Every couple weeks, we will run ClipperBlog Observations, a condensed version of Last Call. With the Clippers’ record standing at 35-19 heading into the All-Star break, here is where our staff thinks the team stands.
Doc Rivers’ Veterans
It is unlikely that Amar’e Stoudemire and Kevin Garnett will become available. Stoudemire needs to be bought out and it’s asking a lot for a team, even the habitually idiotic New York Knicks, to eat that salary in order to simply grant his wish. What do they get in return? Garnett has stated that he does not want to take the easy way out and will likely end his contract as a Brooklyn Net. However, if either player suddenly becomes postseason help for contenders, the Clippers are likely frontrunners.
The Clippers don’t have trade chips. They don’t have much young talent or picks. But most importantly, Doc Rivers loves, LOVES, his veterans, and especially guys he’s either played against or coached in the past. Garnett and Stoudemire fit that criteria to a tee. Most are wary of this, and Rivers has been rightfully criticized for the stubbornness he has shown.
I am now ready to pronounce that the Clippers should just go Full Heel. They are increasingly disliked by the casual fan for Blake Griffin’s flopping, Chris Paul’s constant whining and Matt Barnes’ goonery. If they are to maintain some type of villain status while winning all these games, it might be prudent—at least from my selfish entertainment’s point of view—to go acquire Garnett or both to bolster not just the bench, but also likeliness of an in-game brawl.
The full departure from the fun-loving underdog Lob City Clippers will be complete. And perhaps they will be better for it. Garnett, even at age 87, brings a much better defensive presence than anything Big Baby can do. Stoudemire’s left hand is a better offensive play that whatever is left of Hedo Turkoglu. They are perfect fits with Rivers’ system and style. So go on with it, Clips. Make it happen.
– Andy Liu, (@AndyKHLiu)
On Austin Rivers
NBA people all seem to agree that young players need that one skill to keep them on the floor while they develop into whatever it is that’s left of them. Curry had his shooting, Blake had his athleticism, and so on. Austin Rivers has his ability to get to the rim. The problem is that Curry’s shooting and Blake’s athleticism are self-standing skills, while Rivers’ ability to get to the rim is only a good building block if he can actually do something once he gets there, for instance, “make a layup,” (a la Westbrook), “get fouled,” (a la Harden) or “drop it off to cutters” (a la Rondo).
In his early weeks as a Clipper, I’ve seen him get there a few too many times without doing any of those things. But getting there really is a skill, and working on *one* of those three will turn him into a useful player. But I get the feeling he’s working on something else: becoming a wing defender. So far there’s more effort than skill involved, but he’s willing to get in people’s chests and challenge them. If it works out, he can have a great career as a drive-and-D man off the bench.
– J.D. Evans
A Familiar Feeling
The Clippers have been oft-criticised for their on-court demeanour: a whining, entitled, under-achieving good-for-nothing franchise. The mood changed swiftly in the wake of CP3’s arrival from Lob City to Whinge City. So popular were the Clippers that they became unpopular—like when your mom got Facebook. Not surprisingly, it was Steve Ballmer who paid $2 billion this past summer for what he dubbed “America’s Team”. But America’s Team didn’t quite live up to expectations. The words “most-hated” were thrown around the league. The “product” was uninspiring on and off the court. Rivals revelled in it and fans knew it too. Something had to give.
And then, Blake Griffin was injured—ruled out for up to six weeks. The Clippers spiralled to four straight losses, something unfamiliar in the Doc Rivers Era. While the rest of the league licked its collective lips at the crumbling Clippers, the long-time fan found familiarity in losing again. Order was restored as whispers of an almighty collapse from contender to lottery-bound seemed all too possible. But perhaps this was what this team needed.
The Clippers were underdogs again. The loss of their most talented player made the team play harder. The whining seemed more a product of desperation than entitlement. DeAndre Jordan went into Beast Mode, Matt Barnes dug in his claws, and J.J. Redick returned from injury to lock down a leading MVP candidate. The Clippers’ great expectations were replaced by survival-mode, scraping to victory by any means necessary and although it wasn’t pretty, it was finally fun to watch.
– Roscoe Whalan, (@RoscoeWhalan7)
Devil in a Gray Suit
At the end of last season, Doc Rivers was seen as the face behind the Clippers’ triumphs through adversity. Coming into the All-Star break of this season, he’s now looked upon by many as a heel, hindering the franchise from further ascension into the West’s upper echelon. He’s been called a bad GM. He’s been labeled a nepotist. And now, coming off a Jared Dudley interview on Zach Lowe’s podcast, he’s been deemed an unreasonable floor general that would make a player play through a knee fracture.
In an information age where conclusions are drawn as fast as tweets are sent, it can be easy to neglect or forget the context of the situation given. It would have been beneficial to allow Dudley the time to rest, but we can only speculate on how Maalik Wayns’ injury affected the team’s roster decisions between the end of pre-season and the point where 10-day contracts could be signed. It’s unbearable to think a coach would allow a player to get on the court with a fractured knee, but even Dudley himself admitted at the time that he believed he was suffering from tendinitis and not something else. We can lament on how a training staff could misdiagnose the cause of a knee injury or even speculate if the trainers stand down to Rivers’ authority, and yet it should not go unmentioned that Donald Sterling perpetually shortchanged his staff and refused to provide the equipment needed for better player tracking and care.
It’s a sore (no pun intended) topic to digest, especially considering that Dudley is exactly the type of player that the Clippers could use on their roster right now, and it only leaves one to wonder what could have been had the sale to Steve Ballmer had not happened sooner rather than two weeks after Dudley had been traded. In the weeks building up to the trade, did Doc feel like he didn’t see any progress in Jared’s recovery and begin to lose confidence? Could there have been a situation where the training staff was given the equipment needed to identify the issue and a recovery plan for Dudley had the ownership change happened sooner? We may not ever know, but maybe it’s time to admit how much in these stories goes unknown rather than to fill those holes with assumptions that allow for a more convenient narrative.
– Brandon Tomyoy, (@dingyu)