Every couple weeks, we will run ClipperBlog Observations, a condensed version of the ghost of Last Call. With the Clippers’ record standing at 24-12 and with the Mavericks coming to town Saturday afternoon, here is where our staff thinks the team stands.
The Clippers “hosting” the Lakers Wednesday night wasn’t much of an event. Shoot, it may not have been the event of the evening in DTLA, as the People’s Choice Awards were held the same night. The Clippers had already played the Lakers once this season, and the game wound up being overshadowed by the Clippers’ jolly owner. (Perhaps overshadowed is a bad word here. Overbrightened?)
But what if this game was the start of something? Like, the start of conference play in the NBA?
Everyone has their anti-tanking strategies, conference-disparity complaints, and various thoughts about what to do with scheduling for semi-weary pros and slightly attention-strained stans. So my half-baked theory is simple:
• Play all 30 interconference games to start the season, backloading them with back-to-backs
• Play the remaining 52 conference schedule thereafter, possibly starting games on Christmas, but more likely starting them around this week if the frontloaded back-to-backs don’t work
In a media world where it seems like people want less of everything, this kind of scheduling format would combine some of the things that make college basketball interesting, along with the NFL’s solution from five years ago to limit tanking and get the most interesting games later in the schedule.
At the very least, perhaps it would make January in the NBA a major sports talking point, instead of the lull between Christmas and ASB. Except, of course, when Ballmer hears Fergie.
– Law Murray, (@LawMurrayTheNU)
When Lob City blew up after Blake Griffin and Deandre Jordan celebrated in plain sight during the Chris Paul trade, the world was awash with expectations and hype. No one had seen anything like this, an all-world power forward with inhuman hops only to be outmatched by a seven-foot center that could leap into outer space. We had no idea what to expect but we demanded greatness.
For everything that they are and have been, the Los Angeles Clippers have lived up to their preordained set of actions. Kendrick Perkins, Brandon Knight and Timofey Mozgov have been vanquished. Chris Paul has supplied his heroic moments in the postseason, and in a surprising twist of a somewhat feel-good story, they even abolished their racist owner.
But to remain melodramatic, it looks like the Clippers fan are about as bored as the players on the court seem. Against the Atlanta Hawks, the crowd remained subdued throughout a passive showing from Griffin and company. There were even six Clippers defensive possessions in a row filled with whistles. No longer the feel-good story of the league, watching the Clippers feels more like a chore than sitting on pins and needles clamoring for the next Jordan throwdown.
It certainly is not be the end of this Clippers era, and how amazing it really has been. But the shine is wearing off, at least just a tad, and this season is ripping open the warts and allowing everyone to envelop the honesty.
– Andy Liu, (@AndyKHLiu)
We all know that Blake Griffin is dunking less this year; we all know that Lebron James is playing at about half speed, at best. Two of the most ridiculous players in the NBA seem to have changed their games substantially over the summer, and the rumors are out—the dreaded declining athleticism.
I even believed them. But when Griffin gave us an effortless two handed windmill against the Lakers, I thought again. There were Lakers around him, but nobody near enough to shove him out of mid-air, so he could go up without worrying about an injury. Last year, there were rumblings that Blake needed to fight someone so they’d stop trying to break his legs on every dunk; but Blake, being a rational human being, might have decided to just avoid those dunks instead. To play below the rim. To take a slap on the forearm instead of a forearm to the back.
This, like Lebron’s lack of intensity, is heartbreaking for most basketball fans, but it might also be unavoidable. Men like Griffin and James are simply too big, fast and strong; they manufacture fouls out of that strength and speed. And it’s awesome. At the same time, it’s painful. The only solution would be for referees to deal differently with fouls on super-athletes, but what would that mean? You can’t give Griffin three shots just because his defender is physically over-matched. You can’t kick Russell Westbrook’s or Lebron’s defenders out of the game because they’re not superhuman.
What we’re witnessing is a tragedy: these men are just too much for this game. They could go all out for ten years, filling highlight reels, and then retire almost unable to walk. Or they can do what Blake is doing this year: stay closer to the ground, and save his talents, using them only when it’s absolutely safe.
– J.D. Evans
It’s been 16 games since Blake Griffin has truly taken over as the Clippers’ consistent second facilitator, a stretch over which the LA power forward is averaging 6.8 assists per game, an unthinkable rate for a 4-man.
This isn’t necessarily something we’ve seen in the modern era, either. The only big man who’s averaged that many assists per game over a whole season is none other than Wilt Chamberlain (unless you want to consider Larry Bird a big, which you don’t). Griffin’s seasonal average is up to five a night now, and he has a chance to keep up this assist streak, especially if Chris Paul’s annual 10-game vacation is just around the corner.
It’s hard to argue against Griffin as the best-passing big man in the league now, considering his versatility. He makes tosses in the half-court, off the dribble, out of the pick-and-roll, in transition. He throws lobs, he skips bounces, he darts bullets crosscourt. In fact, considering Jordan Farmar’s struggles, don’t you kind of wish Doc would play Blake at the point when Paul sits on the bench just to see what happens?
He’s doing everything, and when we talk about a “down” season for Griffin—one which still sees him as the only player in the league averaging 22, seven and five—we have to acknowledge the evolution of his skill set beyond the jumper. Blake Griffin, the passer, is in full swing.
– Fred Katz, (@FredKatz)