On the occasions when I'm daydreaming about the Clippers' future, I imagine that they'll evolve into a team like the San Antonio Spurs -- defensively minded, with an offense that runs through their indefatigable power forward. As compliments, they'll have a defensive stopper on the wing who doesn't need the ball, a penetrating point guard who can shred opponents off the dribble and use his quick feet to stay in front of his man, and another wing man who can slash and get to the line at will.  

Like San Antonio, the Clippers aren't gamblers on defense [SA ranks 2nd in defensive efficiency, but only 21st in forced turnovers; the Clips rank 8th and 22nd respectively], though Dunleavy's squad has yet to perfect the stay-at-home defense that Gregg Popovich instills like a doctrine.  Part of that may be a result of Brand's small stature in the paint vs. Duncan's defensive dominance on the block, but a lot of it is seasoning and cohesion.  Elton will always play bigger than he is and, like Tim Duncan, is an egoless, professional ballplayer.

For all the hand-wringing we've indulged in over Kaman's inauspicious 2006-2007 start, we overlook another obvious area in which he still has tremendous upside - defense.  Most centers are plodding, stone-footed oafs, but Chris Kaman is an oaf with miraculous footwork and quickness.  If he decides he wants to apply the necessary concentration, Chris could become one of the eight to ten best defensive centers in the game.   If he wants to.  Because as much as his progress will allow the Clips to dominate on the offensive block, Chris, EB and Q Ross could eventually compose the best defensive frontline in the L.  That's on Chris.  Because when you've got five proficient defenders on the floor, you don't have to rely on your help defense to bail you out downcourt on every possession.  As an added bonus, you can actually win games in which you shoot only 37% from the field. 

In their first meeting last season, the Spurs and Clippers played one of the weirdest games of recent memory.  The Clips lost a heartbreaker in overtime, 95-87, a game in which both teams combined for nine turnovers - but 12 blocks -- in 53 minutes.  The Clips shot 33.3% from the floor, but had a chance to win in regulation.  The Clippers blew out the Spurs on March 7 at Staples, even though the Clips shot only 37.8% from the floor [a 30-36 night at the stripe can compensate for that].  But the Spurs returned the favor only three weeks later at Staples.

Make no mistake - and more than one Clipper has made note of it in a post-game interview with Matt Pinto - the Clippers are well aware that they're the last team in the league to have a winless road record.  If they lose tonight, the Clippers will drop to a humiliating 0-7 away from Staples in a league where the best barometer for a contending team's maturity is its record away from home.  Consider this for a second: Of the 12 teams that have advanced to the Conference Finals over the past three seasons, only one not one brought with them a losing regular season road record [Cleveland, last year, 19-22].  What was done in November is done, but if the Clips have any hopes of securing a non-Patriot League seeding in the playoffs, they need to start picking off teams on the road.  A win tonight would be the Clippers' first in which they weren't the favorite - and a heretofore mediocre season could get the jumpstart it needs. 

You don't deserve anything - you just go play.   You start thinking about what you deserve and what you don't deserve and it just makes you soft. 

You just go play the game.

--Gregg Popovich, May 17, 2006