Again, the Clippers find themselves matched up against an opponent that, in the recent history, has dominated the Clippers. The Clippers have lost the last three games to the Blazers (one being the season opener) and 10 of 12 overall. The Clippers still haven’t won a game on the road (0-9) but at least they are facing a Blazer team with a similar struggle. The Blazers have lost their last 6 games, which means that one of these teams will break their pathetic streak.
If the Clippers are to win, it seems that they have to buck an extra level of difficulty. On Friday in Denver, the Clips looked like they were ready for that first road win but the free-throw disparity and the half court heave by Ty Lawson sunk them, again (remember Jason Kidd’s shot in the Dallas game?). With this in mind, who’s to say that the Blazers won’t right themselves out of their funk?
However, there is a reason that the Blazers aren’t playing as well as usual. Brandon Roy is mired in the worst season since he came into the league. Even though he scored fewer points his rookie year (16.8 to this year’s 18.3), his overall efficiency is at it’s lowest. He’s averaging career lows in assists (2.7), shooting percentage (42.9 percent), and rebounds (3.2). All of which contribute to his career low 16.9 Player Efficiency Rating. And it doesn’t look like improvement is on the horizon for Roy as his knees are giving him all kinds of problems.
There’s damage and deterioration, and two league sources with direct knowledge of the medical prognosis on Roy say his days as an NBA All-Star, a franchise player, are probably over.
“There’s no real hope of it improving,” one league source with direct knowledge of the medical prognosis told Yahoo! Sports on Wednesday. “It’s just about trying to manage it now. He’s not going to be the franchise superstar that [Portland] thought he would be. This isn’t something they consider ‘fixable.’ ”
The Blazers have gathered multiple medical opinions on Roy, but there’s been no clear consensus, no course of action. The scenarios are still wide open. The team could try another surgery. They could limit his minutes, his games, his back-to-back appearances. All of those things are being discussed and likely will be implemented sooner than later. They keep taking Roy to more doctors, but there remains one thing that no one can offer for the beleaguered left knee: a solution.
His knees have been so bad that the whole Portland organization is frightened about him, especially because he is such a popular player. The latest season ending injury to Greg Oden is not nearly as troubling as the predicament with Roy. Oden was always a hypothetical. But with Roy, he played (through the pain) so well in 08-09 and 09-10 that the team thought they might actually have a franchise type player. Now? Improbable.
Their only uplifting news has been the return of the Vanilla Gorilla Joel Prybilla. And while he’s a great role player, against the Clippers, he’s just another prop for a Blake Griffin poster. For a fan base as loyal as Portland’s, it’s hard not to feel some sympathy for them.
Hopefully, the Clipper will wait to feel sympathy until after the game. Portland flounders, but the Clippers have the sensation like they are finally a team that merits hope. Chris Kaman and Baron Davis are back, helping the team out in their new roles as secondary-level options to the stars of the team, Blake Griffin and Eric Gordon.
The Clippers are in, for them, a groove. They are 3-3 in their last 6 games in no small part due to the play of Blake and Gordon. Blake has put up some amazing stats to add to his already amazing beginning of the season. And Eric Gordon is quietly improving his long range game (6 for 17 in the last three games).
Actually, it seems everything that Eric Gordon does is quiet. On ESPN.com this week, Marc Stein wrote an article documenting the improvements of the players from the 2010 Team USA squad. Only he left out Eric Gordon. Stein included Lamar Odom, Russell Westbrook, Tyson Chandler, Rudy Gay and Kevin Love. I don’t want to take away from any of those players, they are all much improved from last year, but shouldn’t EJ be on that list too?
Whatever. The accolades will come when the Clippers start winning. And to do that, they need to take advantage of this downtrodden Blazer team.
– Eric Gordon v. Brandon Roy. Just because Roy’s knees aren’t in great shape, doesn’t mean that he can’t take over a game. Gordon will be wary of that on defense while making his mark on offense. Roy won’t be able to keep up with EJ the whole game if EJ continually takes Roy to the hoop.
– Andre Miller and the perimeter threes (should Miller ever have a band, I say that should be the name). Miller handles the ball more in the Portland offense because Roy’s minutes are down, thus allowing Miller to do what he does best: run the offense. And while the Clippers have done pretty well against point guards of late, it’s been the extra pass leading to the open three that has killed them. They are giving up 42 percent from 3-point land on the year and Andre Miller’s options (Roy, Batum, Matthews and Fernandez) will knock down the open shots if the Clippers subpar defense of the 3 continues.
– The continued weaving of Kaman and Baron back into the line-up. Kaman played only 13 minutes against Denver and Baron played 20. Did they help? Of course they did, but the rhythm of the team is different than the Clips had before Baron and Kaman’s injuries. Now, they have to figure out a rotation because they have 11 guys, which seems like too many to have defined roles. Ideally, they could get down to 9 or 10 while still seeing the productive minutes from Bledsoe (who had 8 assists even with Baron behind him). The Clippers went with a 3 guard line up for periods in Denver (Baron, EJ and Bledsoe) and I’ll be curious to see if they do that, especially because Batum and Matthews are too big for Baron or EJ to handle.