If there ever was a team to admire and hope the Clippers can emulate it’s the Oklahoma City Thunder. Back in Seattle, when they were still know as the Supersonics, the franchise trimmed their payroll and decided to re-make themselves anew. They traded away Ray Allen and in change, drafted Jeff Green and Kevin Durant. That Sonics team, skippered by P.J. Carlesimo, went 20-62 in their opening season before drafting Russell Westbrook. The next year saw Carlesimo go 1-12 in the Thunder’s first 13 games, whereupon he was promptly fired and replaced by current coach Scotty Brooks. Even with the new coach the team didn’t finish well, only sporting a three game improvement from the year before and finishing with a 23-59 record. Then last year is when they made the leap, winning 50 games and scaring the bejesus out of the defending/reigning champion Los Angeles Lakers. The team didn’t panic, they didn’t make any rash moves and now, in their fourth year under the rebuilding program they are favorites to have the the league’s MVP and to be the most likely to dislodge the Lakers in the West.
The current iteration of the Clippers is not too dissimilar from the Oklahoma mold. The team cleared cap space and decided to re-invent themselves. The only big contracts to survive last years cleansing were Baron Davis and Chris Kaman. They had a proven building block in Eric Gordon, a raw, cheap project in DeAndre Jordan and the star of the future in Blake Griffin. They drafted Al-Farouq Aminu and Eric Bledsoe to solidify their core of young talent. Even similarities could be drawn between Bledsoe and Westbrook (and we got Bledsoe from Oklahoma City. Cue Twilight Zone Music), both players were slightly underwhelming statistically in college, with the question mark of “Are They A True Point Guard?” and were drafted based on their explosive athleticism.
What does that mean for tonight? Probably not good things since they are more mature, they have the best small forward in the Western Conference and the Clippers don’t exactly have the best defenders at small forward. Caron Butler whooped on Ryan Gomes and Al-Farouq Aminu on Sunday and he’s nowhere near as good as Durant.
Not quite sure if Baron will be out again tonight, but even with the downside, I did like what I saw from Eric Bledsoe and Eric Gordon in BD’s absence. Eric Gordon, will have one of the toughest defenders in the league shadowing him all night. Yes, the legendary Thabo Sefalosha.
We’ll see how that turns out tonight. Hopefully, the team can show some life.
Note: Apparently, Ramona Shelburne wrote a whole column on this exact thing. I swear I wrote this entire thing before knowing it.