Forget the game. It's pre-season, the focus and intensity were non-existent, not to mention that the Los Angeles Clippers for the most part looked sluggish and rusty. Not that the Golden State Warriors looked much better. Superstar Stephen Curry picked up six fouls in just 19 minutes of play, and while Andrew Bogut and Klay Thompson both looked pretty good for the Dubs, it's really not about that.
Pre-season is about a few other things. Getting some answers to open roster questions. Taking a look at any off-season development from existing players. And getting a first hand look at some of the key new players.
The Clippers don't have a lot of open questions heading into the season. From a rotation standpoint, they really only have one, at least while everyone is healthy. Nine of the ten names on the two-deep lineup card are pretty much given. But the small forward rotation is about as open as it can be. Matt Barnes will be there, he'll log minutes in the mid twenties, that much we know. But that's pretty much all we know.
Doc Rivers has made it clear that he wouldn't mind bringing Barnes off the bench -- he thinks he's a good fit with the second unit. But whether Barnes starts or comes off the bench doesn't significantly alter the basic question -- where do the other minutes at small forward go? There's no shortage of options, but no obvious answer.
Second year player Reggie Bullock got the first look tonight -- Chris Douglas-Roberts got the longest look, including a second half start to play with the starting unit. Take that for what it's worth, which is not a whole lot in the first pre-season game. But from my perspective, I'd interpret it as Doc looking for a reason that he CAN'T start CDR and bring Barnes off the bench. I think Rivers would like to think he can get solid, if unspectacular, minutes from Roberts at the three this season, whether as a starter or a reserve, and that's more or less what he got tonight.
Bullock on the other hand looks the part in many ways -- he's got good size, good length, and great release and form on his shot. He just seems to be missing something out there. I don't really think Reggie has the highest basketball IQ -- while CDR's is off-the-charts.
There aren't any answers at the three yet, but based on this game, I'd say that CDR is Rivers' first choice, though I would not think it's likely that he'll start. As much as Doc would like to bring Barnes off the bench, I just don't think it's realistic.
Development from returning players
There's really only one thing to talk about here: Blake Griffin's jump shot. Griffin made six of his first seven jumpers, all in the first quarter. He looked comfortable taking them. And we're led to believe that this is no accident -- that he worked to add range to his jumper all summer. He even hit his only corner three.
This is all undeniably good. But it's still only one game. And as it happens, it was a game where BG's shot chart was inverted compared to his career. He made his jumpers -- but struggled to finish around the rim.
Griffin's jump shot clearly looks better, and it seems reasonable to expect it to be a more consistent weapon all season -- tonight's game may eventually look like an outlier, but there is real work underlying this performance. Having said that, the risk is that Griffin could become too enamored of the jumper and forget what makes him special. He needs to exploit the additional threat from the outside with aggressive moves to the rim. He didn't do that very successfully tonight, but hey, it's only preseason.
The new guys
I really can't overstate how much of an improvement Spencer Hawes is over the likes of Byron Mullens and Antawn Jamison. Hawes is a very nice player, who is going to help the Clippers very much. It is interesting to note that Doc played Hawes with DeAndre Jordan in a very big front court on a couple of different occasions. Hawes didn't make any three pointers in this game, but he did show a deft touch around the basket.
It's been said on many occasions that while the departed Darren Collison is a better overall player than his replacement on the Clippers, Jordan Farmar, Farmar may be a better fit. Just watch video of Farmar shooting threes next to Collison shooting threes. Collison never looked comfortable beyond the arc; Farmar is right at home. He made a pair of threes tonight and playing alongside Chris Paul in small lineups or with Jamal Crawford with the standard second unit, he's going to get plenty of open looks. He just needs to knock them down, keep his mistakes down, and play good defense.
Third unit guys like Ekpe Udoh and Jared Cunnighaim and Joe Ingles didn't really get enough court time to make an impression.
So the Clippers lost to the Warriors in a meaningless game. Big deal. Turnovers and free throws are to be expected in the pre-season, but when the grand total exceeds one hundred, you know it wasn't pretty. There's plenty of time for pretty during the regular season.