The Back Story:
The Big Picture:
The loser of this game takes over sole possession of the secod place in the "Race to the Ping Pong Balls". The Clippers and Wizards each have 16 wins, and only Sacramento has fewer. As opposed to last night against the Warriors, MDsr should get to play his bigs 96 minutes tonight. With Darius Songaila, Andray Blatche and JaVale McGee all among the Wizards actually healthy enough to play, the Clippers get to use Kaman, Camby and Randolph as much as they like without worrying too much about the matchups. Of course, McGee killed the Clippers for a season high 18 in DC, but that was with neither Kaman nor Randolph in the lineup. It should be different in this game. Let's hope it's not the only thing that's different, as the Clippers committed 25 turnovers in our nation's capital in January to literally give the Wizards that game. After losing to the Warriors (who were missing three starters) last night, this is a game the Clippers simply must win. The leave on a 6 game trip after this one, and most of those games are against playoff teams. If they can't beat the Wizards with a healthy roster, then something is seriously wrong around here.
I've said it before - the only team that's allowed to complain to me about injuries is the Wizards. DeShawn Stevenson recently had season-ending back surgery, and two other starters have missed every game so far. Those two, Brendan Haywood and Gilbert Arenas are both getting closer to a return, but long term injuries to THREE starters is simply devastating (as the 07-08 Clippers found out). Unfortunately for Washington, not only do they have one of the worst records in the league, they are also in salary cap hell - their team payroll of over $70M this season (just below the luxury tax threshold) is poised to rise to over $76M in guaranteed salaries next season, just as the cap and the tax threshold are expected to go down. And that's BEFORE adding a high draft pick. If the Wizards don't do something, they'll be at least $10M over the luxury tax next season. Of course, nothing can be worse than signing a player to a contract worth over $100M and then having that player miss his SECOND consecutive season. That's how you go from being a young, exciting playoff team with three all stars to the worst record in the conference. In addition to Arenas, Stevenson and Haywood, Caron Butler is expected to miss this game with a sore hamstring, leaving Antawn Jamison as the only All Star standing from their big three. Then again, the way JaVale McGee and Nick Young played, each recording career highs against the Clippers, they may not need their stars. The Warriors got the job done with only two of their regular starters. Maybe the Wizards can do it with one.
- Back to backs. Both teams played last night, the Clippers in Oakland and the Wizards in Salt Lake City. The trip from Oakland is much easier, but the Wizards game finished about 90 minutes earlier. Call it a wash.
- Next season. For both these teams, the real question is, can they be competitive when they are healthy? In theory, the Clippers have a chance to find out a little about that in the final month of the season as they approach some semblance of full strength. The Wizards will not get even that much. Stevenson won't be back, though he's arguably the least important of their starters. If they can get Arenas, Butler, Jamison and Haywood on the floor together at some point, they'd be ecstatic, though it's not likely that Arenas or Haywood are going to be sharp after missing the entire season, even if they do play. So the Wizards, given their cap situation and the fact that Arenas and Jamison signed big long term contracts about 8 months ago, probably have no choice other than to stick with this team another season and hope that simply getting healthy will be enough.
- The Clipper Bigs. So far, not so good with the three big experiement. The matchups in this game are a little better, so they should get the minutes and the touches to have big games. But we haven't seen it yet.
- Al Thornton. Al had another strong game in Oakland, his 6th in a row since being called out by owner Donald Sterling. Coincidence?
- Division record. After losing to the Warriors last night, the Clippers are now 1-13 against teams in their own division. Think that's bad? It's not as bad as the Wizards, who are 0-14.
- Superstar for one game. Dominic McGuire. What? You've never heard of Dominic McQuire? Well, that makes him a perfect candidate to be a superstar for one game against the Clippers.
Last week, Japanese scientists explaced... placed explosive detonators at the bottom of Lake Loch Ness to blow Nessie out of the water. Sir Cort Godfrey of the Nessie Alliance summoned the help of Scotland's local wizards to cast a protective spell over the lake and its local residents and all those who seek for the peaceful existence of our underwater ally.
- Get the Wizards perspective at Bullets Forever.