It’s such an obvious statement that I’m almost embarrassed to state it but the Clippers looked like a team that’s never played together. In that same spirit, it’s probably premature to make a categorical assessment of their ability to win basketball games this season. But it’s still strange to go to a Clippers game and actually know the other team better.
One of the central challenges of the season comes into focus early on tonight: Baron Davis and Chris Kaman will need to learn how to make do as a 1-5 combination. This isn’t easy because Chris Kaman is a much better player in set situations than he is in a free-flowing, improvisational offense. You can’t just thread the needle to Chris; he doesn’t have that kind of peripheral awareness right now. But that’s how Baron Davis likes to operate in the halfcourt – which is why there are more than a few people who think the stylistic contrasts between Davis and Mike Dunleavy could complicate matters.
There are moments when that tug-of-war surfaced tonight. The Clips fall apart in the latter minutes of the second quarter. It’s a spurt during which the Clippers set up very little on offense. Baron has just accelerated a couple of transitional possessions that Dunleavy would probably have preferred to shape into something more material. Just after Derek Fisher hits a 3PA to put the Lakers up 16 with 1:44 before halftime, Dunleavy goes back to something comfortable and nourishing — he has Cat dump it into Kaman on the right block. It works. Kaman backs Andrew Bynum in with his right shoulder, spins, then beats Bynum to just underneath the left side of the rim. Bynum recovers nicely, but he’s a little late and fouls Kaman, though he gets a nice swath of the leather.
An improvisational point guard can develop chemistry with a center who needs the ball ceremoniously dropped into the post. It’s doable. Both Davis and Kaman are talented players and it’s a process that’ll be made easier once Marcus Camby is on the floor. But the Davis-Kaman tandem is a dynamic that will require management. Kaman will need to be patient. We’ve seen him frustrated before, but tonight he is wholly consumed by that frustration. It borders on dark.
We’ve all been dying to know what kind of stuff the Clips would run with the new personnel. Tomorrow, we’ll break down what the team ran when the starters took the floor — to start the game, when they returned in the 2nd, then again out of the locker room after the half.