Preview and Chat: The Los Angeles Clippers

Phillip Barnett —  December 19, 2011

Records (Last season): Lakers 57-25 (2n in West), Clippers 32-50 (13th in West)
Offensive ratings: Lakers 111.0 (6th in NBA), Clippers 105.3 (22nd in NBA)
Defensive ratings: Lakers 104.3 (6th in NBA), Clippers 108.7 (18th in NBA)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Steve Blake, Kobe Bryant, Matt Barnes, Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum
Clippers: Chris Paul, Chauncey Billups, Caron Butler, Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan

The Lakers Coming In: The moves the Lakers have made, and the moves the Lakers have attempted to make this offseason aren’t a secret. Lamar Odom is gone while we’re going to have to have to get used to seeing Jason Kapono, Josh McRoberts and Troy Murphy clad in the Forum Blue and Gold.

We’re also going to have to get used to seeing Mike Brown on the sidelines. So much so that I forget to add this little nugget when I initially wrote this preview. We’re no longer going to see the Zen Master stoically sitting on the Lakers bench in his high chair, but instead the more energetic Brown who has promised to shape up this Lakers defense and run the offense through the post. Strange times indeed.

Lastly, this is the first time in three years that the Lakers aren’t entering the season coming off a trip to the NBA Finals as they were swept by the Mavericks in the Western Conference Semis. Even with all of the changes, with the embarrassing playoff exit and the lack of a big signing, the Lakers are still entering this season with a hell of a team. Kobe is seemingly as healthy as he’s going to be, the ankle is fine and he under went a unique knee surgery. Even with LO gone, the Lakers still have one of the league’s premier front-courts.

These may not be the most ideal circumstances headed into the new year, but this is where the Lakers currently stand.

The Clippers Coming In: For the first time in years, the other team in Los Angeles has a legitimate reason to be optimistic about their future. With Blake Griffin emerging as one of the most exciting young ball players and DeAndre Jordan finally coming into his own, it seemed as if they only needed to get healthy and a veteran presence to bring everything together.

The health issue still remains to be seen, but the veteran presences was answered when they acquired Caron Butler, then Chanucey Billups, then Chris Paul. While Butler and Paul have both had health issues of their own, Butler gives the Clippers a huge boost at the small forward position, where the Clippers struggled most last year, and the point guard spot, where adding Chris Paul to any team would be a positive.

Now with one of the better emerging frontcourts paired with two of the better decision makers handling the ball for the Clippers, the franchise has gone from being the laughing stock of the NBA to now being dubbed “Lob City” before even playing a game together. Suffice to say, exciting things will be coming from the Lakers Staples roommates, but the question remains: are these additions enough for the Clippers to contend for a championship. As they’re currently built, it’s hard to say yes, but we’re definitely looking at a much improved — and a much more competitive Clippers team.

Clippers Blogs: Make sure you guys give Clipper Blog a look for all news about the other team in Los Angeles.

Keys to the Game: With tonight being the first pre-season game of the year, it’s important to remember that this is by no means a measuring stick to see how the Lakers compare to the new-look Clippers, nor one to see whether or not the Clippers can compete with the perennial contending Lakers.

What we should really be paying attention to is how some of the newer players work with guys who have been here a while. We should be looking seeing what kind of sets the Lakers are running on the offensive end of the floor and the changes new Head Coach Mike Brown has made to the defense. I’m particularly going to be interested to see if either Kapono or Murphy can stretch the floor enough to give guys like Kobe, Pau, and Bynum room to operate inside.

I’ll also be paying close attention to watching how Kobe moves. This is his first NBA action since the knee surgery. I’ll be looking at the fluidity of his jump shot, how often he penetrates versus settling for contested jumpers and how active he is on the defensive end.

Tonight isn’t a night to expect perfection. Tonight is nothing more than a first look at the Lakers against another NBA team, and nothing more. With a shortened off-season, they’ve had little time for the guys to learn the new system and even a smaller amount of time to integrate new players with the old.

Enjoy tonight, as it’s been much too long since we’ve had any hoops.

Where to watch: You can watch locally on FSW or nationally on NBATV.


Phillip Barnett