People showed up to the theaters for the original, so just by virtue of brand recognition, you’re optimistic they’ll do so again. But the studio execs tell you that the reviews could’ve been better, and that it couldn’t hurt to shake up the cast, perhaps add a few plot twists if you really want to make a blockbuster hit.
So as production nears, you toss and turn at night knowing that this means making changes to something that worked. “Good Enough” is no longer good enough, as they say, so you’ll need to make a splash. Not to mention, they are willing to invest considerably more money, which means more money to lose if it flops.
It’s boom or bust.
Last year’s Clipper season was a good movie. The most successful one you ever produced, that’s for sure. But it was no Oscar winner, and with the Spielbergs (Pat Riley) and Scorceses (Mitch Kupchak) busy at work on their next projects, you know that, come awards time, trophies won’t just fall into your lap.
In fact, early returns from “on location” have those other two as the heavy favorites. Big stars, a great script and unprecedented marketing efforts have the moviegoing public buzzing. You may have your stars committed to come back for an encore, but even with improved chemistry the second time around, it looks like an uphill battle for this cast.
Reggie Evans and Kenyon Martin were two overly compelling characters from the original, but both lacked sex appeal at this point. You love what they did for the narrative, but plenty of quality movies have flopped at the box office for one reason or another. In this case, you are forced to eschew both your own preference for what they bring to the screen, as well as the cult following they have developed because they simply don’t appeal to the masses.
In their place, you enlist the services of long-time Hollywood star, Lamar Odom. Sure, you reserve a couple of bit parts for Ronny Turiaf and Ryan Hollins in hopes that they can endear themselves to a similar audience that made mini-stars out of last year’s backup big men, but you aren’t banking on them to recapture what you consider to be true filmmaking greatness.
No, it’s all on Odom — the NBA’s own version of Irwin Fletcher. He’s never been more than a supporting actor, but he’s been a decorated one, and he’s been featured in a Best Picture. He’s no stranger to the spotlight, either — he’ll definitely bring some publicity along with him.
But like Fletch, you can never be sure which version you are going to get. One day, he’s Dr. Arnold Rosen Rosen, the next he’s John Cocktoastin, ordering a bloody mary, a steak sandwich and a steak sandwich and telling you to “put it on the Underhills.” Over the course of his 13 years in the biz, he’s developed a reputation for being, at times, both an untrustworthy disappointment and a stabilizing presence on some of the more famously dramatic productions we’ve ever seen.
He was also the one guy out there who, if everything goes right, could make this a hit.
To make that happen, you’ll need him to be Fletch at his best — the one who cracks the case, gets the girl, and earns the privilege of strolling down the beach, teaching her the rules of basketball.
And remember, he’ll need to do all that while replacing the contributions of Evans and Martin — the sometimes-dynamic duo that was responsible for, among other things, some of the biggest playoff moments in franchise history.
While limited, they comprised the heart and soul of a reserve unit that Vinny Del Negro could count on to give his team a boost. When they played together, they gobbled up over half (52 percent) of the available rebounds on the floor. For perspective, the Clippers’ starting front court of Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan accounted for just 35.7 percent of available boards.
Based on career numbers, Odom, Turiaf and Hollins have a combined 36.1 percent total rebound rate, so unless something changes, they’ll need to make that up in other areas if this sequel is going to work. Only Odom can be reasonably expected to do that.
To be an improvement over their situational aces from the year before, he’ll need to return to the form that won him so much acclaim in past roles. For all their grit and grind, Evans and Martin contributed to a meager 89.4 offensive rating when on the floor together, and gave up 101.1 points per 100 possessions on the defensive end. They were specialists.
Odom can be much, much more than that, and the hope is that, in Turiaf and Hollins, they can recoup some, if not all, of the lost production when it comes to the “little things.”
The Clippers found out last season that you can only get so far by casting supporting actors in prominent roles. But by the end of the year, Del Negro also came to appreciate the value of a sure thing. Coming off of a dreadful season in Dallas — a bona fide box office bust — Odom clearly does not qualify as that.
Chris Paul is still the leading man, and Griffin will be on his share of billboards, but if they expect this sequel to outgross the original, much will be riding on their new star. He better be ready, because as we know in Hollywood, the bright lights can expose those who fit that description in name only.