To put the Maggette revolution into some sort of statistical perspective, consider this:

The first time Corey Maggette recorded five assists in a game this season was January 15 at Golden State.  Sure, he wasn’t starting all that often prior to the Cassell/Livingston injuries, but over the past four games – even though he’s been relegated to the bench for lengthy stretches in the first half -- Corey has averaged 5.25 assists in 33.5 minutes.   

Clipperblog is pissy this morning because in the rush yesterday to finish watching the regional finals then get out the door to Staples, he forgot to set the Tivo.  As a result, there can’t be any breakdown of Corey’s five assists last night, or any detailed discussion of how his approach to halfcourt basketball within the Clippers’ inside-out game has changed.  Let me see if I can articulate this without the benefit of playback: 

When Kaman is able to establish position in the post, the Clippers are a classic Inside-Out offensive team.  They move the ball north-south between their perimeter shooters and their big men.  While the Clipper roster has a nice range of skill sets, they aren’t Utah or Phoenix or even Denver – teams whose individual players embody the full range of offensive weaponry.  Elton Brand and Chris Kaman aren’t going to hit from 22 feet, and with the exception of the occasional Mobley flash to the basket, Clipper guards aren’t going to do much on isolations or clear-outs.   There’s no shame in that simplicity.  If your personnel employs this scheme proficiently, they’ll get a whole lotta clean shots. 

Maggette, then, is pivotal because he’s the one guy who can straddle the line between inside and out.  He can – or should – be able to conduct basketball operations in the post.  He can – or should – be able to free himself on the perimeter for open shots.  He can – or should – be able to recognize opportunities where he can [or cannot] take defenders off the dribble.  And if he’s doing all this stuff well, he can – or should – be able to draw double-teams and recognize what they offer the offense at that very moment – an open man on the weak side, or a momentary advantage for the guy in the post that has to be actualized instantly, or where the zone has just softened.   Good offensive basketball is all about recognition, unless you’re Kobe Bryant, in which case you always have the advantage, and your sole responsibility is to keep the ball out of Kwame Brown’s hands. 

I don’t want to congratulate Corey on some miracle of basketball maturation.  He’s a professional and he’s playing at the top of his game.  But I think it’s a lot more than, ‘Oh, well he’s starting now and getting an additional four minutes a game playing time!’  The thing is, the extra pass has always been there.  They haven’t just recently placed magic dust under the floor at twenty feet.  Knowing that DeShawn Stevenson doesn’t require a double-team seventeen feet from the basket isn’t news.  Whether it’s a secure spot in the starting lineup or just a revelatory moment of clarity, Corey has figured out that cultivating a signature style outside of any schematic context doesn’t contribute all that much to winning basketball games. 

But freakiness combined with precision?