Los Angeles Clippers (28-15) @ Toronto Raptors (28-15)
Air Canada Center
3:00 p.m. PST
January 24, 2015
Fox Prime Ticket
1. Kyle Lowry is in the All-Star Game for the second year in a row. Is he approaching Raptors’ folklore?
Blake Murphy, Raptors Republic, (@BlakeMurphyODC): He has to be, really. He’s only the third Raptor to make two All-Star Games and the second to be voted a starter twice, and his announcement with the starters at this year’s game, in Toronto, projects to be one of the most memorable moments in Raptors history. Beyond the accolades, in less than four seasons he’s vaulted to eighth in franchise scoring and should rank sixth by season’s end (he’ll likely be fourth in Win Shares, if you prefer that measure), and he’s about to lead the team to three consecutive playoff appearances, something that’s only ever happened for the Raptors once before. Right now, Lowry’s battling a few other luminaries for third behind Vince Carter and Chris Bosh. If Lowry can lead the team to just their second series victory ever, or even their first Eastern Conference Finals appearance, fans would be justified ranking him just about anywhere.
Aaron Williams (@aaronsmarter): The Raptors have folklore!? … no shade, but… Vince Carter might be the closest they’ve ever had to an All-Time, HOF kind of guy. Maybe Chris Bosh? He didn’t really do anything while he was there though. We’ll just say, “yes”, before I’m banned from Canada, or Norm Kelly starts tweeting out of date rap disses at me.
Kaveh Jam (@kavehsroom): Put it this way, he’s definitely having as good of a season as any Toronto Raptor has ever had. Lowry is a sneaky All-Star in the sense that he really does fill the entire stat sheet. In addition to his scoring and barrages from three-point land, he’s second in the league in steals. He’s the unequivocal motor of the Raptors and it helps that he’s been on record embracing the city of Toronto (and vice versa).
2. Speaking of All-Stars, which shooting guard do you think is more deserving of the coaches’ nod: DeMar Derozan or J.J. Redick?
Murphy: When I published my hypothetical All-Star ballot last week, I gave Redick the nod in the final West spot over Jordan (and a few other deserving names). The West is so tight at the team and player level that it really comes down to personal preference, and I took the unpopular route of giving a player thriving in a somewhat lesser role the edge over someone playing well in a larger role.
Redick got my vote
because he’s so damn handsome because his arms are on fleek because his watch game proper because those tats because he’s been terrific this season, especially when the Clippers have needed it most with Griffin shelved. Some may find DeAndre Jordan more deserving overall, and I wouldn’t argue – he’s had more of an impact based on advanced metrics, he’s a fun fit for an All-Star Game, and his two-way play has been just as, if not more important than Redick’s offensive contribution. But Redick’s leading the league in 3-point shooting at 49.5 percent on 5.5 attempts per game, and he creates a ton of issues for defense as an ever-moving off-ball catch-and-shoot terror. He’s averaging 16.4 points in 27.7 minutes with an insane 65.3 true-shooting percentage, and while his role may not be that of an All-Star, he’s filling it like one.
I still say DeRozan’s more deserving for playing the No. 2 role on a comparably good team, improving as a driver, scorer, and playmaker, and really reaching a level few though he’d ever get to. His annual incremental improvements continue to impress, and I think DeRozan’s additional volume and playmaking give him the nod over Redick (though admittedly, by that same logic, I probably shouldn’t have given Redick a nod in the first place, shrug).
Williams: I’M TORN. Let it be known that Aaron Smarter Williams, Ultra-Homer, cannot make a decision either way due to conflicting loyalties. On one hand: the Clippers. On the other, Compton and the Drew League. I plead the fifth! Hey wait, is this a trick question? They’re in separate conferences! BOTH, I SAY. BOTH!
Jam: It’s really tough. I’ll say DeRozan on the basis that he burdens much more of the Raptors success/failure than J.J. Redick does. As good as Lowry has been, the Raptors are a floundering team without DeRozan. Here’s a stat that can knock you back: DeRozan ranks third in the league in free throw attempts, in front of names like Andre Drummond and DeAndre Jordan — guys who can’t seem to escape being intentionally given free throw attempts.
3. The Josh Smith Era in Los Angeles is done. Care to say a few words?
Murphy: Only that there’s no accounting for personality and chemistry at the margins. Talent rules at the end of the day, but for teams with an established core and established level of play, finding the right fit can mean just as much as maximizing talent. I get why the Clippers went after Stephenson and Smith given how few means they had to improve and given their own faith in Rivers’ “leader of men” abilities, but it serves as a warning to players that the grass isn’t always greener and to teams that culture can’t be assumed to fix everything.
And also, the Clipper should have signed Ronald Roberts instead of Jeff Ayres.
Williams: Can’t say I didn’t see that coming. You could make a team of just Clippers’ rejected forwards at this point (or some kind of “I Hate Doc” support group) and that team could probably hash out 30 wins – at least 3 of which would be revenge games against the Clippers. To be fair, I never liked Josh Smith much as a player (seriously, he finishes at the same rate I do at Sunday pickup) and we are all aware of his infamous reputation as a locker room malcontent. Let’s just say: I hope something good comes of it.
Jam: I was part of the group that felt like Josh Smith fit nicely on the roster given the Clippers lack of depth last season. Whatever was said or occurred that disrupted the cohesiveness of the team became very apparent to the outside. His versatility and skill set is what has always made him unique but at this point both sides are better off moving on. Now we can watch the Clippers without the burning question of ‘how much PT is Doc going to give J-Smoove tonight.’