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Clippers vs. Sacramento - Game Preview

2009/2010 NBA Regular Season
Staples Center
February 20th, 2010, 7:30 PM
FSN Prime Ticket, 980 AM
Probable starters:
Baron Davis PG Tyreke Evans
Eric Gordon SG Francisco Garcia
Rasual Butler
SF Omri Casspi
DeAndre Jordan
PF Carl Landry
Chris Kaman
C Jason Thompson


The Back Story:

First meeting of the season.  The Kings won the season series last year 3-0.

The Big Picture:

The Clippers have lost six straight, the last five under interim coach Kim Hughes.  They've also made some pretty major roster moves this week, with Marcus Camby, Al Thornton and Sebastian Telfair out and Steve Blake, Travis Outlaw and Drew Gooden in.  Outlaw may or may not make his Clippers debut tonight, as he's expected to return from a foot injury soon.  Gooden will join the team today and may or may not see any action tonight.  Of the last six losses, five of them have come against some very good teams, and the sixth was on the road.  Tonight they're home against a team struggling just as much as they are.  In other words, they're not going to have many better opportunities to get Kim Hughes' first win than tonight.  Now that the dust has settled and everyone has had a chance to adjust to the trades, perhaps the team will be able to re-focus and play with some purpose.  Chris Kaman has been venting a bit about the loss of Camby and the other changes, but this is a business after all, and at least there's a clear and comprehensible plan in place.  I haven't heard a word about Baron Davis' status - he didn't play on Wednesday because of a sore back so we'll have to wait and see if he is going to play tonight.  They could use his size in the point against Tyreke Evans.  Down low, I'd like to see Chris Kaman chew up Spencer Hawes and spit him out.  And just in general, it's time to start treating Eric Gordon like the first scoring option.  I'd like to see the ball in his hands a lot tonight.  If the rest of this season is all about preparing for next season, then getting Eric Gordon more touches should be one of the priorities.

The Antagonist:

It's pretty amazing that the Clippers and the Kings are meeting for the first time this season AFTER the trading deadline.  They're Division rivals, and they'll play each other four times this season - and they've both officially given up already, having traded away starters mostly for cap space.  Kevin Martin was very, very good for some bad Kings teams for several years.  Hopefully he'll get the recognition in Houston that he lacked in Sacramento.  The team has now officially been handed to Tyreke Evans, the consensus rookie of the year at this point.  Oh, and among the players the Kings got in exchange for Martin is Carl Landry, an absolute Clipper killer.  Geoff Petrie calls Landry the key to the trade.  He passed his physical in Sacramento yesterday, so I assume he'll play against the Clippers tonight.  Frankly, I can't imagine him passing up any chance he gets to play the Clippers.  Last time, he played them the day after four hours of oral surgery and scored 27 points on 10 shots.  The Clippers actually have to play this guy six times this season now.  The Kings starting lineup above I cribbed from Sam Amick's Twitter - it will be interesting to see.  I'm not sure why Thompson is now the starter at center when Hawes has been there all season.  Similarly, it seems like the Kings had some success with Evans and Beno Udrih in the backcourt together earlier this season, so I expected Udrih to move back into the starting lineup.  The Kings of course have a habit of beating the Clippers, no matter how badly they struggle against the rest of the league.  I would not be surprised if Evans and Landry go off tonight.

The Subplots:

  • Landry experiment.  For most of three seasons in the NBA, Carl Landry has been the poster boy for PER, John Hollinger's per possession efficiency rating system.  By tracking a combination of statistics at the per possession level, as opposed to per game, PER can identify players who are productive in limited playing time.  Landry had an All Star level PER of 21.4 as a rookie, but played only 17 minutes per game.  His minutes went up to 21 last season and 27 so far this season - but he has remained a bench player in Houston, and 27 minutes is still pretty low.  His PER so far this season is once again above 21 - 16th best in the entire league.  We'll get to see now if he can maintain that level of productivity in a featured role.  Sacramento head coach Paul Westphal has said that Landry will start and will play 35 to 40 minutes per game.
  • Speaking of Paul Westphal.  You may recall that I'm not a big fan of Paul Westphal.  During his tenure as the head coach at my alma mater Pepperdine, he drove the once proud basketball program straight into a ditch, and they have still not recovered, four seasons later (they lost their eighth straight game last night and are unlikely to win again this season).  The tasks are different, and it's possible that Westphal was not particularly interested in college basketball or recruiting, and that he's more motivated in the NBA.  But I knoe bad coaching when I see it, and those Waves teams were very poorly coached, particularly on defense. 
  • Reversal of fortunes.  Westphal started off the season as if he was going to prove me wrong about his coaching - the Kings were 14-16 on December 28th, with most of those games having been played without Kevin Martin, their only established player.  Since then, they are 4-20, which frankly is more in line with expecations for the team that had the worst record in the NBA last season.
  • Tyreke Evans.  Here's what I don't get.  When the Clippers won the lottery, it was massively important, because everyone agreed that this was a one player draft.  Blake Griffin was the only star out there.  Remember that?  There were some other nice players, some guys who might be decent pros some day, but Blake Griffin was the only star.  How do the scouts continue to get it so wrong?  How did they not know how good Tyreke Evans was?  He's 6'-6", he's got the wing span of a seven footer, he's strong, and he's got the ball on string so that he goes wherever he wants on the basketball court.  He's the consensus rookie of the year in a draft that turned out to be a lot better than people thought.  Oh, and how about this thought - Memphis drafted Hasheem Thabeet second in the draft, ahead of Evans.  With Mike Conley as the weak link in the Grizzlies lineup, can you imagine how good they'd be with Evans at the point?  He only played college ball at Memphis, so he shouldn't have been a secret, right?  Talk about funky.
  • Outlaw.  Although he's likely just an eight week rental, I'm looking forward to Travis Outlaw as a Clipper.  He works hard, he can score, he's athletic.  He also has had a knack in his career for scoring late in games, something that the Clippers have always needed.  He can get his own shot, and he seems to be best under pressure.  Maybe he can help avoid some of those fourth quarter droughts the team has gone through this season.
  • Young forwards.  Omri Casspi, Jon Brockman, Donte Green, Jason Thompson, Joey Dorsey, Dominic McGuire and Landry all play forward.  That's two rookies, three second year players, and two third year players.  Casspi and Landry seem like keepers.  
  • Something in common.  The Clippers and the Kings share a dubious recent accomplishment.  They each lost to the Warriors by 30 on consecutive Wednesdays.  On the 10th, the Clippers lost 132-102.  On the 17th, it was the Kings losing 130-98.  This is against a team that can't beat anyone.  I guess the implication is that LA and Sacramento should be pretty evenly matched.
  • Movie Quote: 

    You are now the king and you will be a truly great king.

    Judith the wild thing - Where the Wild Things Are (2009).  I'm sad to say I haven't seen this movie yet.  I love the book - my son is named Max, and it was our favorite when he was little.  I actually have copies in English, French, German and Japanese (the Japanese one was a gift - but I can actually read the other ones).  Then add in the fact that I love Spike Jonze movies, and I have high hopes for this one.  I have heard mixed reviews on it though.  Anyone out there have a review for us?
  • Get the Kings perspective at Sactown Royalty.