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Clippers-Sixers preview: The return of CP3

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If things go according to plan, when the Clippers take the court against Philly tonight, it will be the first time in over five weeks that Chris Paul will be with them. Paul is scheduled to return from a separated shoulder against the lowly Sixers.

Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports
2013/2014 NBA Regular Season

February 9th, 2014, 6:30 PM
Prime Ticket, KFWB 980 AM, KWKW 1330 AM
Win-Loss Breakdown
16-9 East 10-22
19-9 West 5-14
21-4 Home 8-18
14-14 Road 7-18
10-12 .500+ 3-15
25-6 .500- 12-21
6-4 L10 2-8
13-6 noCP3 N/A
Probable Starters
Chris Paul PG Michael Carter-Williams
Jamal Crawford SG James Anderson
Matt Barnes SF Evan Turner
Blake Griffin PF Thaddeus Young
DeAndre Jordan C Spencer Hawes
Advanced Stats
97.71 (9th of 30) Pace 102.35 (1st of 30)
108.4 (3rd of 30) ORtg 97.2 (29th of 30)
102.4 (10th of 30) DRtg 106.2 (27th of 30)
Chris Paul (separated shoulder) probable
Nerlens Noel (knee surgery) out
J.J. Redick (hip) questionable
Arnett Moultrie (ankle surgery) out

Jason Richardson (knee surgery) out

Brandon Davies (broken finger) out

The Back Story (The Clippers lead the season series 1-0):

Date Venue Final

12/09/13 Philadelphia Clippers 94, Sixers 83 Recap Box

The Big Picture:

The Clippers are scheduled to get Chris Paul back from a separated shoulder tonight, a couple of games before the All Star break, and therefor a couple of days earlier than originally expected. The Clippers won 12 of the 18 games they played without Paul while he was rehabbing his shoulder, a terrific record for a team playing without a first team All NBA performer. The team, and especially Blake Griffin, did some serious growing in Paul's absence, and it will be interesting to see how things fit together with Paul's return. Will Griffin still feel empowered to take a rebound and go coast to coast, or will he automatically look to get the ball to CP3? Will Paul keep the ball moving the way it did in his absence, or will he dominate the ball as he sometimes can? Honestly, I ask the questions but I'm not really worried in the least. Paul is a much smarter observer of basketball than you or I, and he has seen Griffin's emergence. He's the last person you'd describe as stunting the growth of a teammate. He makes players around him better, he knows what Griffin capable of, and he's going to get even more out of him. We may have to wait a bit to see the Clippers #fullsquad as J.J. Redick may or may not play in this game. But #fullsquad is coming, and it's going to be good.

The Antagonist:

The Sixers opened the season with three straight wins. They won four straight road games during a west coast trip around the new year. But frankly, aside from those two strangely promising sequences, they've been as bad as any team in the NBA, which is more or less exactly what we expected them to be this season. This is a team that ran the re-building playbook to the letter -- in order to be truly terrible, they traded their best player for picks, one of them an injured seven footer who has yet to play a game. No one on the roster is older then 25 -- and the three 25 year olds (Evan Turner, Thaddeus Young and Spencer Hawes) are all rumored to be on the trading block, because hey, 25 is apparently really old when you're rebuilding. The Sixers have three wins over teams with winning records this season -- opening night against Miami, an overtime win over the Rockets and a win over Portland during that early January strangeness. They've lost 15 of their last 18, and they're not going to win this game.

The Subplots

  • Comparison of key metrics. The Sixers are very bad on offense and slightly less bad on defense. The most notable thing about them is that they play at a very fast pace, easily the fastest pace in the NBA, but that's not going to serve them well against a Clippers team that is arguably at their best when they're getting up and down the court.
  • Baby blues. This will be the fourth time this season the Clippers will wear their light blue home uniforms. Which means that the Sixers will probably be in their alternate red road jerseys and the whole thing is going to look like Chelsea v. Liverpool in the Premier League. I really just want the home team to wear white like the FSM intended. For what it's worth, the Clippers are 2-1 in the blue pajaniforms this season, which is much worse than their overall home record of 21-4.
  • The worst is over. After this game, the Clippers don't play again until Wednesday. Having Monday and Tuesday off may not seem like a big deal, but after 15 games in 26 days, it will be the first time the team has had more than a day between games in almost four weeks. So they'll be well-rested for Portland Wednesday night, and they'll go into the All Star break having played 55 games, tied for the most in the league. That means that they'll have a relatively leisurely pace for the final two months of the season, as compared to the rest of the league. Hopefully they'll also be healthy and can make a serious run over their final 29 games.
  • MCW. Sixers rookie Michael Carter-Williams has been the most exciting rookie in the league this season by a pretty wide margin. In his first NBA game he came pretty darn close to a quadruple double, with 22 points, 12 assists, seven rebounds and nine steals, and he had his first triple double in early December. It hasn't exactly been a great year for NBA rookies, but MCW is the odds on favorite for the Rookie of the Year unless something drastic changes. This will be the Clippers first look at the Shaun Livingston clone as he missed the first meeting between the teams.
  • Evan Turner. Evan Turner is averaging leading the Sixers in scoring this season at almost 18 points per game, easily his career high. Now, the Sixers play at the fastest pace in the league, and Turner plays over 35 minutes per game and takes a lot of shots, so it's not the most impressive 18 ever. But still. Turner was the second overall pick in the 2010 draft and was a borderline bust for his first three seasons; now that he's scoring a little, the Sixers still don't seem very interested in keeping him; at least not paying him to keep him. The problem is that as a pending free agent, they're not getting a lot of interest in him on the trade market either.
  • Trade deadline. The Sixers figure to be active before the February 20th trade deadline, one way or another. Not only would they like to move Turner, Hawes and/or Young for future assets, but they also have the lowest payroll in the NBA. Teams looking to shed payroll and get under the luxury tax will be calling the Sixers to ask them to take on their deadweight, for the price of a future pick. The Clippers might be one of those teams trying to dump a salary -- except they don't really have much in the way of assets to offer. Still, L.A. could pay the Sixers to take back Willie Green, and although it wouldn't get them under the luxury tax, it would still save them money when you figure in the saved tax dollars.
  • Rock bottom. The Sixers didn't just lose Iguodala in the Bynum trade. They also lost back-to-back first round draft picks, Nikola Vucevic and Moe Harkless. The pick before that was Turner (see above). The pick before that was Jrue Holiday, who they traded this off-season. Wouldn't Vucevic look nice in a lineup with MCW? Considering how thoroughly screwed the team was in that Bynum deal, they are actually sitting in a decent position right now. MCW is the steal of the 2013 draft, and Noel was the presumptive first overall pick prior to his ACL injury, so if he can return from that in anything like his prior form, he's another keeper. And they are looking at two lottery picks in the ultra-loaded 2014 draft (theirs and the Pelicans'). They will have to do well in the draft, but they could be starting four lottery picks under the age of 23 next season. Turning Jrue Holiday -- a nice enough point guard who was vastly overrated by comparison to the weak competition in the Eastern Conference -- into two lottery picks was an absolute steal.
  • Connections. Clipper Willie Green spent seven seasons in Philadelphia. Rookie Brandon Davies (currently injured) spent summer league, training camp and pre-season with the Clippers before finally being waived just before the season started -- he was then picked up by the Sixers, and has appeared in 37 games.
  • Get the Philadelphia perspective Liberty Ballers.
  • Shakespearean reference:

    As You Like It -- Act II Scene 7 -- Jacques

    All the world's a stage,
    And all the men and women merely players;
    They have their exits and their entrances;
    And one man in his time plays many parts,
    His acts being seven ages. At first the infant,
    Mewling and puking in the nurse's arms;
    Then the whining school-boy, with his satchel
    And shining morning face, creeping like snail
    Unwillingly to school. And then the lover,
    Sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad
    Made to his mistress' eyebrow. Then a soldier,
    Full of strange oaths, and bearded like the pard,
    Jealous in honour, sudden and quick in quarrel,
    Seeking the bubble reputation
    Even in the cannon's mouth. And then the justice,
    In fair round belly with good capon lin'd,
    With eyes severe and beard of formal cut,
    Full of wise saws and modern instances;
    And so he plays his part. The sixth age shifts
    Into the lean and slipper'd pantaloon,
    With spectacles on nose and pouch on side,
    His youthful hose, well sav'd, a world too wide
    For his shrunk shank; and his big manly voice,
    Turning again toward childish treble, pipes
    And whistles in his sound. Last scene of all,
    That ends this strange eventful history,
    Is second childishness and mere oblivion;
    Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans every thing.

    Finding a reference to seventy-six, let alone seventy-sixer, is difficult enough under any circumstances, let alone in Elizabethan literature. I'm therefore pretty pleased to have "seven" and "six" in one line of Shakespeare, and a famous line no less, "All the world's a stage" from As You Like It.