I guess when you have someone who plays crunch time in bullet time, it's not really crunch time, is it? When you have someone capable of scoring eight of your final 10 points, you don't really have to worry that your half-court offense is entirely reliant on moments of individual brilliance from your stars, rather than finding open looks for players through passing and off-the-ball movement. There's something magical about the Clippers (and I don't mean that in the sun-dappled, wheat-field-blowing way ... I mean that in the down-market Vegas lounge act way). You watch them, and it just doesn't make any sense. You could tell me they had the best or worst offensive efficiency in the league (it's closer to the former), and I'd believe you. But when you have Chris Paul in the fourth quarter, magic goes out the window. It stops making sense. Maybe you don't want to need him — if the Clippers had done better than 2-of-15 from behind the arc, or hadn't fouled the Grizzlies back into the game, they might not have required his legendary crunch-time services — but it's nice to know he's there, just in case.
With the basketball part of my brain switched off yesterday, it wasn’t until this morning that I caught the Sporting News report that the Los Angeles Clippers were interested in a trade for Kevin Garnett. The initial reaction, as someone who works 50 yards from Staples Center and has long held a fascination with KG, was, of course, “OH MY GOD, DO THAT.” With some time to consider it, the basketball fan in me has pretty much come to agree.
The report claims that talks had already taken place between the teams, which ESPN’s Chris Broussard has reported is not the case. Supposedly, there are those with the Clippers who are worried about the two remaining years on KG’s deal after this season ends.
That seems like a legitimate concern. By the time this contract runs out, Garnett will be 39 years old, and it’s fair to say that this season has been his worst in the past 15 years. With Chris Paul’s new contract on the horizon and Blake Griffin’s kicking in next season, adding more than $11.5 million of Kevin Garnett in 2014 comes with its risks.
When the Houston Rockets pried Omer Asik away from the Bulls with an aggressive offer sheet, the most pressing question (after "Who?" and "Him?") was if he could maintain his effectiveness with greater playing time. As a backup center in Chicago, the towering Turk had spent only 15 minutes on the floor per game. But in that limited sample, there were intriguing indicators that he could be a valuable big man. He was an elite rebounder — averaging more than 17 boards per 48 minutes — and his defensive rating was 92, which meant he surrendered fewer points per possession than Dwight Howard's career-best.
Now, Asik is considered a "surprise," despite being a very similar player to the one we saw as a reserve on the Bulls. In truth, he's gotten better. His rebounding rate is slightly up, his free throw shooting has improved, and he's committing fewer fouls (a consequence of needing to stay on the floor, one category in which he's slipped is shot-blocking). Asik has become more comfortable on offense and is now supplementing those wounded-circus-bear reverse layup attempts with new tricks, such as a cutting catch-and-kick to the corner after rolling off a bone-melting pick at the top of the key. In general, he's proved that his success in Chicago could be replicated on a larger scale, even if some of that success was bolstered by playing alongside Joakim Noah and the Bulls' army of smothering wraiths.
This is immense. Eric Bledsoe streaking down the court, locking eyes with Blake Griffin like they were about to reenact the kiss scene from The Notebook, going way beyond telegraphing a pass to some sort of I don't know, sky-writing of a pass, and then NOPE! DeAndre! Flush! I hope people start doing this to Blake in real life. I want to spot Blake at Yard House, stare DEEP into his eyes, start walking toward him with a napkin and a pen, and then BOOM ask the waitress for her autograph.
With the Lakers, Clippers and Kings hosting a whopping 28 home games in 28 days from March 11 through April 7 — all happening at Staples Center, which is only a wind-aided Andy Lee punt from Grantland's headquarters — we couldn't resist attending these 28 games and writing about as many of them as possible. For previous 28 Days Later dispatches, click here.
The thought came about halfway through the first quarter last night. The Clippers had hit their first six shots, and after another massive DeAndre Jordan dunk made it 17-8, Atlanta was forced to call timeout. For those six minutes, Chris Paul and his bunch were the Clippers that people had imagined when the season began. It was high-flying, shot-making, thrill-inducing basketball, and all I could think as both teams moved to their benches was that somehow, some way, I’d become bored with the most entertaining team in the NBA.