Here's what we know:
- Sam would like to come back for at least 2 years and no less than the $6.1M/per he's getting now.
I've heard no one credible in Clipper Naçion who feels that the Clips shouldn't re-up Sam. Even if Shaun steps into the starting lineup (which, in past reports, Sam has conceded), the Clips still need a third guard in the rotation. Shaun and Sam have played beautifully together in the backcourt.
- Vlad may come for the mid-level exception. Given the contracts the Clips will have to dole out to Kaman and Livingston over the next 24 months, it would be nice to reserve cap room.
I'm not convinced that the Clippers can't do better than Vlad, but it's a thin free agent market and Vlad has shown some keen adaptive abilities. He's less of a knucklehead than advertised and, when prepared, doesn't completely screw you defensively - though he won't get mistaken for a stopper anytime soon.
Spacing is a good thing and when you can pull an opposing forward out to the arc, it does wonders for your post game.
The consensus seems to be that it would be nice to have Vlad return, but he doesn't warrant shifting the reverse gear on the money truck in front of his Bosnian lair.
- The elephant in the room surrounds Corey Maggette's future.
Ideally, Corey would function next year in the same role he's held during the playoffs - the sixth man with the full knowledge that between Q's back, Shaun's slight frame, Sam's age, Mobley's assorted dings, and Corey's own training room history that there will be plenty of minutes to go around. Certain games on the schedule will feature favorable matchups, and on those nights Corey will be called upon to start.
But anyone who listened to Corey's interview on The Big Show yesterday heard a guy working extremely hard at diplomacy, desperate to stake his claim as a bona fide NBA Scorer - 42 minutes per night, end of story
The questions the Clippers and the Naçion need to ask themselves is this:
Given that the focal points of the Clipper offense over the foreseeable future will be the left and right blocks and the point...
What do you want in your wing players?
Trying to answer that question irrespective of context is foolish. Trying to answer that question like you're drafting for your fantasy team and not considering that the Clippers will want Brand/Kaman to take 40 shots a night at minimum is senseless.
Trying to reason that the Clips never should've signed Cuttino Mobley for 5 years and $42 million is futile. Did the Clippers overpay for Mobley? Of course they did. If Baylor can get Denver or someone who really needs help at the off-guard to take Cat, should he trade him?
For Najera and a Reggie Evans testicular exam...no questions asked.
But demanding that the Clips trade Mobley is just ridiculous. He's got 4 years and $36M left and Isiah is covered at the 2. Finding a taker is going to be nearly impossible, so forget about it. It just don't work that way.
And since you all despise Cat, I'll defend him here as a competent - albeit overpaid - shooting guard. He's a fairly cerebral player who understands offenses and defenses. He can set a screen, guard the ball against all but the freakiest athletes, recognize where a double-team is coming from and find his post players on the block. During the season, he'll fill it up one night a week - posting smaller guards, driving to the hole and hitting from the arc.
Cat doesn't handle the ball well and can't create his own shot the way Corey does, but he's a nice, durable player and without him this year, the Clips would've been hard-pressed to clear the (8) seed. Don't believe me? Take a look at the game log from the dark days of winter - the Eastern road trip pre-Vlad, while Corey was on the shelf and while Q was on limited minutes. He played at least 45 minutes a night on that six-game swing in late January-early February, averaging 19.9 ppg.
Is he an All-Star shooting guard worth 5/$42M?
If someone will take him, should we move him?
But Cat's who we have. On nights when he takes only 8 shots, he'll do some other stuff for you and he won't scrap for shots he shouldn't take just so he can feel involved in the offense.
So that's my defense of Mobley. That's all I'm saying. He's a better player than you think he is.
Now, on to the Maggette question.
Let's assume, as we logically should, that Mobley will be back, who do you want starting on the wing most nights? Quinton Ross or Corey Maggette. And if the answer is the former (and I'll cast my ballot strongly in favor of Q for reasons that have been enumerated repeatedly in these pages over the past seven weeks), will Corey settle for being the EnergyGuyOffTheBench?
All accounts - and that interview I heard yesterday - suggest no.
So there you go. You can either keep Corey, hope he acclimates himself to that role (and that the situation doesn't complicate matters) or move him and get something of value.
There's a perception that I don't like Corey. Not the case. He's a sick player who can do some crazy things off the dribble. His rebounding in the postseason has elevated his game, even as he fails to grasp basic shit like...passing (and here I don't mean, like, he's a ballhog...I mean he literally can't find other players on the court when he needs to...like, he can't hit the post guy with an entry pass from the wing and, like, he can't hit a cutter...basic shit like that), help defense, rotations, how to curl most effectively in the half-court - and, yeah, sometimes it sucks that you have do it off multiple screens.
But if Corey would stick around and know that whether he starts or comes off the pine, at the very minimum he's going to see 30 minutes a night - particularly in the Pacific Division - he'd be invaluable.
But if you're asking me to fill out the starting lineup card to compliment Elton Brand/Chris Kaman in the post, Shaun Livingston (with Sam Cassell) at the point and Cuttino Mobley at the shooting guard, then I'm going with the best wing defender on the roster - particularly if he's a guy who's demonstrated that, given the opportunity, he can hurt the other team from mid-range, post if you try to hide your little non-defender on him, and drive if given a step and a lane.
Scoring is the most overrated attribute in professional basketball. If empowered, 75% of pro balers could average over 15/ppg. Ever looked at Quinton Ross's stats from SMU? Kurt Thomas averaged 29 a game his senior year at TCU. Danny Fortson was a 20-a-game player at Cincy.
Do the Clippers need a scorer at the wing? Or do they need a guy who can stabilize a defense in which you've got an undersized PF and a deficient C - though both can block shots - in a conference where everyone wants to take you off the dribble or free themselves up top for an open look?
Do the Clips need a guy who wants 20 touches a night first and foremost, or a guy who can burn the opponent when it cheats, but doesn't need the ball? Few championship-caliber teams over the last 25 years featured five starters who needed the ball to be effective offensively. Who played the wing spots on the Parker-Duncan or Johnson-Duncan teams? Bruce Bowen, Sean Elliott, Mario Ellie. The Stockton-Malone teams? Adam Keefe (!), Byron Russell and Jeff Hornacek. The recent Pistons squads that played in the Finals? Tayshaun Prince and Rip Hamilton.
Showtime (freaky point guard with two-headed post monster)? Byron Scott and Kurt Rambis.
In the course of a team's maturation, there comes a point where the team's identity and chemistry are illuminated. We're starting to see shades of who the Clippers are and how they'll win basketball games. We can see the kind of team they can become.
I'd love to see Corey as a key ingredient on that team. But if it's a choice between his being the co-focal point of the offense and not being here at all...I guess that's a loss I can live with.