|2010/2011 NBA Regular Season|
|March 22nd, 2011, 7:30 PM|
|FSN Prime Ticket, KFWB 980 AM
The Back Story:
The Big Picture:
The Clippers aren't playing particularly good basketball right now, but fortunately they won't have to in order to get a win against Washington. After a career-low two rebound game against the Suns on Sunday, I think we can say that Blake Griffin is officially in a slump. He's had fewer than 10 rebounds in seven consecutive games now - he had never gone more than three straight previously. It could be the rookie wall. It could be a series of successful adjustments by the rest of the NBA. It could be the absence of Baron Davis, upsetting his mojo. Whatever it is, Blake hasn't really been the same player the last couple of weeks. It didn't help that DeAndre Jordan was in the hospital with pneumonia or that was mediocre against the Suns. Basically, all the guys with whom Blake seems to have good on court chemistry (Baron, DJ, EJ) were either missing or lackluster on Sunday, which seemed to leave Blake flat as well. The good news is that Griffin had a monster first half ten days ago against Washington, when he scored 26 points before half time (and then sat out the fourth quarter in the Clippers' 21 point victory). Maybe the defense of the Generals will get Griffin going again. Fellow rookie Eric Bledsoe had a monster fourth quarter in that game, and may be looking forward to playing against his college teammate John Wall again.
This team is looking less and less like Wizards (and less still like Bullets), and more and more like the Washington Generals, the hapless joke opponent of the Harlem Globetrotters. Last night in Portland, they lost by 35 points, playing without four of their five best players (Rashard Lewis, Josh Howard, Andray Blatche and Nick Young). In fact, six of the eight highest paid players on the team payroll were not with the team last night, if you include the waived Mike Bibby and Al Thornton. Lewis, Howard and Blatche aren't even with the team on this trip, and so will certainly not play tonight. Young is day to day. In their absence, Washington is currently starting three rookies, but of those only John Wall was picked in the top 20 (he was number one overall of course). Trevor Booker (chosen 23rd) and Jordan Crawford (27) have shown signs of being able to score in the NBA, but it also goes without saying that they wouldn't be getting big minutes (and certainly wouldn't be starting) anywhere else. If they put Hamady Ndiaye and Kevin Seraphin out there with Wall and Jordan and Booker, they can play five rookies at the same time. They're not quite as impressive as the Clippers U23 team, but still, five players in five positions all from the same draft (Seraphin was drafted 17th and Ndiaye was a late second round pick) is at the very least a fun parlor trick. Still, they're probably not going to win a lot of game - certainly not on the road, where the team is now 1-32 after last night's drubbing in Portland.
- Tanking down the stretch. It's funny how when a team is long since out of the playoff race, the injuries that players might otherwise play through suddenly keep them out of the lineup for weeks and weeks. At any rate, if the Generals can't be bothered to put a real team on the floor tonight, why should I bother to write a decent preview?
- Wall and Griffin. The first overall picks from the last two drafts met for the first time in their pro careers ten days again in our Nation's Capital and did not disappoint. Griffin had the aforementioned 26 point first half - Wall finished the game with 25 points, 7 rebounds and 8 assists. Griffin will win the rookie of the year award hand's down of course. In fact, it's difficult to remember the time at the beginning of the season when so many NBA types had cast Wall as the early favorite for ROY. But Wall is clearly the other special rookie in this class, and is a definite bright spot in Washington's difficult season.
- Bledsoe. Eric Bledsoe had his best game as a pro ten days ago in the Washington. Although the game was already decided, it's hard to minimize the talent on display in Bledsoe's 17 point, 4 rebounds, 2 assist fourth quarter, in which he made all eight of his two point attempts. Maybe he was energized being opposite his college teammate, maybe he wanted some of the rookie spotlight for himself, maybe it was just one of those games. Whatever it was, I'd love to see an early call for Bledsoe tonight to see if there's any carryover.
- DeAndre. I do not have a status on DeAndre Jordan for this game. He was in the hospital on Sunday with a mild case of pneumonia, so one presumes that he will not be playing tonight, or will be, at best, limited. I assume Kaman will therefore start.
- Jordan and McGee. DeAndre Jordan and JaVale McGee were in the same draft. Jordan went from lottery pick to the second round in the course of his freshman year at Texas A&M and draft workouts, while McGee went from relative unknown to first round pick in the course of his sophomore year at Nevada and draft workouts. They're similar players, in that they are both impossibly long and uncommonly athletic for their size. If anything, McGee is longer and more athletic, neither of which is very likely when you're comparing someone to DeAndre. McGee's offensive game is more developed. Jordan has more strength to battle in the post. When the Clippers and Generals played in the summer league in Las Vegas, McGee owned their duel - he looked polished and complete, while Jordan still looked like a project. Then Jordan has gone on to have a terrific season as the starter in Kaman's absence, and his stock is soaring, but I'll let you in on a secret: McGee's per minute numbers are better across the board - he scores more, blocks more shots, and rebounds more. McGee of course shoots a lower percentage (pretty much everyone does compare to DJ, who knows his range is limited to dunking) but still shoots 54%. If we think Jordan is a legitimate piece here, then they certainly think the same thing about McGee in DC.
- 2007 Draft. Quick, without looking it up, who is the second leading scorer in the NBA this season from the 2007 Draft? Number one is easy - he's the leading scorer in the NBA overall, Kevin Durant. But number two wasn't even a lottery pick - it's Nick Young of the Wizards, drafted 16th overall. That draft, which looked very strong back when they were all rookies, is shaping up to be very poor. The Wizards have had a strange attachment to that draft, beginning the season with Young and Yi Jianlian (6th overall) and former Clipper Al Thornton (14th overall) on their roster. Thornton was recently bought out by the Wizards and is now with the Warriors. Yi is as much of a bust in DC as he was in Milwaukee and New Jersey. Young is among just nine first round picks from that draft that are still with the team that drafted them. The others are Greg Oden (probably not for long), Durant, Al Horford, Mike Conley, Joakim Noah, Thaddeus Young, Rodney Stuckey, and Rudy Fernandez (I'm not counting Tiago Splitter who's just a rookie or Petteri Kopponen who has yet to sign in the NBA). For those that have not yet been extended, this summer they will be restricted free agents - but aside from the Youngs (Nick and Thaddeus) don't expect any of them to be getting big pay days.
- Road woes. The Wizards have won just one game on the road this season. Of course, that's just the kind of game the Clippers might lose. This is the team that lost to Cleveland to break their NBA record 26 game losing streak, so giving the Wizards their second road win is pretty mundane by comparison.
- Clipper bigs. As was the case last time, the Clipper bigs figure to have a big advantage in this game, even without DeAndre Jordan. With Blatche and Lewis out, the Wizards will be relying on three rookies and Yi Jianlian to play power forward and backup center. Trevor Booker, an intriguing project from Clemson, is averaging almost 12 points and 9 rebounds per 36 minutes, shooting 55% from the field, so he's doing relatively well. He was quiet for three quarters in the first meeting before having a mini run in the fourth. The other option is French Rookie Kevin Seraphin, a project who has played only 447 minutes this season. The backup center at this point is rookie Hamady Ndiaye, a much longer term project.
- Superstar for one game: Trevor Booker.
It takes the moon for this. The sun's a wizard
By all I tell; but so's the moon a witch.
- Get the Wizards perspective Bullets Forever.