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Losing to the Nets - The Morning After

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There are a few corrections, a few clarifications, some random thoughts warranting another post on last night's loss. 

First of all, I made the mistake in my depressed state last night of ignoring the possibility that Baron Davis was taken out of the game in the fourth quarter because he was hurt.  I had meant to at least mention that Mike Smith relayed on air that it was a "Coach's Decision" - that he wasn't hurt, he just was being benched.  I found that strange at the time he said it, not simply because it made little sense, but also because I felt certain I saw Baron limping off the bench when New Jersey called timeout at 3:49.  As it happens, Ben Bolch of the LA Times reports that the tendinitis in Baron's knee acted up which is why he was sitting. 

Clips Nation might be excused for jumping to the wrong conclusion after watching MDsr mess around with Corey Maggette's minutes for several seasons.  But in this case, it was not in fact a "Coach's Decision."

Then there is the story of the bus.  In what has been a bizarre month of mishaps, Baron and MDsr and several other players arrived at the arena a mere 45 minutes prior to the scheduled tip when their bus got caught in traffic.  In fact, Baron cited inadequate pre-game stretching and treatment as contributing to his knee issue.  So the late bus in New Jersey joins the broken water main in Memphis and the wet floor in Boston as unusual (if not accursed) happenings in three January road games - road games the Clippers should have / could have won.

But let me say something else about that.  Excuses are for losers.  Things happen - deal with it.  Watching the Celtics game in which Kaman shot 5 for 19, the thought occurred to me that he looked tentative - like he was afraid he was going to slip.  I dismissed it, preferring not to reflect on it, perhaps because the prospect irked me.  Then his post game comments seemed to indicate that the wet floor was indeed on his mind.  "You just never see something like that.  You pay these guys millions of dollars to play basketball and you want them to be in the best shape and all that and stay healthy. It's not a safe environment."  Chris Kaman, more so than most if not all other players, needs to be focused on the task at hand.  But the simple fact is that he's the one that has to continue to improve in that regard - there's always going to be something.  Deal with it.

Back to last night's game, there are myriad potential excuses: Eric Gordon's toe or maybe his rust (he looked awful, airballing shots, mishandling the ball, throwing passes away); Marcus Camby's ribs; Baron Davis' knee - deal with it!  Some of those things might even be factors in losing a game to a three win team.  They are however in no way justication for allowing Terence Williams to do this.  (I expect that's the first time this year that a Net has been the play of the day - Let's go Clippers!)  Or to let Kris Humphries score a second consecutive career high against them while dunking at will and shooting 10 for 14. 

As for the 'worst team in the NBA' Nets, I've maintained through each of these two meetings that they're not as bad as all that.  Obviously their results have been historically bad thus far.  But I remember the Denver team from 97-98, and there's really no comparison.  I assure you, there were no all star candidates on that Nuggets squad - their leading scorer was a 34 year old journeyman.  Sure, it's doubly embarrassing that starters Devin Harris and Courtney Lee were missing for the Nets last night.  But Keyon Dooling played well replacing Harris, and probably had more incentive to do so given that he gets limited opportunities to prove himself.  As for Lee's absence, based on last's night it looks like anything that gets Terence Williams off of Kiki Vandeweghe's bench and into the game is a definite plus for the Nets.  Are they bad?  Sure.  Are they 'No one will ever lose to them again' bad or even 'break the NBA record' bad?  No.  They'll win some games in the second half of the season, and Williams and Humphries will be a part of those wins, just as they were last night.

It's interesting to note that the coach of the Clippers views his team very much the way the fans do.  From Ben Bolch's game recap:

Dunleavy said teams such as the Nets are the ones that "worry me the most" because of the Clippers' tendency to crumble against them. His theory will be tested again Friday when the Clippers play at last-place Minnesota.

How many citizens of Clips Nation commented on the preview for the Nets game that it scared them and they were worried? Of course, the difference here is that we're just fans of the team - he's the coach and the general manager, the single person most responsible for preparing and motivating his team for every game of an 82 game season.  This would seem to be an opportunity for introspection - for both the coach/GM and the team.  We'll see if they take advantage of the opportunity.