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Clippers @ New York - Game Preview

2008/2009 NBA Regular Season
Madison Square Garden
March 25th, 2009, 4:30 PM
KTLA Channel 5, 710 AM
Probable starters:
Baron Davis
PG Chris Duhon
Eric Gordon
SG Larry Hughes
Al Thornton
SF Wilson Chandler
Zach Randolph
PF Al Harrington
Marcus Camby
C David Lee

The Back Story:

  • February 11, 2009 in LA - Clippers 128 - New York 124   box score   recap

The Big Picture:

With only 11 games left in the regular season, and a 2-6 record in the 8 games since Chris Kaman rejoined the team, the Clippers are fast running out of time to prove anything this season.  I mean, short of winning 11 straight, what has this team got to play for?  The best case scenario at this point is probably 1-10, with a win over the Lakers.  Looking at the standings, I'm already regretting that last win over the Wizards.  But who knows?  Maybe the Clippers will come into Madison Square Garden and play a good game.  Mabye Woody Allen and Spike Lee bring out the best in them.  If Woody Allen can coax an Oscar out of Mira Sorvino, maybe he can bring a similar performance out of the Clippers. Stranger things have happened.   Baron Davis had a career high 20 assists against the Knicks in the first meeting, and Eric Gordon (30 points) and Steve Novak (a career high 23) both had big scoring games.  The Clippers won that game in overtime.  I'd be happy to see a repeat of that.

The Antagonist:

The Knicks are one of only two NBA teams that has not beaten the Clippers yet this season (the Thunder being the other one).  Not only that - the Knicks are also fast falling out of contention in the East, where it's not very easy to fall out of contention.  They've lost 5 in a row, and are now 6 wins behind Chicago for the final playoff spot - in 13th overall.  In other words, they'd have to pass 5 teams in their final 12 games.   That's just not going to happen.  Still, there's little doubt that the Knicks would like to end the losing streak they're on and at the same time exact some revenge for the OT loss in LA.  Nate Robinson has been almost unstoppable for the last six weeks, and you can take away the almost as regards the game he played in LA - 33 points, 15 assists and 9 rebounds.  Lucky for the Clippers, Chris Duhon will play this time, so Nate will be coming off the bench instead of tormenting them from the opening tip.  For the Knicks, it remains all about cap space in 2010 and LeBron - players like Larry Hughes and Al Harrington may or may not perform well this season, but it doesn't really matter, because they probably aren't in the long term plans anyway.  It's a very strange situation, perhaps unprecedented - the two players they actually want on the team (Robinson and David Lee) are both going to be restricted free agents, and the Knicks may not be able to keep them AND have all the cap space they want to lure LeBron and another marquee free agent to Gotham.  Several Knicks have been banged up recently - Larry Hughes missed the last game with an injured toe, David Lee missed the one before that with tendinitis in his knee, and Al Harrington has missed games recently as well.  But as far as I know, they're all playing tonight.

The Subplots:

  • Chris Wilcox.  The trade deadline deal that brought Chris Wilcox to New York is one of the stranger deals you'll see.  The Knicks sent Malik Rose and some cash to Oklahoma City in exchange for Wilcox.  Now, both players have expiring contracts, neither team is likely to make the playoffs, and neither player figures into anybody's long term plans.  So, what's the deal?  Or more to the point, why's the deal?  Money.  Wilcox makes about $900K less than Rose.  Salaries are pro-rated, so the difference in their remaining salaries for this season is much less - about $300K.  Now, we've seen lots of strange trades this season where a team was trying to get under the tax threshold, like Chiek Samb and Hassan Adams and Alex Acker - that's not what is going on here.  The Knicks remain well into tax territory.  But the $900K difference in the salaries saves them $900K matching tax dollars.  So the Knicks can afford to send somewhere between $300K and $1.2M to the Thunder in the trade (I'm guessing they split the difference and sent $750K) and both teams come out ahead.  The players are secondary.
  • Trading Places.  There are two former Clippers on the Knicks, three former Knicks on the Clippers.  Zach Randolph and Mardy Collins switched teams this season, but neither of the Clippers involved in that particular trade remain with New York.  Cat Mobley of course retired when his heart condition was discovered at the time of the trade, and Tim Thomas has since moved on to Chicago in exchange for Hughes.  In addition to Wilcox, the Knicks also have Quentin Richardson - C-Weezy and Q-Rich were teammates of Chris Kaman in LA for a couple of seasons.  And Fred Jones is the final former Knick, having been in New York with Zach and Mardy last season.  Oh, and until recently Cheik Samb was a Knick, but his second 10-day contract expired a few days ago and they didn't resign him.
  • 7 Seconds or Less.  Mike D'Antoni has the Knicks playing his fast paced style.  In the game ni LA, the Clippers were only two happy to run up and down with them, and they managed to outscore New York.  But they had to shoot almost 52% to do it.  As it happens, Marcus Camby was suffering his first ear ache induced migraine that night, so neither he nor Kaman played.  Getting into a track meet this time, with Kaman and Camby hopefully playing big roles, would be a different matter.
  • Eric Gordon.  Maybe the Knicks will help EJ break out of his mini-slump.  He's had back-to-back bad games, which amazingly just hasn't happened to the rookie this season.  But he scored 30 on 16 shots against the Knicks last time, and he figures to get clean looks again tonight against the very questionable Knicks defense.
  • Superstar for one game.  Wilson Chandler.  He played well against the Clippers in LA scoring 27. 
  • Movie Quote: 

    Mothers of River City, heed that warning before it's too late! Watch for the telltale signs of corruption! The minute your son leaves the house, does he rebuckle his knickerbockers below the knee? Is there a nicotine stain on his index finger? A dime-novel hidden in the corncrib? Is he starting to memorize jokes from Captain Billy's Whiz-Bang? Are certain words creeping into his conversation? Words like "swell" and "so's your old man"? If so my friends, ya got trouble!

    Harold Hill - The Music Man (1962).  I keep thinking that one of these crazy team names is going to trip up my Movie Quote bullet, but so far so good.  A little known fact about ClipperSteve - I'm quite fond of musical theater.  I've never actually been in a production of The Music Man (I happened to be studying in Europe the year they performed it at Pepperdine), but it's a favorite. 
  • Get the Knicks perspective at Posting and Toasting.