Here is the latest entry in the Clipperblogger Summit. I hope that you're enjoying this series of exchanges between myself and Kevin Arnovitz of Clipperblog. Nowhere else in the entire blogosphere do they serve such delicious, angst-y goodness.
To: Kevin Arnovitz
From: Steve Perrin
Date: June 23, 2009
When you point out to me that Baron Davis wasn't terrible last season - and yes, I know that his PER was near the league average, and that he was seventh in the league in assists at 7.7 per game - it only serves to distress me further. How is it possible that this team only managed to win 19 games? Eric Gordon was a revelation in his rookie season, Marcus Camby was top 3 in rebounding and in blocked shots, the roster is littered with talent. Even if the pieces didn't really fit together and there were loads of player-games-lost-to-injury - 19 wins? That's brutal.
Which does cause a blogger to want to put the players on the analysts couch. In an IM session with PhoenixStan from Bright Side of the Sun back in February, I floated a theory about Steve Nash in the wake of the Terry Porter imbroglio. I said, "When you're talking about pro athletes, the difference between the performance from a 'good soldier' carrying out the plan and a 'motivated warrior' who truly believes in the plan is night and day... and if he doesn't believe, he doesn't believe... you can't change the way he thinks."
The Clippers dug a very, very deep hole straight out of the gate last season, and with very few exceptions, they simply never played like 'motivated warriors' (and far too often not even like 'good soldiers'). There are a couple of arguments that people use to explain Baron's lackluster performance last season: (a) that he was content to be back in LA and was distracted by things other than basketball like producing movies; (b) that he got his long term contract and just mailed it in from there. I find both of these theories jejune. (Oooh, I've been waiting to use that word here.) I like your observation that once the basketball got hard he had plenty of other things to provide fulfillment - basketball doesn't define Baron Davis the way it does many other ballers. But having said that, I believe that Baron is a proud man, and he can't have been proud of his performance last season. Talk is cheap, but he went out on a limb with his "things are going to be different next year" letter to fans. Not to mention that every other aspect of his life - making movies, opening night clubs, hanging with celebrities - is a lot easier for an NBA all star than for an NBA albatross. As you've said before, it's a point guard driven league - if Baron can play next season with a chip on his shoulder, if the former GS Warrior can return as that 'motivated warrior', the team has a very real chance to be good. Of course it remains to be seen if the Clippers have a plan in which Baron can believe, but having Blake Griffin around won't hurt.
It also remains to be seen how the pieces fit together. Consider this: Baron Davis, 2 time all star; Eric Gordon, all star potential; Chris Kaman, all star worthy numbers for 40 games in 07-08; Al Thornton, first team all rookie 07-08; Marcus Camby, 06-07 DPOY; Zach Randolph, 20 points/10 rebounds per game; Blake Griffin, consensus first overall pick. That's a pretty astounding collection of talent on paper. So why did they only win 19 games last season? And why are expectations so low for this season?
Oh yeah. And why do we put ourselves through this year after year?