L.A. Clippers at Washington Wizards
February 4, 2013
4:00 p.m. PST
FOX Prime Ticket
Time for back-to-back number one overall picks to face off in Washington. Blake Griffin and John Wall could provide for some entertainment in Washington, but first and foremost, it’s the We Miss Nick Young Bowl and before we pour some out for Swaggy P, let’s get to 3-on-3:
1. Is it a red flag that the Clippers sans Chris Paul can be this different of a team?
Michael Shagrin, (@mshaggy): Yes. Beyond the obvious tangible measures of Chris Paul’s talents, his presence on the floor provides an identity for the Clippers. He enforces the ‘chip on your shoulder’ attitude and if you don’t live up to his expectations, rest assured, you’ll hear about it. The Paul-less Clippers just don’t seem to hate losing.
Jovan Buha, (@jovanbuha): Yes and no, but more yes. It’s logical that the Clippers would struggle without their best player and offensive maestro, but not to this degree. They’re playing sub-.500 ball without CP3 and look lost on both ends of the floor. It’s a disconcerting trend to keep note of.
Jordan Heimer, (@jordanheimer): Nah, not really. With the exception perhaps of the Spurs, no contender can lose its best player and keep playing at an elite level. Then throw in the knock-on effect of moving Bledsoe into the starting line-up – without him, the Lob Mob is more like…The Bench Guys.
2. Which Eric Bledsoe should we expect in Washington?
Shagrin: There’s no telling which Bledsoe will show up. Since taking over the wheel for Chris Paul, he’s been inconsistent to say the least. He’s licensed to lead the team in points and assists, but also in missed shots and turnovers. However, it’s impossible to fault Bledsoe for his stellar on-ball defense and unyielding energy level.
Buha: The same Bledsoe we always get — the guy who can throw a pass into the fifth row on one possession and then make a graceful, and-1 lay-up on the next. He’s up and down, but mainly up, and I expect him to have a nice performance against John Wall.
Heimer: A focused one. Don’t underestimate the continued resonance of college and draft day slights. For his first two years in the league, Eric Bledsoe’s unofficial first name was “John Wall’s backcourt mate.” Bledsoe had to play out of position to accommodate Wall at Kentucky – tomorrow he has a chance to prove he’s every bit as much a starting point guard.
3. What can the Clippers do to get off to better starts than they have the past few games?
Shagrin: I hate to say it, but Vinny Del Negro should seriously consider replacing Willie Green in the starting lineup for the remainder of Chris Paul’s absence. The problem is mostly a defensive one. Without Chris Paul’s team-defense and constant communication, the defensively awful Green-Butler wing tandem becomes dangerously vulnerable. Butler is more productive offensively and bringing in a stopper to the starting lineup could effectively mitigate the defensive issues without losing much scoring punch.
Buha: Start better players? One of the weaknesses all season has been the Clippers’ lackadaisical starts to games — mainly because Caron Butler and Willie Green are not the team’s two best wings. Outside of going inside early and energizing DJ and Blake, I don’t see any other options.
Heimer: Remember DeAndre Jordan? He’s the Clippers’ starting center. Early in the year, he wowed us with a surprisingly effective and polished post-game. As Lamar’s minutes have increased, DeAndre has been featured less even when he is on the floor. A few extra early touches might help the big man re-discover his scorer’s instinct.