As I prepared to watch last night’s game against the Trailblazers, I had the feeling that the Clippers would come out flat, still upset about team favorite Marcus Camby getting traded. They certainly didn’t disappoint in that regard, thought they also showed some life in making a run to get things close at the end of the first quarter before ultimately losing by 22 points.
Craig Smith got the start in place of the departed Camby and the Rhino looked pretty good banging with Portland’s LaMarcus Aldrige and Juwan Howard, though he clearly lacks the athleticism of Aldridge or the know-how of Howard. DeAndre Jordan also had a good showing, getting 14 points and 11 rebounds in only 27 minutes. Interim coach Kim Hughes said before the game that the team plans to get Jordan’s minutes up as he continues shows he’s in condition to play the increased minutes.
Baron Davis was awful, though there was a bright spot when he tried a behind-the-back-wraparound pass in the paint, only to see Craig Smith’s slow reaction allow a defender to sneak in and poke the ball out of bounds.
At that point, I pretty much gave up on the game and started counting down the minutes until Lost was on, but as I half-watched the game, I did allow my mind to wander off into the future, imagining what the Clippers with Steve Blake and Travis Outlaw will look like…and I like what I envision.
I may be building Blake into a savior that he clearly is not, but I see him being able to push the ball up court, allowing Baron to find space to move freely in and Eric Gordon to find a corner to settle into and get a good look at a shot.
The Clippers want to push the ball as much as possible and they have some of the talent to do that, but they’ve shown incapable of moving the ball with Baron on the bench or even when Baron is on the court but without the ball. Camby might have been the team’s second-best ball-handler and he’s gone.
The addition of Blake will allow them to not only run the court but to also be able to move the ball effectively, something that should free up the team’s shooters (Gordon, Rasual Butler, Chris Kaman) while also not allowing defenders to cheat into the lane, knowing that’s where Baron wants to take it every possession. This should increase Jordan and Smith’s effectiveness inside.
And then when Outlaw gets back…boy, that will be a team that can run.
Or not. They may go out tonight and be a stagnant offense, Baron might not like playing alongside Blake, Blake might perform too well with Baron on the bench – that’s the beauty of the Clippers. You never know if things are going to go right, but you can always imagine them going wrong.
The team hosts the Hawks tonight, and Blake is expected to be available.