Another game another awesome SB Nation family member to jam with! Tonight the Utah Jazz will be visiting the Los Angeles Clippers. These games are heated, but I don't think it's a rivalry just yet. I do know that the smart Clippers fans are some of the nicest, most objective guys and gals out there. We are lucky to have one of them, Jul Jessup is a rookie this year, but putting up great posts over at Clips Nation. (Including my part of the Jam session, what they call The questionable Blogger.) Without further preamble, let's start jamming . . .
1. What can Blake Griffin do to elevate his game? He's only 24 years old and has already been a multiple time All-Star and All-NBA player. A number of early playoff exits are the only blemishes on his stellar career. I've been there, having seen the rise of Karl Malone from just a guy who dunked a lot to being an MVP player. I think Blake can get there too.
Jul Jessup: I think people will be shocked this year at how good of a jump shooter Blake is making himself. When he came into the league, like everyone said, all he could do was dunk. But he's steadily improved his outside game over the years, and he's been really impressive with his face-up jumper so far this season. He's no Malone in that regard yet, but I think he's already making excellent strides. He's also showing signs of becoming more patient around the hoop. While he used to just try and out-jump his defender and go for the dunk, he now has an array of post moves to fall back on.
In addition to the J's, he's improving his interior passing game little by little, which of course is made a little bit easier by having a guy like DeAndre Jordan to throw lobs to. Obviously, Blake routinely draws doubles in the paint, so I hope to see him get to a point where he can easily dish from inside.
Once Blake nails his outside game (and he will--the dude's work ethic is out of control), and if he sharpens his interior passing skills, nobody would be able to stop him from doing whatever he wants to do on the floor. And can you imagine if he ends up having Malone-like durability and longevity? Well, that'd be the best of all worlds.
2. What is up with J.J. Redick's shooting this season? He hasn't missed a free throw, but behind the arc? Is this a cause for concern, or just the normal ups and downs for an outside shooter?
JJ: Funny you mention it, because while common sense says that outside shooters routinely go through slumps like this and it's no big deal, I could rattle off a whole list of reasons that J.J.'s abysmal shooting this season is a big concern and a HUGE deal!
For his career, J.J. is a near 40% 3-point shooter, but so far this season he's made only four of 23 attempts. Now, it's only three games and it's probably nothing, but he DID fracture a bone and tear a ligament in his shooting hand last season. I'm not saying, but I'm just saying. Also, his wife gave birth to their first child this summer, and I'm suspicious of babies in general. Babies are widely known to put strain on the wrists of outside shooters (needs citation), so I can only hope that J.J. puts the baby down and focuses on building a relationship with the orange roundie.
If this shooting trend continues, J.J. and that baby are gonna need to have a serious talk.
3. Sometimes playoff strength boils down to bench depth. How have the Clips gotten deeper this year, if at all.
JJ: During the offseason, the Clippers bolstered their bench as much as they possibly could, and I think they wound up with a much deeper squad. The most important pickup for them was Spencer Hawes. They had no center off the bench last season and were forced to go small or risk playing Ryan Hollins significant minutes. Now, with Hawes, the Clippers have a 7-footer with range coming in off the bench. I think the Clips also benefit from having Big Baby Davis and Hedo Turkoglu around for the entirety of the season--they picked them up last January after a weird experiment with Antwan Jamison and Byron Mullens went foul (shocker).
Losing Darren Collison, who backed up Chris Paul and played well as a starter when Redick was injured, was a big blow, but he had earned a paycheck that the Clippers couldn't give him. Instead, they scooped up Jordan Farmar, who is pretty much the master of being a backup to an elite point guard.
In all, the Clippers gave themselves a few more options to turn to off the bench, especially when it comes to scoring.
4. Back in the mid 80s the Los Angeles Clippers were a joke, and even stand up comedians used to talk smack about your former owner (he who shall not be named). That was decades ago. Now you have a brighter future than any would have believed and an excited and involved owner who seems all in. How does this change help bring positivity to the franchise? Does it trickle down to the players as well? Also is Steve Ballmer looking to adopt a 30 year old son? Maybe someone who writes about the Utah Jazz? (I know a guy)
JJ: You're so kind to say that the Clippers were a laughing stock in the mid-80s! It's probably more accurate to say they were a joke for, well, ever, but I'll take it!
There is no way to overstate what this change in ownership means for the franchise. It has changed absolutely everything, from the way the staff operates, to the opportunities available to the players, and the fans overall experience. I mean, long time players had only met the previous owner once or twice, and when they did they were always creeped out (or worse!) by him. Now, they have an owner in Steve Ballmer who takes them out to dinner and actually has an interest in their well being. Maybe those little things sound like routine behavior for an owner, but not for the Clippers. To have a guy like Ballmer on your side, who wants you to win as badly as you want to win and who will spare no expense in getting you there--that's a treat the players and fans have never experienced in the history of the franchise.
Strictly from my perspective, it feels great to root for a team that you can 100% get behind without shame. Have you ever seen someone attractive, only to notice that they have a big booger in their nose? The old owner was that big booger. The overall package wasn't so bad, and could actually be great if not for that nasty booger. And then finally, after years of trying to ignore the booger, it outed itself as a racist and overall scumbag in such a way that the NBA and general public could no longer ignore it.
"You have an enormous booger, and I'm gonna do everything in my power to make you blow your nose," Adam Silver said.
"Hey, what do you know, I have two billion tissues," Steve Ballmer chimed in. It was kind of like a fairy tale, when you think about it.
Steve Ballmer purchased national TV ads that run during NBA games on ESPN and TNT, looking to change the image of the franchise and take the first steps in making the Clippers "America's team," which he says is his goal. He's spared no expense in making the in-game fan experience as high tech and deluxe as possible--there are 3D images projected onto the court during player intros, and fans can select the highlights they want to see on the jumbotron (now appropriately dubbed the Clippertron) just by selecting the play they want to see on their smartphones. But probably the best in-game experience of all is looking down and seeing a sweaty, red-faced billionaire pumping his fists in the air in celebration of a made free throw. The owner loves it, the players love it and the fans love it, because for the first time, we're all on the same team.
Wow, this was great! Thanks JJ, and remember guys and gals, you can follow her @Real_JJ on twitter, and read her stuff here. And always feel free to visit Clips Nation. And GO JAZZ! And let's not have any flagrant fouls this time around!