I'm already a little late, as I wrote this last week when things seemed especially quiet, and letting the last few days go by has brought on not only a nice tidbit of news (Joe Ingles) but also the preview machine starting to crank up. It's going to get noisier and noisier. The new writers here at Clips Nation are sticking a toe or two into the water already, with excellent results. It's almost time. But this was last week:
I guess I get a little antsy this time of year. It's too quiet here at Clips Nation, just when it seems like the gears in my mind are changing over and locking into the basic calibration for the upcoming season. The book on 1314 is closed (thank FSM--that was a lurid and gory thriller, wasn't it?) and I'm staring at the title page for 1415, wanting to read the Prologue and dive into Chapter One.
Maybe this doldrums angst is a holdover from days of yore, when so much of our focus was on the non-season, when the team would be out of contention in March if not before, and we would start studying the upcoming draft a little too closely, months away, keeping it up through the long, agonizing playoffs in May and June; when summer league was just as compelling as the sadly predictable debacles of the actual NBA season, and training camp and the preseason would be bitter, confusing, injury-riddled appetizers for another rancid meal on the crumbs of fragile, fleeting hope during another seemingly endless march across the regular season desert. Things are different these days, very different. The Clippers play for the playoffs and now take aim squarely at a title. Our focus is razor sharp though May and even into June, and we don't care about the draft much at all. The Clippers even gave away a 1st round pick just to get rid of a semi-expensive, unsatisfying player. The draft comes during a brief time of rest and recovery. The July free agency follies are much more interesting than they used to be back when no one actually wanted to play for the Clippers. It's funny how the Clippers used to be so different, how they were probably THE team best suited for dumping damaged and marginal or overrated players, and what our perspective was as those guys joined the squad, which was "rebuilding" for 20+ years. Now we have extremely high standards for the 12th, 13th, and 14th guys on the roster, and expect legitimate impact players to sign for the minimum, just for the privilege of joining the juggernaut. Another important element of the luxury experience of being an NBA elite is having longtime, well-established roles and routines and staff--even when the Clippers were their most exciting and promising they were always working new players into critical roles, or getting a new coach (as recently as last year.) The legendary futility of the Clippers provides a rich smorgasbord of dysfunction, of course, and it seems like there was always something to talk about well before a new season was about to begin. These days it seems like we know everything, it's all set, and what is there to say, really?
Maybe I just like to fish around for topics in advance of the deluge of previews. I wrote four stories last year in late September, and a glance back could be a good way to get started. #1 was New QCBM Technology: Byron Mullens. That was fun. Mullens was amusing, and perhaps the most interesting thing about the Mullens era is how short it was. If Doc Rivers makes a mistake, it seems, he doesn't overplay it into the ground, he makes changes, and he showed great flexibility in adverse circumstances last year. Mullens sucked, and a number of citizens fully expected as much, though I wasn't one of them: at Club O we're always on the lookout for a diamond in the rough, aching to see a surprising talent emerge and pull a stunner. Mullens provided a good opportunity to watch an unlikely kid get his big chance, and he failed miserably and then disappeared. There was a brief moment earlier this month when it looked like we might have a fun QCBM in Miroslav Zhivovic (really Raduljika, but whatever), but he was gone even more quickly, in a flash. And now the Clippers have former #6 pick Epha Udoh, who doesn't seem quirky in the least, not even at the rather dull stonehands Ryan Hollins level--and Hollins is gone as well now. But there's more to say about QCBMs with regards to DeAndre Jordan, who is deep into next-level QCBM stuff these days, aiming towards Stapling that long #6 Clippers jersey up on the Center wall some time in the mid-to-late 2020s when his storied career comes to a close.
Next up was DC Mania, and if the Mullens storyline was low stakes and mildly disappointing, the DC saga couldn't have gone much better, really, and he had a great year and walked away with a big contract. I couldn't be happier. Now Jordan Farmar steps in--and that's complicated, to me at least, and it seems worthy of a modest amount of zhivian pondering. Another September 2013 post was about the Bruin Clippers, which is now only barely worth talking about, but if Farmar is covered and Hollins is gone that's really just meditating on Matt Barnes, which is a pleasant but largely incidental task. Barnes, we might forget, was banged up last year in the early part of the season--it's funny how he managed to recover well enough, while Jared Dudley, who took a big chunk of Barnes' missing early season minutes and Did Nothing with them, got tweaked and never made it back into form. Again, Doc Rivers did a great job of keeping Dudley's leash short and sitting him down when he was terrible, after Barnes was back and he could manage things--and the Dudley debacle could have been so much worse. Stubborn coaches like Dunleavy or a dim one like Del Negro would have handled the situation very differently.
The last topic I had was DJ and Doc, and that was a good one. My hopes for improvement by DJ at the free throw line were dealt an early, decisive blow, and this season begins with him at the exact same dark starting point as last year. But other than frustrating my mild free throw obsession, "DJ and Doc" could not have been a better show last year, and it's ripe for an early update. What do we expect from DeAndre right now?
That's enough traction to get things going, a brief preview of a pre-preview, steps towards doing a pre-preseason review. Other things will come up amidst these ramblings, but feel free to provide your own topics of interest and notes and thoughts. And hold on and hang in there--it's all coming up fast and things are going to be new and different and wild, like nothing we've ever seen before. But for now, if you're very busy Doing Nothing like I am, or just aspiring to achieve the perfect state of Clipper balance after last season's tumult before starting anew, let's take a few deep breaths together and ease towards a comforting emptiness while we gather our forces and ourselves, and maybe visualize some of the greatness that is to be.