun Livingston at 22.  Inexperience isn't really a good thing of course, but there is something to be said for youthful enthusiasm.  Thornton, Gordon and Jordan all have the talent to be stars.  Fazekas, Williams and Harris will get a chance to play and improve.  It could be a lot of fun.  A return to the days of exciting losses and hopes for the future of the team. 

But that's about as optimistic as I can be right now.  Maybe I'll feel better tomorrow.