I’m emerging from my Grad School Thesis Cave to post some Clipper thoughts by none other than my brother, Reyn Murphy.
I miss Baron Davis and I shouldn’t.
Baron was special. He wasn’t great, and by the most important measurement he was rarely even good. But, nevertheless, he was one of the rare players that could wow you. Watching Baron Davis was like watching a movie that strove for greatness but neglected key plot points, never developed secondary characters and had major inconsistencies. Yet, there were moments when it was brilliant, and though they were brief, they made you forget all the foibles. It was flawed, but memorable and infinitely more entertaining.
There were passes that Baron would make, floating the ball perfectly to a soaring Blake or weaving a bounce pass to a cutting EJ that would have me so in awe I would forget that he just heaved a deep three early in the shot clock on the previous possession. And I would pardon him when he carelessly threw away the ball on the next play because I was hoping he would create something from an angle that I could never see.
But that’s not the measurement of a basketball player. As much as it’s good to dazzle, the key is to win. And that’s something that, despite his immense talent, Baron never got the Clippers to do.
Mo Williams will never be Baron Davis and he shouldn’t.
Mo is solid. He’s a past all-star, though the selection at the time seemed dubious. He’s a good shooter; compare his career numbers (44.3 FG%, 38.6 3P%) to Baron’s (41 FG%, 32.1 3FG%) and you won’t be screaming at the TV when he’s shooting a corner three. That’s what Mo does; he shoots.
But Mo is far from perfect. Mo can’t defend; maybe it’s because he’s a small guard, 6’1” and 185 lbs, or maybe it’s a lack of instincts, but averaging less than a steal a game is not what I’m looking for in a guard. He can facilitate decently (career 5.0 apg), but not to the same level as Baron (7.3), he doesn’t get to the rim (he attempted almost three threes for every shot at the rim last year for the Clippers), he doesn’t get to the line (2.4 FTA to 4.1), and he’s an inferior rebounder (3.1 rpg to 3.9).
Compared in statistical isolation, Baron is the better player, despite all his warts.
Fortunately for the the Clippers and me, it’s not about Baron over Mo; it’s about handing Baron’s team over to Blake and EJ, with Mo becoming a talented member of the Clippers ensemble cast, joining DeAndre, Chris Kaman, and Ryan Gomes (who hopefully relearns how to play). Baron had to go; this wouldn’t be the young guys’ team if he were still here.
Mo has always seemed more comfortable in a supporting actor’s role; first with Michael Redd and then with LeBron James. In the half season where Mo was the default leader his percentages dropped to 38.5 FG% and 26.5 3P% and the Cavaliers went 19-39. But with EJ and Blake taking most of the responsibility for the Clippers, Mo returned to the role of competent supporting actor. He’ll steal scenes and make big shots, but he won’t be the focal point, the star.
I do think the Clippers will be better next year. They went 11-11 with Mo in the lineup compared to 21-39 before, they had their first winning road trip of five games or more in years, played well even with EJ re-injuring himself and they beat some stiff competition along the way, punctuated by a road win against the Celtics. And in that game, Mo shined. Against Rondo, arguably the league’s toughest defensive point guard, Mo scored 28 points with 5 threes and 4 assists.
Mo had clunkers as well. In the team’s last game Mo scored 1 point in 25 minutes of play against Memphis. He didn’t hit a field goal. It was a night when Mo clearly didn’t have it; it happens to everyone. However, it didn’t doom the Clippers’ evening, because instead of forcing the issue Mo took five shots. The shot wasn’t falling so don’t over shoot, dish out a few assists (4), limit the turnovers (2) and let Blake and EJ do the heavy lifting (31 and 24 points respectively).
I can’t imagine that happening with Baron. On a night when Baron doesn’t have it, he shoots. Or he forces passes that don’t work. Or worst of all, he sulks. His intensity wanes and it begins to infect those around him. He was always the leader, the charismatic star who all too often lead the team astray.
Still, I love to watch Baron play. On his nights, he was fierce and beautiful. Despite his time here, he’s still one of my favorite players of all time. I wish Baron the best of luck in Cleveland and anywhere he should play after. Now that the credits have rolled on Baron’s Clipper stint, I can get back to appreciating the beauty of Baron. I can see the highlights of his ridiculous passes or I can tune in when it’s apparent he’s having one of his nights without having to suffer the frustration of a transition three from 28 feet or an errant pass or lazy defensive possession.
I know I’ll never feel that way about Mo Williams. He’s not a special player like Baron. He’s just a decent player that should be a good fit on a young and improving team.