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The New Clippers

Maybe somebody else can check this for me, but does anybody remember this much turnover on a roster in a single offseason?  Obviously FElton and Maggette were eating up a lot of money and recognition on the Clippers, for good reason, and you can throw Cassell in there and add Livingston as well.  They were all on the roster at the beginning of last year, although only 1 1/2 of them were able to play basketball, and now they're all gone.  Adios, amigos.

So who are these guys?  Who are the Clippers at this particular point in time, as far as we can tell?  This is just the start of a handy primer, notes and thoughts on where the roster stands after the recent late flurry, partly just to show that ClipsNation, even in the absence of our fearless leader, is still awake and paying attention.

Holdover Clips:  Kaman-Thornton-Mobley-Thomas

Chris Kaman is the only dyed-in-the-wool Clipper at this point.  We all know and love Kaman, and for better or worse, he's the new FElton.  In case you didn't know, he plays basketball for the German fatherland tomorrow against Angola.  And that's just how Kaman rolls.

Al Thornton is probably number two on the list, a fabulous gift who fell to the Clips in the 07 draft.  In all of the Kaman-BDavis-Camby discussion and the FElton hoopla, the changing of the guard from Maggette to Thornton hasn't been much of a topic.  If some of the dominoes had stayed standing (BDavis playing for GSW for 17 mil this year), Thornton could be backing up a resigned Maggette.  Instead, Thornton's chance to flourish as a starting NBA SF is a critical storyline for the Clippers. 

Cuttino Mobley, the first significant Clipper free agent, has been pulling yeoman duty for some time on the Clips.  Known in these parts as Dunleavy's security blanket, a healthy Mobley got off to an extremely fast start in 07, but he was quickly banged up and played at a substandard level for months with nagging injuries.  Since his backup was good for 5 points or less per game, Mobley just kept piling up empty minutes over the course of a lost season.  If the aging Mobley is healthy, he can be an effective veteran presence and play the best defense of any of the Clipper SGs.  If he's got a sore elbow and is banged up, the current Clippers should have enough alternative players that he can go on the shelf, rest and recover.  In some ways the best case scenario with Mobley is that Gordon is a solid, talented young pro, and his energy, strength, and productivity forces Mobley to a backup position sooner rather than later, but there's a fair amount of ground to cover before it makes sense for Mobley to come off the bench.  Mobley seemed to be a "genuine Clipper" when he was surrounded by all of the guys who have since departed, but what happens with him over the next couple of years will determine his ultimate impact on the franchise.

Tim Thomas put us all through the wringer last year, and would receive a landslide of votes for "guy that you really don't want to fill in for your injured PF for a full season."  But now we're reminded again that, at least theoretically, he has a legitimate function coming off the bench.  The additions of Skinner and Novak put pressure on Thomas to play well and contribute.  If rebounding and defense are necessary, Skinner will chew up some of Thomas' minutes.  If Thomas misses 70% of his now-reduced 3 pt shots, Novak is going to get time.  On top of that, the pressure of getting Thornton minutes last season when Maggette was one of the Clippers' first options caused AT to log substantial time at PF, and the addition of Ricky Davis might produce similar results.  Tim Thomas is hardly the face of franchise, although his funkiness has a nice old school Clipper futility to it.  Like Mobley, in some ways it's a question of whether he can contribute and fade out gracefully at the same time.

The New Starters:  BDavis/Camby

We've said a lot about these guys.  Baron is going to be fun.  It's going to be great to watch Camby playing alongside Kaman, making the Clips formidable defensively and on the glass.  At GSW BDavis never had an adequate big man, and now he has two.  If Mobley is holding a spot for Gordon, and Tim Thomas is now in his rightful spot as a backup, then Camby is the solid starter who has Jordan in deep reserve behind him.  Camby is good enough and a tight enough fit with the rest of a talented squad that he could quickly establish himself as a distinguished and beloved Clipper.  Baron is The One.  His time is now, and his challenge is no less than installing the first red jersey on the wall at Staples.

New Big:  Brian Skinner

Extra points as a former Clipper.  The debate is whether signing Skinner is a better idea than trying to bring along Josh Powell, Nick Fazekas, or Paul Davis.  As much as I like every one of those guys, none of them ever really blew up in a truly significant way.  After last year's catastrophe, you can't blame the Clips for going into the season erring on the side of experience and playing it safe.  I think we all would have been happier last year if a healthy Skinner had been on the team instead of Powell or one of the others, presenting a viable alternative to play beside Kaman instead of Thomas.  That's the insurance policy he represents at this point, and if he can take some minutes away from Thomas because of his defense and rebounding, great.  If Jordan steps up ahead of schedule and pushes Skinner aside to gain some minutes, even better.

New Wings:  Ricky Davis and Steve Novak

Davis is a critical addition to the Clips.  Novak not so much, but they badly needed shooters, and he's one of the best in the league.  If Thornton is the new Maggette, then Davis is the new Thornton, and he seems particularly well-qualified to come off the bench and score points.  He's easily good enough to be a starter in case someone gets hurt, and the old/young pairings of Thornton/Mobley with Davis/Gordon work well, and better than old/old and young/young.  Getting guys who can score on the roster to play with Baron Davis is critical.  Thornton is a good one, Davis could be just as good, and Gordon is a Club Optimism favorite, while a healthy Mobley will help out as well.  The Clippers and their roster present a great opportunity for RDavis.  On top of that, Dunleavy has done an extremely good job of welcoming and supporting the veterans that he has signed.  Cassell and Mobley seemed to be a selfish, volatile mix, and it turned out that there were never any concerns on the personality side.  Patterson was the slight exception, but he didn't produce.  If Davis can score and be effective on the court, he should get great treatment from Dunleavy and a smooth ride.  Performing better than Ruben Patterson doesn't set the bar very high.  Performing better than Mobley and more consistently than Thornton last year is a good challenge.

Ironically enough, Steve Novak now represents the single hope in the talented scrubs category, although Jordan qualifies, and Gordon has to be the focal point of the hope category.  But there are a whole lot of ghosts:  the Great Fazeke, Powell, Davis, Singleton, Dickau, Livingston--who am I forgetting?  QRoss is a significant ghost, and we'll never hear Milph reminding us that he scored 20ppg in college on the rare occasion that he hits a shot ever again.

New backup PGs:  JWill and JHart

One has to wonder what Jason Hart had to say yesterday when he heard that the Clips had signed Jason Williams.  Bit of a setback, after thinking that a guy who isn't able to play, Livingston, was going to take a roster spot.  But Hart should just be happy that made it out of Utah and still managed to stay in the NBA.  One of things that I haven't seen mentioned is that Hart is the Clippers defensive backup at PG.  We can be critical of JWill's lack of defense, but if defense is what's required, then Hart, who is significantly bigger than Brevin Knight, is the guy who's going to play.  The setup is not dissimilar to last season, when Cassell was backed up by Knight as the defense option and Dickau as the offense option.  Perhaps Hart, now the 3rd string PG, belongs in the Knight-Dickau-Brunson scrub category, but JWill is a full cut above that level.  The Clips seem committed to some fairly substantial retooling on the offensive side, and JWill is a guy who can make that go with a second unit of Davis and Gordon.  The fact that Dunleavy has confidence in Hart is also a good thing, and we'll see how the hierarchy gets played out.  But it's important that Baron Davis isn't overplayed through the regular season.  He shouldered too much of the burden when Jackson was out the first seven games and GSW lost six straight, and he was apparently out of gas towards the end of the season, when things got testy with Nelson.  That means that JWill needs to be effective and get things humming, keeping BDavis' minutes within reason. 

Rookies:  Gordon and Jordan (and Taylor)

We've talked a lot about Gordon, although the FElton follies and his quick exit from summer league slowed that down a fair amount.  The addition of Davis shouldn't affect him too much, since there was no real backup to Thornton, and he'll get plenty of run in preseason and we'll see where he stands.  It's interesting to remember that the Clips were in dire need of shooters when they drafted Gordon, after Thomas led them with 83 3s, and since then they've added BDavis (173 3s), RDavis (135 3s), JWill (97 3s), and Novak (34 in 71 attempts).  The addition of Novak actually bodes well for Jordan, because he is taking a slot that might have gone to a big man like Fazekas or Davis.  Jordan is the lone project on the Clips roster, which figures to make him a fan and zhiv favorite, and he should benefit from banging around the Kaman, Camby, and Skinner.