As a general principle, I don't subscribe to curses, superstition, and mystical theories about sports franchises.  Mythology is fun, but basketball games are won and lost for empirical reasons that have little to do with the script embroidered across a jersey.  Now, if your favorite franchise sucks to no end, chances are it’s not a goat or the haunting presence of a bad trade that’s the problem. It’s far more likely that your team’s front office can’t manage a smart playlist, much less an amateur draft, player evaluation, or a contract negotiation.  All that said, I confess that, between Shaun's broken twig and this Elton debacle, I'm beginning to entertain the notion that there is a force in the world larger than James Naismith at work here.

So what now?  The Clippers have almost $4M remaining on their MLE which, presumably, they’ll use for someone who can take up space in the post.  Chris Webber, a nominal PF, is still out there, but he’s made it known that he’s interested in playing for a ring, which would undoubtedly exclude the Clippers from any consideration as a destination.  I mistakenly referred to Melvin Ely as the best remaining PF on the market.  That’s not true so long as Ruben Patterson is available.  The Clippers would be a solid fit for Patterson –- and vice versa -- given the vacuum left by Brand, but whether the Stopper de Kobe would accept table scraps from the Clippers is another matter. 

[CORRECTION: Reader Beat brings up the very salient point that Patterson is, in fact, not a PF.  And he's right.  One of the strange things about Patterson is that he can't shoot from the outside, yet puts up terrific FG% numbers more reflective of a back-to-the-basket forward than a SF; Patterson can defend four positions, particularly in the current Western Conference game.  Last season, Milwaukee paired Patterson up front with Ilyasova who, though he has a few inches on Patterson, essentially played the wing. His skill set is that of a PF, but with a 6' 5" stature.]

Ultimately, any damage control in the frontcourt will have to be performed by Chris Kaman.  Even to those who watch him 70+ times a year like us, Kaman remains a total mystery.  It’s unseemly that a young big man with the kind of footwork, ambidexterity, and the consistent baseline drop step that Chris has can’t finish plays.  But as fundamentally sound Chris is -– and that’s the crazy part, the guy has an uncanny set of tools --  he’s a hopeless space cadet who can spontaneously combust on the block at any moment.  If Kaman were a pitcher, he’d be Mark Fidrych.  If the Clippers are lucky, he’ll be Oliver Perez. 

Outside of Kaman and a temporary stopgap, there’s the possibility of increased minutes for Paul Davis.  We recently alluded to the fact that according to Hollinger’s impressively predictive draft rankings, Davis is projected to be a legitimate pro.  Though he can’t jump over a toothpick, Davis showed us an inkling of a pretty decent post game last season, along with a passable fadeaway jump shot.  Without question, he’s a far superior passer than Kaman.  Davis won’t kill the team defensively in the post and, while it’s not where you’d like it to be, his rebounding rate could be worse given his reputation coming out of the Big 10 as a little bit soft on the block out.   

With precious few options, Dunleavy will inevitably play Tim Thomas at the 4 for long stretches.  Be forewarned, nothing good will come out of any game in which Tim Thomas plays 20 minutes or more at the power forward spot.  Thomas is one of the worst rebounders in the league and, though Maggette will help compensate for Thomas’ failures, his unwillingness to work the glass will be death to a poor-shooting team that has traditionally counted on offensive boards to offset its inability to score points.   If Thomas had a capable post game, the Clippers could figure out how to reconfigure their halfcourt scheme.  But he doesn’t…and they can’t.  

The outsized question mark in the PF equation is Yaroslav Korolev, who turned 20 three weeks after the Clippers packed up for the summer.  Few outside the Russian basketball federation and the Clippers know what this 6’9”-6’10” kid from Moscow is capable of, and even that might be a stretch.  Even though Korolev's natural position is small forward, one of the very faint silver linings in this tragedy might be the opportunity to see what Korolev can do with meaningful minutes in games that matter -- wherever the Clippers decide to position him on the floor. 

The best hope for the Clippers is the modest emergence of Davis and/or Korolev, a nice breakout season from Kaman, and a relatively harmless contribution from a sharpshooting Thomas.  If Corey can continue to put up PF-type rebounding numbers and the aforementioned understudies don't get killed underneath, maybe – just maybe – the Clippers can remain competitively mediocre and answer a few of the questions that have been nagging them over the past 18 months. 

UPDATE: Hmmmm...Intriguing thought