1. Should Nick Young immediately be plugged into the starting lineup?
Michael Shagrin: Yes. He should be given the opportunity to start, but by no means should it be looked at as locked up. While he is a skilled shooting guard with size who can create his own shot, he also is a notorious black hole. Young has never been surrounded by the talent he’ll have with the Clippers so his usage rate, and thus his numbers, should see a noticeable drop.
Jordan Heimer: Yes. Although Young’s reputation for poor shot selection is well earned, he actually brings back a lot of what was lost when Chauncey went down. He ranks in the top ten percent on both corner and transition threes and – according to Neil Olshey – as an isolation defender. At 6’6, he gives the team the conventional 2 guard they’ve lacked all year. Besides, I think you have to take his rep as a black hole with a grain of salt. In Washington, who’s gonna get on you for shooting long jumpers? Javale McGee? Andre Blatche? The Clippers have the leaders to keep young from drifting.
Breene Murphy: I’m really conflicted about this, but I’ll say yes. The second unit needs scoring but they already has Mo to create shots for them. The first unit needs perimeter D, but they also need someone to make those (corner) threes. Caron’s been starting to wake back up, but having Young would be too dangerous of a tertiary option for CP3 and Blake’s high pick and roll game.
2. Which LA team’s guard upgrade will have a more significant impact?
Michael Shagrin: The addition of Ramon Sessions will probably have a larger impact than that of Nick Young. Though the Clippers are short at shooting guard, there is immense amount of backcourt flexibility due to the talent at point guard. The Lakers, on the other hand, were limited to a single productive member of the guard core before the acquisition of Sessions who could be the offensive spark the Lakers have needed.
Jordan Heimer: Randy Foye has been uninspiring, but Derek Fischer has been downright atrocious. Ramon sessions may not be Chris Paul, but he will be a tremendous upgrade. And please, everyone stop talking about how distraught Kobe will be over losing his BFF. Come on. A guy like Sessions, who can run the pick and roll and get to the rim, will quickly remind Kobe how fun it is to get open looks.
Breene Murphy: I don’t think either team will receive a significant impact from their new guards, but I think the team that did more to alleviate their problems was the Lakers. The Clippers really needed a wing defender, and Nick Young isn’t going to help at all on defense. The Lakers, for their part, needed more offense outside of Kobe, Pau, and Bynum. Sessions will provide that, although he’ll be terrible on defense.
3. Yet another game where the Clippers fail to put away an inferior opponent – this time a Suns team resting both Steve Nash and Grant Hill. What was it tonight?
Michael Shagrin: Tonight’s loss was baffling. A fourth quarter meltdown the likes of which were supposed to be relegated to ancient history. Let alone against a Suns team out of playoff contention without their ageless Canadian wizard in Steven Nash? There is really no excuse for a loss like this but here are my three rationalizations: 1. the Clippers put forth a lazy fourth quarter where they didn’t nearly match the intensity of the Suns, on offense and defense, 2. the Clippers were tired from the second night of a back to back and didn’t have enough left in the tank to maintain their 9-point lead going into the fourth, 3. Vinny del Negro shouldn’t have taken Chris Paul out in favor Eric Bledsoe when it the game started to look like it could slip away.
Jordan Heimer: Wow. There have been some putrid losses this season – Cleveland without Kyrie comes to mind – but this one takes the cake. The Suns were basically ceding the middle game of a back to back to back, resting both Steve Nash and Grant Hill. So how did the Clippers, who were in cruise control for most of the game, manage to lose? You can cite the stats, the poor shooting at the line and from three, but the game was really decided on two crucial plays. The first was a Jared Dudley offensive rebound that came at the expense of Caron Butler with 3 minutes to play, and led to a Shannon Brown 3 that gave Phoenix its first lead since the opening minutes. The second was a bizarre coaching move by VDN to keep Blake Griffin in the game after it was obvious that Alvin Gentry had decided to go with a hack-a-Blake strategy. WHY????? Not only does it clearly torture Blake, but it destroyed the little offensive rhythm the Clips still had. Terrible, terrible, terrible loss.
Breene Murphy: An easy go-to is the Clips terrible free throw shooting. Blake and DeAndre were so bad that Alvin Gentry started fouling them off the ball just inside the 4 minute mark of the fourth quarter. But there was also a complacent weirdness to the team that manifested in an atypical slog through the fourth quarter. The Clippers let the seldom used Ronnie Price go straight to the rack multiple times in part of a 10-0 run that put the Suns squarely back into the game. And during a time of the game he normally controls, Chris Paul only made one bucket at the top of the fourth quarter, and without his scoring contributions, the Clippers couldn’t even manage a field goal in the last 4:30 minutes of the game.
Bonus Question: Complete the following sentence. What I’ll miss most about Brian Cook is…
Michael Shagrin: What I’ll miss most about Brian Cook is that he gave Ryan Gomes an ego boost whenever they would share the floor at the end of blowouts. After watching a few flat, quick release Cookie three-point attempts, the Invisible Man doesn’t seem all that bad after all.
Jordan Heimer: There was some kind of part-ironic, part-loving, part-clowning relationship between the star Clippers and Brian Cook. Blake, in particular, seemed to get a kick from citing the “great minutes we got from Cookie” in post game interviews… even on nights that he had only played a scoreless minute or two. I’m not sure exactly what was going on there, but it always cracked me up. Also, his shoulders. I’ll miss his shoulders.
Breene Murphy: Using the term “frozen rope” for the winter months, when it should make more seasonal sense. And his scraggly beard.