The Back Story:
- November 12, 2008 in LA - Sacramento 103 - Clippers 98 box score recap
- December 30, 2008 in Sacramento - Sacramento 92 - Clippers 90 box score recap
The Big Picture:
The good news is that the Clippers are riding a two game winning streak, and playing the team with the worst record in basketball. The bad news is that two of Sacramento's measly dozen wins came against the Clippers. There's other bad news too, I guess. Like super-rookie Eric Gordon will not make the trip up north. And Al Thornton has missed three games with a strained arch and may or may not play in this one. And Marcus Camby's ruptured ear drum may still preclude him from flying, making him questionable for the game as well. And the Clipper only have 15 wins themselves. So, yeah, other than the fact that the Clippers are a 15 win team, possibly playings without three starters not to mention Chris Kaman, it's all good. (Sheesh... what a season. When am I going to be able to write a preview and have all the players available? I won't have anything to talk about if there aren't four or five key Clippers injured.) If the worst case occurs, and the Clippers are without Thorton and Camby in addition to Kaman and Gordon, the Zach Randolph and Baron Davis are really going to have to carry the team. Baron has had back to back terrific games, and is showing real signs of breaking out of his funk. He seems energized on defense, aggressive on offense, and his jump shot is even falling. In Randolph's case, it's a testament to how much we've come to expect from him on offense that he can get 30 points and the game winner against the Celtics, and the reaction around here is, 'he wasn't sharp.' His jumper hasn't really been on in the two games since he came back from his suspension. Mardy Collins, Fred Jones, DeAndre Jordan and Steve Novak all figure to play big roles with the potential absence of so many first stringers.
We've already pointed out that the Kings have the worst record in basketball. The dismantling of the Pacific Division powerhouse that made eight consecutive playoff appearances and won 50 or more games in five straight seasons has been thorough, if a little drawn out. Vlade Divac left via free agency after the 03-04 season. Doug Christie was traded in January 05, and Chris Webber was traded a month later at the deadline (and the Kings STILL have Kenny Thomas on their books). Peja Stojakovic was traded for Ron Artest in Jan. 06, and Ron Ron was then traded to Houston for some spare parts this summer. Mike Bibby was shipped to the Hawks in Feb. 2008. And the last vestige of those great teams, Brad Miller, was traded to Chicago earlier this month. Current star Kevin Martin made the playoffs with the Kings his first two seasons in the league - but they were already in decline, and in fact only Bobby Jackson on the current roster has won a playoff series in Sacramento (and he just returned this season as part of the Artest trade). The team is on their third coach since Rick Adelman left, and Kenny Natt is only keeping the seat warm for Eddie Jordan or someone else. This year's trading deadline saw them jettison two of their most productive players - Miller and John Salmons. The Kings roster saw more turnover in the last few weeks than any other in the NBA. Out are Miller and Salmons, Quincy Douby, Shelden Williams, Bobby Brown and Mikki Moore, all either traded or waived. In are Andres Nocioni, Drew Gooden, Rashad McCants, Calvin Booth and Will Solomon - all of them with the exception of Nocioni little more than expiring contracts to the team. Beyond Kevin Martin, it's really tough to know what to expect from these guys.
- Beware the letdown. It seems strange to think of a team with 15 wins letting down against anybody. But the Clippers just beat the defending champions on Wednesday, and now they're playing the last place Kings. The Kings on the other hand have this game circled as a chance to get another win - they've only got 2 in their last 19 games, so it would be nice for them.
- Beno Udrih. When Udrih scored a career high 30 points against the Clippers way back in November, it looked for a moment like the 5/$33M contract he got this summer was going to be a bargain for the Kings. Too bad he doesn't play the Clippers every night. Instead, $6M+ per year for 11 points and 4 assists seems like anything but a bargain now. Of course, it's not significantly worse than he played last year, so the Kings really should have known better. Udrih of course might have been a Clipper had Baron Davis and Elton Brand not hatched their crazy scheme. As it happens, Udrih sprained his foot (that must be going around) in Wednesday's game against Charlotte and is out for a few games, so veteran Bobby Jackson will get the start.
- Gooden also hurting. Drew Gooden also got a little tweaked in that Charlotte game. He is listed as day-to-day.
- First game against the Kings for Zach. Zach Randolph was not yet a Clipper when these teams met in November, and he was hurt for the December game. As has been mentioned several times, the Clippers have a winning record with Zach in the starting lineup - it stands at 11-9 after the Boston win. So the fact that the Kings won both earlier meetings is significantly mitigated by the fact that Zach will be playing in this one. And if Gooden can't play, it's hard to imagine any of Sacto's young, inexperienced bigs being able to contain Randolph, so he could have a big game, particularly if he locates his outside shot. One guy who Zach has seen this season - Andres Nocioni - could end up defending him. So punches being thrown seems like a distinct possibility.
- Third game against the Kings for Baron. While Baron has been sub-par for much of the season, it doesn't begin to describe how bad he has been in his two games against the Kings. In the first encounter, he was 4 for 15, while allowing Udrih to go all-pro on us. In the second he was even worse - 3 for 17 with 4 assists and 4 turnovers. That's a cumulative 7 for 32 against the Kings... less than 22% shooting. Baron's had back to back good games - this would be the ideal team against which to continue that streak.
- Poor Kevin Martin. Kevin Martin is a really terrific player. And he's on a really, really bad team right now. And the odds don't look good for them getting better in the near future. Martin was injured in the 7th game of the season, and the Kings were 3-4 at the time. By the time he returned to the lineup fulltime (against the Clippers in late December), the team was 7-24. So, at that point maybe you're thinking it's like the Zach Randolph situation with the Clippers - they're actually good with Speed Racer in the lineup. Only problem is, they're 4-23 since then, with Martin. While the Thunder, the Wolves, the Grizzlies and even the Clippers have shown some indications of putting together a run at one point or another this season, the Kings have remained consistently bad. Martin is averaging a career-high 24 points per game, but he's only shooting 42%, his worst percentage since his rookie season.
- Young bigs. Geoff Petrie's plan in the capital, such as it is, appears to be to build around Martin and some promising young bigs. Spencer Hawes (drafted 10th in 2007) and Jason Thompson and Donte Greene (drafted 12th and 28th this year) are all around 6'11" or 7' with skills. They think Thompson is quick enough to play small forward, and he looked great in the first game against the Clippers. Hawes is long, and can shoot and pass. Greene is a great athlete for his size. They're also all very young (between 20 and 22) and the jury's still out on whether any one of them is actually good enough to build around.
- Fred Jones and Mardy Collins. Teammates for a couple of seasons in New York, Jones was out of the league at the beginning of this season, while Collins could not have been far behind. But they've played well for the Clippers, particularly in the current two game win streak. Jones will probably get the start at the two with Gordon out, and Collins has already been starting in place of Al Thornton. Even if Thornton can play, expect Collins to get a ton of minutes at any one of the three perimeter positions. Jones and Collins have both played solid defense this season, and have contributed significantly more offense than anyone might have expected. With the starting wings hurt, these two will need to continue their outstanding play.
- A six hour drive. Even if Camby can't fly, can he not be driven to Sacramento. My in laws live in Roseville, and I can get there in six hours with two kids in the car. I know it's a lot to ask of the veteran Camby, who's used to charter jets. But get him a luxury bus, let him sleep or watch DVDs the whole way... it's not like the game is in New York. It's Sacramento. Even if the no fly rule is still in effect, PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE let Camby play. The team is just so much better with him on the court.
- Superstar for one game. Since Udrih is hurt, let's go with Bobby Jackson. A Clipper-killer from days gone by, I'm actually hoping that the ClipperSteve reverse mojo is back (I shut down Powe Tuesday) and I can take Jackson out.
- Get the Kings perspective from Tom Ziller at Sactown Royalty.