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A Little Optimism: Small Ball Looks Good Without MeAndre

The Clippers just veered sharply in a new direction, thanks to MeAndre Jordan. Maybe it's not so bad.

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Sheesh. Really?  Oh well.  Sad isn't bad.

There will be plenty of time to analyze the reasons and details of the decision made by the erstwhile Clipper fan favorite formerly known as DJ. But it happened--just a couple of hours ago--and now it's over.  So let's move on.

The Clippers had already made some rather bold and interesting moves this offseason.  They sent away both the disappointing Spencer Hawes and the inspiring and ever-feisty Matt Barnes in order to bring in semi-reclamation project Lance Stephenson.  Maybe having Hawes on the roster now wouldn't be so bad all of a sudden?--no, no, not going there.  Lance Stephenson brings more defense and toughness and playmaking to the wing position for the Clippers, and trading his head for Matt Barnes' seems like a wash, with Hawes' topknot thrown in for good measure.

And then Paul Pierce signed up to join in with his old coach Doc, return to LA, and fill that same hole that exists on the wing between Blake Griffin at the 4 and Chris Paul at the 1, where JJ Redick (and Jamal Crawford) already lives quite comfortably.  I'm not sure what to expect from Pierce, and even if he starts and stays healthy I think I was seeing it more as adding to the bench, that he was only going to play a limited number of minutes in order to maintain his effectiveness.  Stephenson would help with that, but there are still plenty of minutes currently available at SF on the Clippers.  Any takers out there?

And now this.  It's one thing to be looking around for a Ryan Hollins-style long big man who provides nominal rim protection, while we remember at the same time that Ekpe Udoh was on the roster and healthy all year and managed to play only 128 minutes. (Maybe he's the answer!)  With both Hawes and MeJ gone, and Big Baby undersized vertically, the Clippers are suddenly small.

And that's probably the best way to look at the Clippers at the moment.  They will add some guys, and one or two of them will be big.  Playing for the minimum or a portion of the MLE, we shouldn't expect them to be especially good, although a pleasant surprise or two would be nice.  But the Clippers do have a guy who can play in the middle and rebound and defend and generally beast--his name is Blake Griffin.

The way in which Griffin saved himself with MeJ backing him up all year (1226 rebounds just walked out the door.  Sigh. Along with 284 missed free throws) and had an extra gear for the playoffs was kinda cool.  The most important thing to remember is that the Clippers are going to be very good, and even elite, with their new roster.  They won't be "obviously elite," not right away, but their skill and shooting and their stars will win them a lot of games.  This is not like the old days of dark despair.  Chris Paul was better without Blake Griffin, and Griffin was better without Paul, and both of them could be pushed, with some help from wily Paul Pierce, to raise the night in night out level of their game without their old turncoat buddy.

Let's not panic.  The Clippers have two of the very best players in the league, and a strong supporting cast that includes some intriguing new faces.  Let the process run its course.  And know this:  the Clippers are going to win a lot of basketball games, and they will compete.

Hang in there, citizens.