Clipperblog is tanned, rested and ready from its summer break. It has finally paid its season ticket balance in full (and wishes to thank DTS for not raising the rent) and is completely perplexed to find that Bonzi Wells is still homeless and that the Clippers have signed a deal with MLB's Washington Nationals whereby Corey Maggette will be coming off the bench as a pinch-hitter primarily to face left-handed pitching and Alfonso Soriano will be backing up Cat Mobley. And after spending a year in the sports diaspora working kids' birthday parties, former Expo/National mascot Youpi! will roam the sidelines at Staples.
Not one day after the World Championships, I got three emails from friends back east asking me what the story was with Sofoklis Schortsanitis, the center on the Greek National Team. Was he going to cross the pond and join the team that drafted him 34th overall in the 2003 NBA draft?
It's an interesting proposition and one that exemplifies just how far international players have come in less than a decade. Not more than six or seven years ago, if you suggested that your team corral a big lumpy center from overseas, you'd elicit snickers for evoking the names of Zan Tabak and Dragan Tarlac. But these days, if a guy from overseas puts up 14 points in 17 minutes in international competition, we're ready to slide him 160,000 OneWorld points to get him in an NBA uniform. And why not? Homegrown NBA talent has proven itself incapable of guarding agile big men (see Dirk, Pau, et al).
Personally, the emergence of Schortsanitis (can we hold off on the "Baby Shaq" sobriquet for a little while longer, please? Because I don't think Glen Davis has returned the placard yet and, besides, it goes to Megan Hausmann next), if nothing else provides the Clippers with a nice insurance policy if (when) Chris Kaman bolts after the season for a boffo contract elsewhere. With Livingston up next for an extension, Baylor will be reluctant to empty the coffers for Chris - particularly if he needs to come up with mid-seven figures to retain his Head Coach or hire another one.
So why not go Billy Beane by cycling out your center for a younger one at 1/20th the price? I'm not suggesting that the Clippers will be a better team with Sofoklis Schortsanitis over Chris Kaman - because that's an absurd assumption right now - but how many teams in the NBA could replace a top 10 center with a young European player who has been seasoned with four years of top-notch international competition?