Los Angeles Clippers Hope: 12 Ways the Clippers Can Save Their Season
Even after last night's impressive win over the Western Conference-leading San Antonio Spurs, the Los Angeles Clippers hold the worst record in the league at 4-15.
Yet, somehow, they are only 5.5 games out of a projected playoff spot.
Consistently successful squads like Phoenix and Portland have fallen off, opening the door for an eighth team to slide into the postseason, and it is not inconceivable that the Clippers fill the hole.
What can the Clips do to save their season and make a run at glory?
I want to reiterate that moving the team out of LA will not help them win. They will be the same Clippers with the same roster and a change in scenery will not alter production. Donald Sterling selling the franchise might change the team's fortunes, but it has been made clear that he will not do that. Therefore, let's focus on other ways the Clippers can salvage 2010-11.
Who knows? Maybe Clipper-ville could become Glass Slipper-ville, and LA could have its very own fairy tale about the previously poor stepsister.
This is Hollywood, after all.
Before discussing drastic moves, wholesale changes, or system overhauls, the Clippers must remember to be patient, as this team has shown flashes of brilliant potential.
Blake Griffin and Eric Gordon (speaking of Griffin and Gordon, how about calling them the G-Unit?) are superstars in the making, if they are not there already, and some of the other youngsters are also displaying promise.
Just last week, Los Angeles trotted out the youngest starting lineup in the history of NBA basketball, so no one should expect consistent play. You cannot overestimate the value of veteran leadership on the court.
Furthermore, injuries to Baron Davis and Chris Kaman have left the Clippers without two starters and everyone is still learning coach Vinny Del Negro's system. When it all comes together, this team could be dangerous.
Better Third Quarters
This has been a theme all year, as the Clippers have been awful after the break. In a recent loss to the Utah Jazz, they blew an eight-point halftime lead by allowing a 27 -14 third quarter. The start of the second half is often the most critical moment of games, as it gives teams a chance to either solidify a lead or make a run to close the gap.
There have been no good explanations for this failure to produce in the third quarter. They either come out with insufficient intensity or they do not make requisite adjustments. This one is squarely on Del Negro's shoulders. He needs to figure out the cause behind this problem and fix it.
Welcome Baron Davis Back
No one has been more critical of Baron Davis than me.
In fact, referring harshly to the former star has helped me polish up my negative vocabulary, which I rarely use in the real world.
Still, now it's time to welcome Baron back. Exhibit A: With seven points and 10 assists in his return, Davis was a catalyst in the win over the Spurs.
Maybe his time on the bench has opened his eyes to how much he loves the game and how much effort he wants to give.
Maybe he has seen that the team belongs to the G-Unit and he is willing to be a potent complementary piece.
Maybe he really was just injured and a clean bill of health is all he needs to be effective.
Whatever the reason, Baron might be ready to actually help the team. If he is not the long term answer, then at least showcase him for a trade.
Get Chris Kaman on The Floor
Kaman is another player of whom I have been persistently judgmental.
However, the team is in dire need of low post help for Griffin. Though DeAndre Jordan has done an admirable job filling in during the starting center's injury, showing glimpses of a bright future, he is not yet a legitimate starter in the league.
Even though he struggled early in the season, Kaman's return will add depth and skill to the post, taking pressure off Blake.
Balance Scoring Load
The G-Unit has been otherworldly, but listen to this. They are the only active guys on the team averaging double digits!
That's right, they have shouldered almost all of the Clippers' scoring burden—both of them average over 20 points per game—and a team without offensive balance is never successful. They need help from somewhere, whether it be Eric Bledsoe stepping up more often, Al-Farouq Aminu really coming into his own, or Davis and Kaman jumping back into the fray.
Fewer Guard Turnovers
Young guards plus no veteran stabilizing presence equals lots of turnovers.
Bledsoe and Gordon each cough up the rock 2.9 times per game, which is understandable but still detrimental. As Bledsoe gets more court time under his belt and Gordon becomes more used to being a playmaker, they should improve in this area.
That means less easy buckets for opponents and more opportunities for the Clippers.
This is another issue most likely stemming from collective inexperience. The Clippers are not getting it done on the defensive end.
Particularly, they are a step slow rotating to the ball and providing weak-side defense. They allow 24.4 assists per game, third worst in the league, which means that opponents are finding too many open shots. The Clips are also second to last, in front of the matadors on the Phoenix Suns, in defensive efficiency.
Their guys have the physical tools to be good defenders and by all accounts Eric Gordon is already very dependable on the perimeter. But they have not yet exhibited requisite desire or anticipation to shut other teams down.
Defend the 3
The Clippers' defensive struggles are most glaring when you look at their opponents' three-point shooting.
Los Angeles allows teams to shoot 42 percent from downtown, by far worst in the league. In fact, only one other team has allowed 40 percent in the last 12 years! That is unbelievable!
The Clippers point differential is minus-6.8, but their three-point differential is almost minus-9 per game. Well that explains a few losses, doesn't it?
If the Clips do not start closing out shooters and chasing them off the line, their woes will only continue.
Make a Trade
There has been trade speculation surrounding the Clippers since this past summer, when they were not able to acquire any of the big-name free agents. With tradeable pieces and significant available cap space, Los Angeles definitely has the ability to make a splash with a bold move.
Carmelo Anthony and Andre Iguodala are names that have been bandied about as potential Clipper prospects. If Neil Olshey were able to bring one of those studs to Southern California, a late season run would be expected.
Play More Elite Opponents
The Clippers have had decent success so far against some of the best teams in the league. In addition to last night against the Spurs, they knocked off the New Orleans Hornets when Monty Williams' bunch held the best record in the league and they also blew out the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Perhaps they just find it hard to get motivated for average opponents. Come on Vinny, coach em up.
Fire Vinny Del Negro
Now, firing the coach is a daring maneuver that screams panic. Though his team is admittedly not where he had hoped it would be, Del Negro should probably be given at least a little more time to prove himself.
However, axing the head man often sparks a team, as the players want to demonstrate that they still deserve playing time, that the team's futility was not their fault, or that they have the capacity to rally around a new coach.
With Blake Griffin's precociousness, it might be wise to already let him player-coach the Clips.
Keep Up the Bad Work
If the Clips are not going to surge into the playoffs and electrify Los Angeles with a postseason cross-town matchup, then it might be beneficial to maintain their pitiful pace and secure the best odds to obtain the No. 1 pick in next year's draft.
If they could select another guy worthy of the G-Unit, they will really be in business for the future.