What the hell is going on these days?
There used to be three things you could count on in life: Death, taxes, and
an Andrew Bynum knee injury the Clippers being a terribly run organization. For as long as the Lakers have been the best franchise in the NBA, the Clips have been the worst. The Lakers are still the best in the biz, but slowly, their tenants seem to be changing their fortune. It's not showing in their record yet, but the potential is there.
It's easy to say they were just lucky enough to draft Blake Griffin. There isn't too much strategy or great management skills needed to "decide" to pick a player of Griffin's talent. Celtics fans still think they missed out on multiple championships just by missing out on Tim Duncan in '97. On the other hand, the Clippers are the same franchise that made Michael Olowokandi a #1 pick. Nothing says #1 pick like a very mediocre project that went to Pacific.
It's not just the Blake Griffin pick that has this team on the verge of breaking through their pathetic history. They've drafted good young players like Eric Gordon, D'Andre Jordan, Al-Farouq Aminu, and Eric Bledsoe. Also, they still have
Sabretooth Chris Kaman manning center. When he's healthy, he's one of the better centers in the NBA. Still, nothing signaled their intentions to get serious by their decision to trade Baron Davis for Mo Williams and Jamario Moon.
At their best, Baron Davis is a much better player than Mo Williams. Baron is pretty good when he wants to be. Problem is, Baron's best isn't something you see too often. Davis has been in semi-retirement for the past few seasons. When he isn't hurt, he spends his time playing no defense, and jacking the dumbest threes you ever saw outside of J.R. Smith.
From Clips Nation:
From a basketball standpoint, the Clippers clearly got worse in the short term. I've never been a big fan of Mo Williams, and he's been flat out terrible this season. Amazingly, after suffering with the worst shooting point guard in the NBA for two seasons, the Clippers somehow managed to trade Baron for someone who is shooting significantly WORSE. How do you take Baron Davis, who's shooting just 41.6%, and trade him for someone who is actually shooting 3 percentage points WORSE?
Why then, would the Clippers trade a better player for one having his worst season of his career? Because Davis hasn't cared a lick since he's been a Clip. He's a cancer that embodies every negative thought the public feels about spoiled rich athletes. I don't have to sit next to Bill Simmons to tell you Baron is out of shape, apathetic, and just collecting a very large paycheck. Now all of a sudden he's supposedly invigorated by the emergence of Blake Griffin? Puh-lease!
Beyond that? He's been a consistent letdown, a consistent millstone on both ends, firing way too many 3-pointers at terrible percentage rates, and allowing defenders to blow by him constantly. And this was in Los Angeles, his hometown, with his producer buddies observing his embarrassing play. How is he going to do in Cleveland? Worse, how is he going to do in Cleveland in 2013? Baron Davis has been playing like an apathetic 34-year-old since he was 25. How's he going to do when he's actually 34?
In case you need to be reminded, dude makes $13 million per year. He shouldn't need to be brought back to life by a high-flying rookie. The Clips realized this too. What they have on their hands is too good to allow a cancer to seep into a young team with a bonafide superstar. So they did what any good franchise would have done; they sent his ass packing and planned for the future.
So from a short term basketball standpoint, I don't like this deal (though I do like Jamario Moon, as it happens). But this trade wasn't about short term basketball considerations, was it?.
With a single transaction, the Clippers became players in each of the next two free agency markets. Because the current CBA is expiring and a new one is not yet in place, we can't get into any details about exactly what this trade enables or doesn't enable. But under the current rules, and we might assume that the future rules will be at least similar, it does little good to be 'a little' under the cap. If you're $5M under the cap, you're still competing with all the other teams and their mid level exceptions. So if you're under the cap, it's almost always important to get further under the cap. And that's what the Clippers have done here.
Ugh...they're ruining everything. If the Clippers turn things around, who are we gonna laugh at? No matter what happened with our team, we can always say, at least there's the Clippers. It's fun having a JV team. Now, I'm at the bar having a drink with my brother saying, "Oooh, the Blakers are on..." Can you believe that? I immediately felt dirty and went to wash my hands, but you get the point.
As for tonight's game, it's tough to call. New parts, returning injured players, and missing new players will give this a slightly different feel. According to Clips Nation, Eric Gordon is out with an injury. Whew...because he's pretty good against Kobe. D'Andre Jordan tens to look like an All-Star against Andrew Bynum, and Chris Kaman does too when playing against Pau Gasol. Mo Williams and Jamario Moon are unlikely to play tonight. My guess is that they'll try to play just because it's the Lakers.
For both teams though, this is somewhat of a gut check. For the Lakers it's a chance to capitalize on momentum after blowing out the Hawks, then gutting out a tough back-to-back road overtime win in Portland. Too many times this season, the Lakers have seemed to get a good win, then lose focus. Like winning in Boston and New York, then losing three straight to Orlando, Charlotte, and Cleveland. We can all blame a long road trip if we want, but tired legs can't be the full excuse.. I know the Lakers are just as talented (if not more) than the previous two seasons, but it's the mental toughness I'm checking for. Something I haven't seen as much as I'd like to during this current campaign. The Clips won the last game, and Lakers won the first meeting on a buzzer beater by Derek Fisher. The Clippers are a problem for the Lakers, and I'd like to see the Lakers try to impose their will tonight.
For the Clippers, this game is about Blake Griffin. Last time these two teams met, we saw Lamar Odom and Blake Griffin get into a skirmish as the Clips were on their way to a win. Odom has given Blake a bit of a problem defensively in the their first two match-ups. One thing I appreciate about Blake is his bravado. He carries himself with an air of confidence that lets the whole arena see he knows he's the man. For a budding superstar, this is a chance for him to respond to a challenge a la Kobe vs. Shane Battier after that Michael Lewis article. Let's see what he's made of.
Respect and Clippers are two words that should never be used in the same sentence, but I find myself willing to do so as time goes on. Sure, they are the same team that broke the Cavs 26-game losing streak, but the Lakers lost to the Cavs too just before the All-Star break. Tonight should be a good game. It's time for a shower.
Make sure you check out Clips Nation's fantastic preview.