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Season Preview: Los Angeles Clippers

September 22, 2012
By

 

Did the Clippers hire Chris Paul as General Manager?

In: Jamal Crawford, Lamar Odom, Grant Hill, Matt Barnes, Ronny Turiaf, Willie Green, Ryan Hollins

Out: Reggie Evans (BKN), Mo Williams (UTA), Randy Foye (UTA), Nick Young (PHI), Kenyon Martin, Bobby Simmons

Lineup:

PG Chris Paul                 Eric Bledsoe, Travis Leslie

SG Chauncey Billups     Jamal Crawford, Willie Green

SF Caron Butler              Grant Hill, Matt Barnes

PF Blake Griffin              Lamar Odom, Trey Thompkins

C   DeAndre Jordan        Ronny Turiaf, Ryan Hollins

Offseason Recap: Whatever Chris Paul wants he gets. The little guy was adamant about his desire for the team to sign Jamal Crawford, and so they did it. He then told them that the frontline needed to get deeper. In came Lamar Odom (via trade)…Grant Hill, Ronny Turiaf, Ryan Hollins, & Matt Barnes (via free agency). The addition of Barnes is huge, no matter how many minutes he gets, because he helps fill the toughness void left when Reggie Evans departed (the team quietly sent him to Brooklyn because they couldn’t match his price tag). Considering Caron Butler’s history of injuries, Matt will likely get his share of PT. The question still remains, though, what Lamar Odom will the Clippers get? I think he’ll play well considering that a soft personality like his needs constant riding…and that’s what Chris Paul does best. Lamar better have his saddle ready. More importantly, I think the re-signing of Chauncey Billups was huge. Though he’s still rehabbing from his achilles injury, he’ll be the glue that makes this whole lineup work (see below).

On the injury front, Blake Griffin and Chris Paul appear set to start on opening night. ‘BG’ sprained his knee during TeamUSA practice and had to have ‘minor’ surgery. He said recently that he’s 100% and ready to go. CP3 elected to have surgery on the ankle that he also injured during TeamUSA duties, and that it should only cost him the preseason.

Strengths: This is the deepest Clipper roster that I can remember (LAC was deep in Odom’s 1st run, but were way too young). This team doesn’t just feature Chris Paul & Blake Griffin, they have a number of different weapons and hybrid lineups they can go to. Hopefully coach Vinny Del Negro loosens his tie and gets creative for once. Blake’s athleticism inside, as always, is a huge plus. He’s a game-changer and a constant threat of greatness on any possession. I think Griffin is really a SG in a PF’s body….which is scary. He just has to learn how to take the physical contact better and stop looking at the refs. It’s a man’s game and the zebras started to tune out Blake’s facial expressions as the season went on. Once ‘BG’ toughens up a bit, the sky’s the limit for him. The nickname ‘Flop City’ ain’t gonna go away by itself.

Lastly, I think the key to this Clippers team going forward is their attitude. The will of Chris Paul drives this squad and gives them that necessary nastiness. The team had an edge vs. Memphis in the 1st round but then lost it against the Spurs in the semifinals. I think the friendship Paul has with Tony Parker softened him up a bit. Newcomers Matt Barnes and Ronny Turiaf will help the team regain it’s edge in training camp.

Weaknesses: Chris Paul’s will can also be a negative on this team. He’s running all the shots lately, on the court and in the front office. There’s no doubt that whatever CP3 wants he gets…..but this could also backfire. When a team struggles and fans start to point fingers, management can’t turn around and blame their star player for ‘meddling’. They have to take the blame. That’s a big reason why coaches rarely acquiesce to the chanting of the home fans…you just can’t let the inmates run the asylum. As long as the Clippers are winning their share of games, L.A. will be buzzing with the red n’ blue. CP3 just better not take his foot off the gas pedal this season.

DeAndre Jordan must also find a way to stay in games late. I can’t remember him playing any 4th quarters in the playoffs. He’s the most physically-gifted 7-footer in our game but allows his poor free-throw shooting and lack of discipline to hold him back. If he can just improve marginally in both areas, this frontline would be scary.

A lot of my readers are quick to jump on Blake for his poor free throw shooting. I see Griffin as a Karl Malone-type, who eventually becomes a great shooter despite being straight nasty as a youngster. BG’s shot looks nice it just has a slight hitch in it. Smoothing it out and adding a little arc will do wonders. Anyone who regularly makes jumpers in games can make free throws too. Mark my words, in five years Blake will be money at the line.

Prediction: As deep as the new L.A. Clippers are, I think the health of Chauncey Billups makes or breaks their season. If ‘Mr. Big Shot’ is on the court, that allows Vinny Del Negro to play Crawford as a 6th Man. Jamal, a ball-holding scorer, will not mesh well in the starting lineup next to CP3…another ball-holder. For the life of me I don’t understand why Paul lobbied so hard for the team to sign Crawford. Talent-wise he’s a stud, but his style of game must carefully by incorporated into that of a playoff team. There’s a delicate balance on offense.

Look for the Clippers to finish 2nd behind the Lakers in the Pacific Division but to still earn homecourt in the playoffs as either the 3rd or 4th seed out West. It’ll be an intense rivalry with the star-powered Lakers, especially considering that the LAC roster features 4 ex-Lakers (5, if you count CP3).

Also look for Chris Paul to have more of a say in the day-to-day workings of his team’s organization than any player in recent memory, even Kobe or Lebron. The Clippers are so fearful of losing Chris as a free agent next summer that they’ll do anything he asks, maybe even re-name the team to the CP3′s. The problem is that he’s a player, not a GM/coach…and any successful team needs structure first and foremost. The Clippers will have a great season but coach Del Negro will continue to be a puppet on the bench. That’s fitting seeing as new GM Gary Sacks will also show little, um, sack. Back to Vinny, he could be gone at anytime…..assistantt coach Marc Iavaroni better have his clipboard ready.

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4 Responses to Season Preview: Los Angeles Clippers

  1. Earlean on September 23, 2012 at 7:27 pm

    Fab stuff Marty Mar! The Clips are a deep group and great call on the attitude…they have a hint of Nasty.

  2. Red on September 26, 2012 at 2:30 am

    I love the way you wrote this article. This is wonderful. I do hope you intend to write more of these types of articles. Thank you for this interesting content!

  3. Newton Pham on September 26, 2012 at 11:23 am

    Spot on.

    Some editing (typos) and this preview would be pretty much perfect. Surprised you didn’t mention Grant Hill as a key though.

    • Martin Knezevic on September 26, 2012 at 12:27 pm

      Newton, thanks for reading. Great point on G Hill…the Lakers took a blow when he chose their rivals down the hall at Staples. The Knicks, too, were really hoping to add Grant. He’ll play big minutes at SF and even SG. Depending on the matchups, I’d sub him at SG before Crawford some nights. Jamal’s defense just isn’t a strongsuit. Do you think CP3 being out in the preseason will hurt the team early on?
      -Knez

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