Acquiring Lamar Odom and making Chauncy Billups their primary target in free agency sends the clear message that the Clippers are trying to win the NBA championship next season, or at least the Western Conference.
I know Oklahoma City and San Antonio were clearly the best teams in the West in the just-concluded season but I have a vivid memory of the Clippers easily defeating the Thunder in an early season game before Billups was injured.
The Clippers struggled when Billups was lost for the rest of the season but they did manage to win a first round playoff series from the Grizzlies, prevailing in the final game in Memphis.
As the season went along center DeAndre Jordan became a non-factor, which wasn’t surprising considering his lack of offensive ability.
I know Odom has had several tragic events in his life and there’s no assurance he’s ready to play championship basketball. But I know he’s happy to be back in los Angeles in a positive environment for him.
Now that they’ve traded Mo Williams to get Odom, the Clippers need Billups. As much for his championship experience as his outside shooting.
Chris Paul says Billups is the best backcourt partner he’s has in his career.
The Clippers have a long-time deal with Blake Griffin in place. Paul rejected the extension offer, but I’ve been told that’s only because he’ll get more money if he waits a year, according to NBA rules.
The figures are Griffin’s deal is for $95 million and a year from now Paul will be eligible for $108 million.
And what are the Lakers doing? Listening to offers for Pau Gasol. Several teams are trying to acquire him.
And the Lakers are considering free agents they can afford. They must acquire a point guard to replace Ramon Sessions but they’re not in a position to bid for Deron Williams, the best one available.
We hear a lot about the salary cap, but there’s something else that’s holding them back. It’s called the tax threshold, and a team over $70 million for having contracts well beyond the salary cap are taxed heavily. It gets worse a year from now due new rules in the agreement that ended this season’s lockout.
To say it in simpler terms, the Lakers are in no position to bid for premier free agents.
Expect more players in the salary range of Troy Murphy, Josh McRoberts and Sessions rather than more famous and expensive free agents.
That’s LA basketball in 2012 and probably in upcoming years too.