Q and A with Steve Perrin from Clips Nation (SBN Los Angeles Clippers Blog)
Tonight the Utah Jazz face off against the Los Angeles Clippers. Steve (@clippersteve) was awesome enough to throw me a few questions this week, and I just had to answer them. In return I thought of a few to ask him as well . . . and here are his answers!
1. I have to ask . . . "Lob City" . . . that name turned sour pretty quickly across the league. The media attention the LA Clippers have so far received was unprecedented this year, compared to previous seasons. Despite playing in one of the greatest media markets on the planet, the Clippers were always under the radar. How has this affected the team this year? Did the perception of impending greatness add pressure that previously was not there?The media loves the narrative -- the basketball is usually secondary. Last year it was the Miami Heat, the Three Amigos, the Super Friends, the Heatles. This year it was Lob City (though thankfully it didn't quite reach the ridiculous level of the Miami stuff). Chris Paul leaving New Orleans, joining Blake Griffin in glitzy L.A. with the hapless Clippers -- you have to admit it's a compelling story. And it didn't hurt that Griffin was already a media-darling, what with the SportsCenter highlights and the car jumping and the funny commercials.And then they had to play basketball. Ironically, the Clippers overachieved early, feeding the hype, and then the team went into a funk, sending the media into a revisionist "We knew all along they weren't that good" mode. The truth is this team has lots of talent, but some pretty nasty flaws that will probably keep them from competing at the highest level this season. So yeah, they're about where they should be, not as good as the hype, not as bad as the dire predictions of a week or so ago.The Clippers have certainly never had expectations before, but then again, there are a lot of new guys on the team. Brand new starters like Paul and Caron Butler and Chauncey Billups have been part of very good teams, so it wouldn't be accurate to say that the Clippers as a team are completely unfamiliar with high expectations. For the most part, the attention has been good for the team -- the downside is that they can't really catch opponents napping anymore. Because of the media buzz, every team seems to get up for the Clippers now.The strange thing about the Lob City moniker is that the team undoubtedly threw more lob passes last season -- Baron Davis doesn't do many things better than Chris Paul, but he throws a hell of a lob pass.
2. I'm not going to lie, there is a lot of young Karl Malone's game in young Blake Griffin's game. The ft% issues, the dunking, the vast majority of his points coming in the paint, the rebounds, the excitement in transition -- and great scoring off the pick and roll. Blake does some things better than Karl at the same age, and some things worse. Do you think this is a fair comparison, to compare a young player to a hall of famer?I've heard the Karl Malone comparison since Blake Griffin came into the league, and I have to say I've never found it particularly apt. Maybe I'm just remembering the older Malone and ignoring the young Mailman. The size and strength are similar, the fact that they both overpower opponents. But Griffin is almost entirely defined by his breathtaking athleticism, whereas Malone was never a high-flyer. Not that Malone was a bad athlete, but he didn't exactly sore -- for me he was defined by strength, not athleticism. Then the fact that Malone became such an incredibly effective mid-range shooter redefined him, and that's the guy I really remember.Now, if Griffin can emulate that part of Malone's game, I'd be thrilled. When Malone was young, teams dared him to shoot on the perimeter and as you mention he was a terrible foul shooter, but he worked and improved and became the second leading scorer in NBA history on the strength of a whole bunch of face up jumpers, among other things. Blake needs to work just as hard to improve -- it's probably too much to ask that he reach Malone's level of proficiency with the face up game, but he needs to get better and I expect he will.Whether it's fair or not to put these expectations and comparisons on Griffin, there's no avoiding it. The guy averaged 22 points and 12 rebounds per game as a 21 year old rookie. If improvement is a reasonable expectation, then the only guys to compare him to are all in the Hall of Fame.But for me, because of the athleticism, I've always compared Griffin to guys like Shawn Kemp and pre-microfracture Amare Stoudemire -- but with a better work ethic than either of those two. If he can retain his jaw-dropping athleticism, continue to work hard and add to his game the way Malone did, he could be one of the best of all time. If Paul and Griffin can become the new Stockton and Malone, that would be OK by me.
3. I wanted to ask about Vinny Del Negro here, but I think the writing is on the wall for him. So instead, let's talk about Billups. I live in Detroit and he was invaluable as a player, a coach on the floor, and a crunch time performer. But more than that, he was a super stabilizing force in the locker room. How were things with him in the Clipps, and how have things changed since he went down?When Billups was hurt, I made the mistake of minimizing it's significance. Not that I said it didn't matter, but that the Clippers could withstand his loss better than most any other key player. It was a mistake because I was looking just at his numbers from the first 22 games, which were less than stellar.But sure enough, the Clippers went into their funk almost immediately upon losing Billups. And guess what? He returned to L.A. after doing his post-op recovery in Denver, and the Clippers are undefeated, 6-0 at home since he got back. He's back in the locker room and he's essentially an extra assistant coach on the bench -- one that the players will really listen to, since they've got a teammate relationship with him and the utmost respect for what he has accomplished. At any rate, now that he's back, it's like the Clippers have lost him, but not lost him at all. His impact is pretty amazing -- I tend to be a stats-driven guy, but here is a case where the very presence of this person around the team is frequently the difference between winning and losing. Incredible.And yeah, Vinny won't be back next season. Maybe the Clippers will hire Jerry Sloan?
Thanks a lot Steve for heading this up, and good luck to your Clips going forward, you know, after they hopefully lose tonight that is. I think Jazz fans may not like the attention the Clippers are getting; but you have to admit that real Clippers fans are some of the smartest, most humble fans there are. They're always a great follow on twitter, and if you aren't following any, hit me up and I'll send you in the right direction.
Also . . . the "Younger Mailman" is the one I grew up watching so that's kind of the one was thinking about. You know, THIS one. Hard not to see some of the BG Blueprint when you see Karl, with a huge body, running the floor and dunking on guys in transition . . . and dunking HARD.