Two weeks ago, while the Clippers were taking on the Celtics at the Garden, word surfaced that the game was preceded by trade discussions. The rumor was both were entertaining a Garnett-Bledsoe swap, along with Caron Butler going to Boston for salary cap purposes.
Representatives from both sides vehemently denied that any discussions had taken place. But even as the Celtics went on a post-Rondo tear and KG made it plain that he “bleeds green,” the rumor didn’t die. There are only so many ways one can say, “I’m not waiving my no-trade clause,” and Garnett may have reached its upper limit.
By the time All-Star Weekend rolled around, the path forward for the Celtics was coming into focus. They need to rebuild. They’ve blown by the soft cap and yet they’re barely in the playoffs. As such, it’s been reported that nobody on the Celtics roster is off limits for poaching GMs, even lifelong Celtic Paul Pierce.
According to reports, the only way Garnett would consider waiving his no-trade clause is if Pierce is dealt first. The Clippers have also expressed confidence that they could convince Garnett to make a title run in LA if Danny Ainge is willing to make a deal.
On Saturday morning, sitting right next to Chris Paul at All-Star media availability was Kevin Garnett, and whether it was coincidence or not, the rumor mill started churning once again. Later on Saturday, Sam Amick reported that the Celtics approached the Clippers about a deal featuring both Bledsoe and DeAndre Jordan for Kevin Garnett.
At this point, Gary Sacks seemed to be completely fed up. Via the LA Times, Sacks sent a message to head coach Vinny Del Negro that said, in no uncertain terms, that it is up to the coaching staff to win with the roster as currently assembled. It was not the job of the coach, according to Sacks, to try and finagle a trade.
At the same time, de facto GM and head coach Chris Paul weighed in on the issue. He said that he’d welcome Garnett’s competitiveness on the Clippers but he also said that he likes the roster as is and that there’s no need to mess with it.
The conflicts in the story have taken on an almost Shakespearian character. With Vinny in the last year of his contract, he seems willing to sacrifice the future for the present, while Sacks’ overtures depict him as taking the long view. Chris Paul controls the futures of both of these men, and he’s unwilling to be pinned down to a position. And then of course there’s King Donald. The final five days before Thursday’s trade deadline is shaping up to be quite a ride.
Yes: Clippers need to take a chance
By: Jovan Buha
As shortsighted as it may sound, you have to take certain risks to become an NBA champion. If you believe in the five percent theory, which I do, you know that if you have a chance to improve your championship aspirations, if only slightly, you take it.
There’s no guaranteeing that Kevin Garnett will make the Clippers the favorite out West, let alone the favorite to win it all. But with him in L.A., their ceiling, for at least this season, is higher than without him.
For as talented as DeAndre Jordan is, he only averages 24 minutes a night. As is, he’s nothing more than a complimentary player – Vinny Del Negro is reluctant to use him to close out games, whether for free throw purposes or a preference towards veterans.
As a result, Lamar Odom is the Clippers’ big man in crunchtime, which will prove problematic down the line. Odom has improved more than any other Clipper over the course of the season, but he’s still a massive liability offensively (.406 TS%) and can still be a step slow or two on D.
Between him and Jordan, the Clippers lack the ideal second big man to pair with Griffin in close games. Each player has undeniable strengths – Odom’s court vision and pick-and-roll defense; Jordan’s rim protection and blossoming post moves – but also a bevy of weaknesses.
Garnett, on the other hand, is that perfect big man.
He’s a much better offensive player than any either player, with a more varied skillset, and he’s obviously the best defender of the bunch (go look at Boston’s defensive efficiency when he’s off the floor). He’d only average 28-30 minutes per game, a small uptick over Jordan, but he’d undoubtedly finish games and give the Clippers another legitimate scoring threat.
Ok, so trading Jordan for KG makes sense. What about Bledsoe, you ask?
Well, at this point, it seems inevitable that Bledsoe will be traded.
Unless he is fully deployed at shooting guard moving forward, or splits time in a Jarret Jack combo guard role, it doesn’t make sense to play a back-up player $8 or $9 million a season, which is what he’ll command in the summer of 2014, when you’re not giving him a significant role.
While L.A. can likely get a better long-term haul for Bledsoe if they’re patient (draft picks, blue chip players, etc.), why wait when you have a golden opportunity to truly contend this season?
The Clippers are contenders this season, no doubt, but can we safely say they’re in the same conversation as the Thunder or Heat? I don’t think so.
Trading for Garnett is risk. There’s no denying that. Ideally you keep Jordan and trade Caron Butler instead. But to win a championship, you have take smart, calculated risks. This is one of them. Garnett is still a game-changing big man defender, one who comes without free throw worries or weight issues. He’s old, yes, but championship windows are never guaranteed, and it’s not as if Paul and Griffin have the best injury histories.
That’s why it’s best to act now.
Even on one leg, he’d automatically become the Clippers’ second-best big man and third-best player (the same would be true if the Clippers somehow kept Jordan).
You don’t always have an opportunity to win a championship. For as bright as the Clippers’ future is, just look down the hall to catch a glimpse of promise gone wrong. Chris Paul doesn’t care whether he wins a ring now or later – as long as he wins one.
Sometimes you just have to go all in.
No: Team chemistry is key
By: Fred Katz
At some point, the locker room means something.
It’s hypocritical to attribute the Clippers’ success to team chemistry – to every player liking everyone of his teammates – and then to say that Eric Bledsoe and DeAndre Jordan should be shipped out of town. Chemistry matters, even if it’s not provable and tangible.
For argument’s sake, let’s ignore the off-the-court chemistry. Surely, that’s important, but it’s still almost impossible to establish that playing Got ‘Em on the team plane has helped the Clippers to a 39-17 record – although it’s supremely possible that’s true.
On-court chemistry, though – that’s a real, living entity. If the Clips get rid of Bledsoe and Jordan, that on-court connection is lost.
Big man cohesion is one of the most important parts of putting together a successful unit. And how does that develop? Time. That’s it. It’s the only way.
Jordan and Griffin have been together for three years now (four if you include Blake’s injured rookie season when he sat out for the entire year). That time means something. They’ve started to improve in their high-low game. And on the defensive end Jordan talks more than he ever has before. He’s blabbering the whole time. And that’s a good thing – a very good thing.
This is the part when you can jump in and scold me.
“You think Garnett doesn’t talk 100 times more than DeAndre Jordan? You think Garnett can’t immediately improve the Clippers?”
In a vacuum, it’s true. Garnett is the better player at the moment. But is he the better fit? Would the Clippers really be able to adjust over a final 25 games or so to a completely new player running its defense?
Remember that Jordan is the backbone of the D. He might get the minutes of a role player, someone who is the fifth or sixth best player on the team, but when he’s on the floor, that’s not his role on the defensive end. His job is always to be the stopper, to call the rotations, to be in the right place to play good help defense. Getting a new defensive captain 70 percent into the season would be quite the difficult transition. In a way, it’d be like getting a new coach, just a strange adjustment to make in
Then there’s the bench that loves to play together maybe more than any other reserve unit in the NBA. Last week, I wrote about why the Clippers should consider not trading Bledsoe, if only because he might not be at his peak trade value yet.
Factor in how strong the all-bench lineup has been, especially on the defensive end (89.3 defensive efficiency with Ronny Turiaf, 96.5 defensive efficiency with Ryan Hollins) and one might realize how important Bledsoe actually is to that unit.
With a line that loves getting live-ball turnovers and breaking out in transition, Bledsoe is the perfect player. He meshes with all of the above.
So yes, Kevin Garnett is a great player, someone who could give 28-to-30 wonderful minutes a night, but at this point, the risk is greater than the reward. And why take the risk when you could end up ruining your chances at a title?