Returning from two weeks away, I'm a little overwhelmed by the task at hand. To be sure, the activity of this past fortnight pales in comparison to the prior 5 or 6 weeks. But it's not insignificant. Furthermore, the sands were shifting so thoroughly already that I feel like I'm trying to provide an update to a situation that was completely unstable. How have things changed since I left? It depends on your definition of how things looked at the time.
Invariably, when I don't have a clear angle on a post, all I can do is dive in and start writing. So here goes:
Jason Williams - I guess I assumed that Jason Williams would warrant more than the veteran's minimum, so in that sense it seems like a good signing. I'm no fan of Hart, so if we're going to have a Jason as a backup point guard, this is certainly my preference. Still, how many guys from the 1998 draft does one team need to sign in a single off season? Along with Brain Skinner and Ricky Davis, this now makes three 1998 first rounders the Clippers have signed a decade later. It's probably not too late to call Michael Olowokandi.
Still, Williams can play some ball. It's actually pretty hard to imagine a more exciting player signing for the min. His off-the-elbow pass is probably the most amazing pass I've ever seen. (By the way, I seem to recall that he's made that pass in a real game at least once, but the only video I can find is from the 2000 Rookie game - a game I happened to attend.) But for all his street-ball chops, he certainly played his best ball in Memphis when he settled down and just ran the team. In fact, until last season when he struggled playing for the hapless Heat, he put up six consecutive seasons with a PER of 15 or better. Not earth-shattering, but not bad.
Steve Novak - As it happens, I like Steve Novak - a lot. I was trying to come up with trades for him as far back as December 2006 (in the same post in which I imagined trading for Allen Iverson, believe it or not.) The guy can really shoot the ball. I remember watching him as a freshman (I think) on Wade's Marquette team and thinking that he could play. He's never had much of a chance in Houston, but he's proven that he has NBA range in the few opportunities he's gotten. He was 34 for 71 shooting the three in very limited minutes last season. Truthfully, if Tim Thomas' role is supposed to be the 6'10" guy who can shoot threes, Novak does that for a lot less money.
Paul Davis - This one is surprising, if only because it seemed for a while there that the Clippers were bound and determined to distance themselves from anything and everything related to the 07-08 season. Of all the players that might have returned (Josh Powell, Quinton Ross, Shaun Livingston, Nick Fazekas, Marcus Williams) Paul Davis would in many ways seem to be the least likely. Yes, the Clippers were very high on his prospects this time last year - much higher, for instance, than they were on Josh Powell. Yes, he had finally starting playing well when he got injured. But let's face it - he has a couple of decent NBA games and a ruptured ACL on his resume and not much else.
Which leads me to the real question. Roster math is a zero-sum game. There are only 15 spots, maximum. So giving a spot to Davis (or trading a second round pick for Novak) means NOT giving a spot to Nick Fazekas. That's a little tough to figure. Obviously, none of these guys (Davis, Novak, Fazekas) has proven much at the NBA level so far. Novak has played 455 NBA minutes, Davis 374 and Fazekas 269. So, we can rave about Fazekas' stellar PER, but the sample size is so small that I'm willing to admit that maybe MDsr sees something that overrides that data. (Of course Novak's PER of 17.3 last year is none-too-shabby.) But when a guy gets into a game and produces results, you kind of want to see him get into more games and for more minutes, and that's why it hurts to say goodbye to Fazekas. Coincidentally, all three of these guys were all taken in about the same spot in the draft - Novak 32nd in 2006, Davis 34th in 2006, Fazekas 34th in 2007. For what it's worth.
Likewise in the backcourt, the LA Times reported when the Clippers signed Williams that it probably meant an end to Shaun Livingston's career with the team. Apparently the Clippers offered him a one year minimum deal, which he turned down. Of course, it remains to be seen if any other NBA team (teams without the same emotional and financial investment in Livingston) will offer even that much to a player who is not yet cleared to play. One wonders if Livingston might become a possibility again as the season gets closer and no other offers are forthcoming. A roster spot can easily be made available for him by cutting Mike Taylor. So I'm crossing my fingers that my Livingston jersey will not have to follow the Wilcox and Brand versions into the dumpster. But it's a long shot at this point. (And by the way, what's with the Clippers' coverage in the Times from the likes of Chris Hine and Lonnie White? Jonathan Abrams hasn't written a word about the team in almost 3 weeks. Seems suspicious.)
I'm not ready for a complete, 'big picture' post quite yet. It's all still coalescing in my head. Guys like Ricky Davis and Jason Williams are not exactly the classic 'locker room' types. But maybe Davis and Williams and Tim Thomas can form some sort of 'cancer survivors' group and overcome their somewhat checkered pasts. Or is it more likely that they'll drag one another down? We'll see. The contracts are all cheap and short - the Clippers cap situation looks good for next summer, and great for 2010, as of right now. But it's certainly not looking like a youth movement. Baron Davis (29), Ricky Davis (28), Jason Hart (30), Jason Williams (32), Brian Skinner (32) and Marcus Camby (34) are joining Cat Mobley (32) and Tim Thomas (31). Yuck. It's a good thing none of those guys other than Baron are signed for more than two seasons, because some of them may not last that long.