The Clippers have figured prominently in three out of four predictions in ESPN's Summer Forecast thus far, after today's 3rd place finish in the "team turnaround" category, finishing behind the Wizards and OKC. Clipper turmoil is described as "injury woes, underachieving roster, front office drama": fair enough. Finishes with a nice twist of the knife, coming out and calling the team "the league's laughingstock," though that isn't apparently a separate category for the distinguished panel. That one's a freebie.
Blake Griffin got 43 out of 54 votes for Rookie of the Year, in the opening poll. The shot in this case was a link to the Laughingstocks--can the Clips just change their name? Can't they be the LA Laughingstocks?--"well-catalogued legacy of disaster," the June 24 "Run Now Blake Griffin!" piece by Bill Simmons, written back when ZBo was still untradeable. Thabeet got a vote for RoY, whatever that means.
Worst Newcomer and Best Newcomer are worthy of Laughingstock Nation analysis, after the jump.
Best Newcomer is Richard Jefferson, jokes about the wedding debacle aside. He's (14 votes) followed by Shaq (8), Artest (6), VC (6), Marion (3), A Miller (3), Hedo (3) and Rasheed (3). The votes here made me think a number of things. Isn't that a surprising number for RJ? This is a very interesting category in terms of expectations/performance/impact. I hadn't thought yet about how badly I want Andre Miller to fail and be okay but mediocre in Portland, and take the life out of the Blazers like he did the Laughingstocks (in their humorous heyday, of course). As much as I like Brandon Roy, that's how much I don't like Andre Miller--it seems pretty directly proportional, and that should be interesting. Lastly, isn't Blake Griffin robbed in this poll? Shouldn't he be here? Were rookies specifically barred? Did anybody ask?
But Worst Newcomer is where the real action is. Hey there, big buddy!: our old bestest pal Zbo (12 votes) wins easily, beating Artest (6), Rasheed (6), Ariza (4), Shaq (4), VC (3), Hedo (3).
Does this make any sense at all? Why would people vote for Zbo? Will anybody be disappointed if he doesn't lead the Grizz to glory and a playoff spot? Are there any expectations for Zbo? Should there be? No and no. Zbo's only job is to make the Grizz a more credible franchise next year, to give them production, some scoring and rebounding and a low post presence, and then next year he will be a very large expiring deal, doing the exact same thing on the Grizz or elsewhere. The Grizzlies will not be good, or they will only be as good as Marc Gasol, Rudy Gay, and OJ Mayo make them. Hasheem Thabeet will not be good, and he will not win RoY. But excuse me for saying this: it's just stupid to pick Zach Randolph, playing out a bad contract, as worst newcomer. He's not even going to be the worst newcomer on the Grizzlies: that's going to be Thabeet, tho we have to assume rookies weren't allowed. But lousy lottery teams and laughingstocks (not The Laughingstock's) can't really have a worst newcomer, unless it's a prominent lottery bust.
Take Zbo out of it, and the category becomes interesting. Artest, Shaq and VC all belong, no doubt. Expectations are just as important here as in Best NewComer, perhaps more so. How significant are the expectations for Shaq, when he's playing with Lebron? Artest and VC carry a big load trying not to make things worse, interesting players themselves who are replacing interesting players. But from there it gets funky. Hedo got the nice contract, but is he in the same category as the first 3? If his new team is truly competitive, it will be a surprise. Expectations seem modest. And how could Ariza possibly be worst newcomer, a guy who signed for the midlevel on a team that will be missing Yao? I can see him as a darkhorse candidate for Best Newcomer, if he turns into a different player out from under the shadow of Kobe, and the Rockets are amazing in some way. Shouldn't Andre Miller be getting some votes for Worst Newcomer? Isn't he more likely to fail to meet expectations? What about Ben Gordon?
I don't know exactly why I see the pick of Zbo for the award as a slight against the Laughingstocks, but for some reason I do. Zbo was not a hugely significant figure in the massive failure of the Clippers last year. It would be interesting to speculate what would have happened to the Clipper season if they had been able to trade their expiring deals for, say, Pau Gasol. They probably would have done better than 19 wins, but with Kaman out and all sorts of other injuries, and Baron Davis struggling, it's hard to think that they would have suddenly become contenders.
But c'mon, citizens. It's the Laughingstocks. With all of their guys apparently healthy and some nice roster additions, including adding the presumptive RoY and turning the Worst Newcomer into 3 solid backups, they can't even win "Team Turnaround." Oh, they're just so so funny.