The fans will probably boo Baron. I understand the reaction, Baron never even came close to living up to his contract, but Baron’s stay with the Clippers felt larger than just a failure to live up to a contract. That is too typical to any team in the NBA. Baron, even in his failures, was special. He was an LA kid at heart, this was home and his attempts to turn around the Clippers were well founded and inspiring. I believed him every time that he said he was going to turn himself, the team, around and yet, never shocked when he failed.
Baron was like a perpetual New Years Resolution, adhered to for a few weeks, at best months. In those times, the New Year’s Resolution feels so good that it’s righteous, so simple that we can’t believe that we never did it before. And yet, how successful are New Year’s Resolutions? But don’t we have hope for them every year? I felt like this time, this Baron, was going to be the one that worked.
Baron played incredibly well with the Clippers before his trade, sublimating his need for scoring into team uniting alley-oop wizardry. He played with heart, something that teammates and fans had been clamoring and begging for him to do since the disappointment of Elton Brand’s desertion. And while he came into camp out of shape, again, Baron finally found his groove with the Clippers and finally started to make good on his promise. Unfortunately for Baron, the beginning of that fulfilled promise enabled the Clippers to get out before he failed them again. You can’t blame them for not wanting to suffer another heartbreak. But Baron’s departure wasn’t of his own volition, he would never have wanted to be cast out from home. I hope the fans cheer him in the introductions, even if it’s for only the magnetic moments when you had to watch him smile through his beard as he threaded a bounce pass between two defenders, or thrown that half court alley-oop. Were I not hobbling around on my own sprained knee (sympathy pains for Baron?), I can say that I would be applauding Baron. I wish him well.
Keys to the Game
– J.J. Hickson v. Blake Griffin. With Antawn Jamison out for the remainder of the year, the Cavaliers now rely on J.J. Hickson at the power forward spot. Last game, Hickson scored 27 points on 12 for 19 shooting, grabbed 14 boards and blocked 4 shots (including what would have been the game winner). Hickson is by far most effective close to the rim, where he shoots almost 60 percent, but as soon as he’s moved away from the basket (and we’re talking only a couple of feet) he loses so much of his effectiveness. He attempts almost six shots from outside 3 feet, and he only makes 31 percent. Blake needs to keep Hickson away from the rim.
– Baron Davis. Oh, Baron. Should Baron play, the Clippers have to force Baron into taking jump shots, because, as we know all too well, Baron is not a good shooter and can completely ruin the momentum for a team. What the Clippers can’t do is allow him to get his teammates involved, and have him swing momentum. This will be a big game for Baron, a chance to prove to all that he was worth more, and when the spotlight shines on Baron, he plays his best. Baron is strong enough that Mo can’t be the only one covering, and that’s what makes Baron good. He attracts defenders and gets shots out to the open men. Hopefully, Mo can show some of the heat he had in the last game between the teams, and lure Baron into shooting mode.
– Energy. This shouldn’t be a problem with Baron’s emotional return, but the Clippers have played lackadaisically in the last two games and without the enthusiasm and the drive necessary to win in the NBA.
Eric Gordon: wrist, questionable
Baron Davis: back spasms, probable
Antawn Jamison: left pinky, out
Anderson Varejao: right ankle, out
Semih Erden: strained groin/shoulder, out