The Big Picture:
These two teams met in their first preseason game a couple weeks ago in Las Vegas, and now they meet again in the Clippers' final preseason game (the Nuggets play again tomorrow). The Clippers played the Lakers last night and gave several players the night off. On the second night of a preseason back to back, coach Vinny Del Negro may choose to give some other guys some time off. Eric Bledsoe in particular played 44 minutes last night. Then again, it is the final tuneup and maybe he'll want to try to focus on as realistic a rotation as he can. You really never know what's going to happen in preseason. Bledsoe and DeAndre Jordan are two Clippers who have played in every preseason game, so they might be candidates for rest, but they also happen to be benefiting greatly from all the preseason work, so that's a good reason to keep putting them out there. The Nuggets won the first meeting by two points at the buzzer but (a) it was preseason so who cares and (b) Chris Paul did not play in that game. Bledsoe scored 25 in that first game and is coming off a 22 point game last night.
The Nuggets made a major new addition this summer when they acquired Andre Iguodala as part of the same four team trade that sent Dwight Howard to the Lakers. (Which reminds me, I really need to send a thank you note to Orlando for facilitating a single trade that greatly improved two of the Clippers primary Western Conference rivals -- that was swell.) The Nuggets look to be one of the deepest teams in the league, with quality players at every position. The question remains if an NBA team can really thrive without a go to scorer to turn to at the end of close games. I'd like to think that it's possible, and if any team can do it, it's these Nuggets under George Karl. But the NBA has been a star's league for a long time. Still, even if they may not be title contenders, the Nuggets could be very, very good this season. Just how good may depend in large part on the continued development of youngsters JaVale McGee, Kenneth Faried, Danilo Gallinari and Ty Lawson. That's four players, at four positions, all 24 or younger, all very good already with a chance to get much better. No wonder they're pumped up in Denver this year.
- Comparison of key metrics. The Nuggets played at the second fastest pace in the league last season. You can expect them to continue to play fast this season. The Clippers on the other hand played at the fourth slowest pace last season, but that has shown some signs of perhaps changing in the preseason. Chris Paul has said he wants to run more, and the Clippers have had some success, even when they're not necessarily running a fast break, getting early post ups for Blake Griffin. It makes a lot of sense -- why not take all the easy baskets you can get against a defense in transition?
- What have we learned? So what have we learned about the Clippers in preseason so far? We've learned that Del Negro is determined to start Willie Green at shooting guard until Chauncey Billups is back (hopefully that won't be too long) keeping his bench rotation in tact. We've learned that Jamal Crawford can score and make plays, which we already suspected. We've learned that DeAndre Jordan has improved his offensive game pretty dramatically, and that Eric Bledsoe is even better now than he was in the playoffs. Unfortunately, we haven't learned much at all about either Lamar Odom or Grant Hill because of conditioning and injury issues. And perhaps we did learn that Lamar may not be as motivated as he says he is.
- Jordan and McGee. DeAndre Jordan and JaVale McGee will probably always be linked in their NBA careers. In the 2008 draft, Jordan dropped like a stone from the lottery to the second round, while McGee came from nowhere to be picked 18th. They're both crazy long (McGee is one of the only players in the league longer than DJ) and very athletic for their size. They both are raw, though McGee has more of an offensive game than Jordan does. Before the game in Las Vegas, I assumed McGee was the better player (certainly had more upside). But Jordan thoroughly outplayed McGee in that meeting, and has had a simply outstanding preseason. As of now it looks like it may be Jordan who will actually earn his contract.
- After this they count. I have to admit it's difficult getting too excited about another preseason game when we're less than a week away from the real thing. Let's get this over with already and get on with the real thing!
- Get the Nuggets perspective at Denver Stiffs.
North to Alaska -- Frankie Laine
Where the river is windin' big nuggets they're findin'
North to Alaska go north the rush is on
North to Alaska go north the rush is on
Turns out this lyrics thing may be tougher than I anticipated. I already used Cake's Fashion Nugget on the first preseason game and the pickings start getting pretty slim after that. Going with Fankie Laine because my dad was always a big Frankie Laine fan.