A crush of Clippers content can be found around the web today, no doubt because of their impending showdown with the reigning champions. Here are some of the well-timed articles from around the mill:
From SI’s Rob Mahoney, What’s holding back DeAndre Jordan on defense? Mahoney investigates how far Jordan’s come, how far he has yet to go and how to reconcile the Clippers’ top-10 defensive rating with their seemingly nightly gaffs:
What’s even more maddening is that Jordan isn’t at all a lost cause. He’s capable of staying down to blanket an opposing post scorer, but in other situations will bite on obvious pump fakes. He’s athletic enough to get down in a defensive stance to keep opposing guards in front of him, but careless enough to let an opposing big drive by him for an uncontested dunk. He’ll hold his ground against Roy Hibbert on the block but give an easy angle to Andre Drummond. He nimbly darts out of the paint to take away one open shot, then proceeds to surrender wide open mid-range jumpers to any other opponent interested in taking one:
From ESPN’s Tom Haberstroh, The BIG Number: New Year’s Revolution. Since the new year, Los Angeles boasts a 112.7 offensive rating. Care to guess how Blake Griffin stacks up in PER?
From Brian Windhorst and Ramona Shelburne, Sequel time? LeBron’s next decision. Windhorst and Shelburne piece together the narrative that presents the Clippers as a viable solution for LeBron James in 2014, instead of just the token meeting they were in 2010.
Primarily this is because of James’ relationships with Paul and Rivers. Paul is one of James’ best friends and the two have talked about playing with each other since they were in high school, when they met on the AAU and prep All-Star circuits. Paul is godfather to James’ son Bryce and they were in each other’s weddings.
In a classic “what if” moment in recent history, James urged the Cavs to attempt to draft Paul in 2005 but the team didn’t have a first-round pick that season. Cleveland’s attempts to trade into the draft were unsuccessful. The two stars later won gold medals playing together in the 2008 and 2012 Olympics for Team USA.
James respects Rivers perhaps more than any coach he hasn’t played for, a side effect of playing four playoff series against Rivers when he was the coach of the Celtics. James developed a strong dislike for many of the Celtics players, but with each year he grew more fond of Rivers as an adversary.
To follow, ESPN presents their analysts with a hypothetical scenario from Windhorst and Shelburne’s piece:
3. Do you think Miami would cooperate in a LeBron-for-Blake Griffin deal?
Arnovitz: If there’s a gun to their head, sure, because what recourse would the Heat have in that scenario? James has the power to dictate the terms because it’s his talent that’s the commodity. That’s the way labor markets usually work, and that’s a good thing.
Elhassan: If it came down to LeBron leaving for sure, absolutely. Blake Griffin has shown tremendous growth since he came into the league, and his contract would actually represent a savings from LeBron’s deal. If you’re going to lose your franchise player, getting a young stud in return is a fitting consolation prize.
Strauss: Only if they absolutely knew LeBron wasn’t returning. Much as I enjoy Griffin’s game, he’s not the ideal building block LeBron is. A power forward with Blake’s lack of length needs ideal surrounding conditions to win a championship.
Verrier: If necessary, sure. The Cavs eventually sign-and-traded LeBron to Miami. The Suns sign-and-traded Steve Nash to L.A. Once the sting wears off, rationality often prevails. The Heat don’t have to like it, but if the Clippers are his choice, getting a 24-year-old franchise player is a comically large consolatory lolly.
Wallace: Depends on what Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade do. If Bosh and Wade remain on the books — either under their current contracts or after opting out and re-signing — there might not be enough available money under the cap to look elsewhere and fill the void for that third superstar player. So if you’re Miami, you can’t necessarily afford to lose LeBron for nothing in return. But a LeBron departure is more likely to usher in a major overhaul from the front office through the end of the bench.
On Truehoop, Kevin Arnovitz with Clippers in good hands without Chris Paul.
The carping from the gallery that Griffin couldn’t suffice as a No. 1 option has quieted in recent days, but as much as Griffin has impressed the critics on the set, the most important observer is on the Clippers’ bench. Paul has spent the past month watching Griffin house-sit the offense. The Clippers have learned some illuminating things about themselves and Griffin in Paul’s absence, which should end in the next couple of weeks. His return to the lineup will serve as the ultimate midseason acquisition.
Meanwhile, the Clippers feel like a real contender for the first time since the preseason. If the guys on the court believe it, and the suits upstairs see it, and the fans sense it, then Paul must too. This was the meaning behind Spoelstra’s message in Portland: Superstars need reassurance that the world will remain on its axis without them. The Clippers’ supporting cast has provided that.
And from the archives of Arnovitz’s twitter feed:
Friends found these waiting for them in their hotel room in Anpu, China: Los Angeles Clpipres flip flops by Nkie | pic.twitter.com/QIJWEq76KC
— Kevin Arnovitz (@kevinarnovitz) February 5, 2014