27. December 2010 02:02
That may sound like a crazy question. LA is off to a 9-22 start. And, it's THE CLIPPERS after all.
But, there are a few indicators that may suggest a surge toward respectability the rest of the way is in the offing.
*The Clippers started the season 1-13. They're 8-9 since then, which means they're close to playing .500 caliber ball for more than a month. There are wins over San Antonio, Chicago, Phoenix, and New Orleans in the mix, so it's not eight wins only over the likes of Sacramento, Golden State, and Minnesota.
*Their efficiency numbers on offense and defense are very close to league average during that 8-9 stretch (I'll spare you the math because it's within a point per 100 possessions of league average both ways).
*Blake Griffin has had 18 straight double doubles. You'll note that corresponds to the recent respectability. He's a young player who continues to improve. (An in-depth report on Griffin's rookie season to date written by Joe Treutlein is here)
*Baron Davis is getting back into game shape, and seemingly playing with a purpose again. He signalled intensity with a 14 shot performance vs. Philadelphia six games ago. He hadn't been shooting much before then, content to pass the ball around. In those last six games, Davis has scored 18-7-16-8-5-15 points, and dished out 5-6-7-12-4-9 assists. His career marks obviously suggest there's room to get better.
*Head coach Vinny Del Negro was a very slow starter in Chicago in his first two seasons at the position.
Year One: Chicago started 18-27 but still surged to finish 41-41 before losing a very tough series to Boston in the first round of the playoffs.
Year Two: Chicago started 10-17 but still managed to finish 41-41 before losing to Cleveland in the first round.
Put that all together...and you get a team that's starting to get healthy and find its form...playing for a coach who has established a slow start-better finish track record in his limited career.
Now, obviously, the 2010 start with the Clippers is worse than anything Del Negro experienced early with the Bulls. And, it's still the Clippers. We can't even imagine the potential injuries that could occur to any key player over the next several weeks because of the cloud that hangs over the franchise. Let's at least keep an eye on them in the coming days to see if indicators for improvement continue to be in play.
There are some good tests over the next few weeks:
Monday: at Sacramento (in a back-to-back spot)
Wednesday: vs. Utah
Sunday: vs. Atlanta
1/5: vs. Denver
1/9: vs. Golden State
1/12: vs. Miami
1/14: at Golden State
1/16: vs. the Lakers
1/17: vs. Indiana (in a back-to-back spot)
1/19: vs. Minnesota
The Clippers literally do not leave California until a January 20th game in Portland! This is as fresh and rested as they're going to be. They flunk this sequence, and we can probably stick a fork in them. This schedule sequence at least gives them a chance to make the rest of the season more interesting...