Watch Out For Revamped Clippers
The Lakers have created headlines by acquiring Steve Nash and pursuing Dwight Howard.
But quietly, the Clippers have been doing everything right, and right now they have a superior roster.
It’s only the beginning of August, so expect more changes.
But take a closer look at what the Clippers have done in this off-season. They’ve brought in four-fifths of a second unit, acquiring the quality depth they lacked last season. And they’ve re-signed starter Chauncey Billups, who is recovering from the injury that marred the Clippers’ championship hopes last season.
The Cippers’ second unit now consists of forwards Grant Hill and Lamar Odom, center Ryan Hollins and guards Eric Bledsoe and Jamal Crawford.
Bledsoe helped a lot last season with his speed and hustle as he backed up Chris Paul. The other four players have been brought in since last season ended.
Hill is 40, but he played well last season in Phoenix and Nash lobbied for the Suns to bring him back. When the Suns declined to sign Hill and another veteran, Boris Diaw, Nash was so disappointed he decided to leave.
The Suns are rebuilding, but the Clippers view themselves as a championship contender and welcome Hill as a backup to small forward Caron Butler.
Blake Griffin now has Odom, the former Laker, as his backup. Odom’s 2012 season was a disaster as the Lakers traded him to Dallas, he didn’t fit in there and ultimately he was told to stay away even though they continued to pay him. But Odom is happy to be back in L.A. and he’s likely to regain his ambition.
At center, the exciting, dunking Deandre Jordan should retain his spot as the starter. But his shortcomings became evident as last season went along and Kenyon Martin was signed to back him up. Martin then was called upon a lot in the playoffs.
He won’t be back because teams have salary limits and can’t keep everyone, but Hollins is a 7-footer who can be a defensive presence and he’s a welcome addition.
Hollins has improved a lot since his days at UCLA and late last season became the starting center for the Boston Celtics in his sixth NBA season
I expect Bledsoe to be an outstanding substitute for Paul and his new backcourt partner, Crawford, will ably back up Billups.
Coach Vinny del Negro can mix up the substitutions too according to the needs in each game. For example, if speed is needed he can team Bledsoe with Paul. And at times he can employ Odom at center, as the Lakers sometimes did when Andrew Bynum was injured or misbehaving.
In order to improve their second unit the Clippers had to part with some helpful players. Besides Martin, Reggie Evans and guard Randy Foye are gone.
Foye had several hot-shooting games but I believe Crawford provides an upgrade.
Crawford is a 12-year NBA veteran who’s been signed for four years. His career scoring average is 15.3 and last season he averaged 14.0. I like the fact he’s 6-foot-5, which often provides a matchup for the opposition.
As of today the Lakers can match newly-acquired Antwan Jamison against Odom but they only have Steve Blake as a reserve guard to oppose Crawford. That probably isn’t good enough.
Recently the Clippers signed former Laker Ronny Turiaf too. He figures to be the 11th or 12th man on the roster but will have his moments occasionally.