Clippers beat the Hornets the last time around, back in November. They had just come off the enthralling loss to the New York Knicks (aka the Mozgov Game) and there was a ebullient sense of potential with the Clips, despite their 1-13 record. The Clippers went on to beat the Hornets, defending Chris Paul so well that he only had 2 points and a single assist in the second half. Not only shocking because the Clippers beat the best team in the NBA, but because the Clippers hadn’t beat the Hornets in 14 tries before that.
The Clippers have another chance to overthrow history, as they haven’t beat the Chris Paul and the Hornets in their last 7 tries on the road.
However, most of the chatter around the league is revolving around trades. So let’s delve into that for a moment…
Clippers would have been a great fit for Carmelo, except that Carmelo wasn’t so enthusiastic about coming to the Clippers. Not that I blame him, even with the talent of the team, Donald Sterling still owns the team. Although I think Melo is grossly overestimating the capabilities of New York, James Dolan isn’t exactly the king of kings.
Deron Williams was just traded to New Jersey for essentially the same package that NJN offered for Carmelo. It happened so fast that most sportswriters around the country were shocked to hear the news, because there weren’t months of drudgery and anticipatory rumors like with Melo, in fact there were no rumors at all. Deron is a dream target for the Clippers one day and still is, as John Hollinger writes. Why couldn’t they do this now? Well, the Clips didn’t have the same talents and package that the Nets offered. Devin Harris, Derrick Favors, an unprotected 2011 pick, top 7 protected 2012 GSW pick and $3 Million is better than anything the Clippers could offer. The best trade offer the Clippers would have had was Kaman, Bledsoe, Aminu, two first round picks (one being the Minny pick) and $3 million in cash. Devin Harris is already better than any player in that deal, Derrick Favors is a Top-3 draft pick and the picks from NJ and GSW are going to be very good. Nothing the Clippers could do about it, unless they wanted to give away Gordon or Blake, and we all know that’s not happening.
Gerald Wallace’s name has been floating around the rumor mill for a while now, and it doesn’t seem to be too high of an asking price: an expiring contract and a protected first round pick. The Clippers don’t have the standard matching contract, but they are under the cap so the salaries don’t need to match as closely as normal. But the question remains if the Clippers want to go after a player that is already showing a decline in play at 28 and has a history of injury. I know D.J. Foster loves some Gerald Wallace, but with Wallace’s contract extending out to 2013 (if he takes his player option, probably will), it seems unlikely that the Clippers will do it. The team seems to be taking fiscally cautious steps, which might not be all of Donald Sterling, but a worry about the new restrictions of this summer’s new Collective Bargaining Agreement. Caps could come down, limiting the Clippers’ ability to maneuver with bulky contracts.
Rasual to the Celtics. I like this one if the Clippers can give up Rasual for a first round pick from the Celtics. The pick will be at the end of the draft, but it’s still of value and I like the way the Clippers have been drafting recently. However, the Celtics have rumored to want a second round pick as well, which is almost the same as their own first round pick, going on draft selection. Not so high on this, because it doesn’t help a whole lot and can’t the Clippers finally use leverage to get more out than just a couple slots in the draft. The Celtics are desperate for wing help. Take advantage, Clippers.
Just know for all those that are clamoring for a small forward, the Clippers are actually looking. Good news. Chad Ford mentioned in his chat the the Thunder have inquired about Kaman, and they have plenty of pieces (he also mentioned Gallo probably isn’t on the move). The Thunder make me nervous though, because Presti is so shrewd.
Keys to the Game
– Get inside. The Hornets give up 35 percent from outside 15 feet and 54 percent from inside 15 feet*, so the best idea is for the Clippers to get the ball down to Blake and the bigs while also penetrating and getting looks close to the basket.
– Chris Paul and effective possessions. The Hornets play at sloth-like pace, their 90.7 possessions per game is only faster than Portland and Detroit. Additionally, Chris Paul is a very efficient ball handler and passer, so the Clippers won’t get nearly the same amount of opportunities to get out in transition, where they normally thrive (18.8 points off turnovers per game*). So the Clippers are going to have to take care of the ball when it’s their turn to score.
– Find some semblance of bench play. After the stomping the Thunder put on the Clips, the lack of team balance was obvious. The Clippers will have to get more help from their second unit if they want to win. Seems like a good place to start would be to get Kaman the ball in his spots.
– Have a strong first half. According to the Elias Bureau, the Clippers haven’t won a road game in which they trailed after the first half in their last 34 starts (going back to last season). Not exactly a confidence inspiring trend.
Eric Gordon: wrist/back, out
Emeka Okafor: strained oblique, probable
Jarret Jack: personal, questionable