Posted: Friday November 11, 2005 8:19PM; Updated: Friday November 11, 2005 11:19PM
Players like Quinton Ross, Walter McCarty, James Singleton and rookie Daniel Ewing shouldn't be anything more then your 10th or 11th man, and they'll be asked to play big minutes this season -- especially if an injury wave hits. Asking Ewing and the ancient Anthony Goldwire to back up the injury-prone Cassell and Livingston is just asking for trouble; and reminds us of the overmatched Rick Brunson having to act as a playmaker in the final seconds of several games last year. There's a reason the Clippers were 4-13 in games decided by three points or fewer in '04-05.
There could also be issues with Dunleavy's offense, which allows for a wing player to have to make key decisions late in the shot clock -- a wing player the Clippers may not yet boast. After all the initial play options are exhausted, Dunleavy likes to spot up a small forward in the left corner to shoot or fake a three with the shot clock winding down. If the fake is in order, the forward can either pull up for a baseline 18-footer or drive all the way for the foul. Think Scottie Pippen in Portland, or from last year, the departed BobbySimmons. Playing off the bench, Simmons still took the fifth-most shots in the league last year from the left baseline (see Zone 6). Though the Bucks may have overpaid for his services, it doesn't mean that Los Angeles won't miss his ability to score without needing the ball for more than a few seconds.
This is why Mobley may have to turn into a de facto small forward on offense. The bulky Maggette (who returned to action with a 20-point debut on Wednesday) would seem to be the perfect fit for the small-forward slot, but Mobley is actually the team's best option at the 3 -- he even led the league by hitting 60 percent of his three-pointers from the right corner in '04-05. If Dunleavy holds his offense up to a mirror, then, he may like what he sees.
But a lot has to go right. That starting unit, along with underrated big man Zeljko Rebraca, Livingston, Ross and Wilcox, has to log big minutes. And it's hard to buy the idea that Cassell and Mobley will lead the Clips to the playoffs simply because they don't know how to play any other way. Last time we checked, Cassell was the starting point guard on a lottery team in '04-05, and the 30-year-old Mobley has made the playoffs just twice since his rookie year.
And even with the hot start, they have a lot of work to do. It seems like a futile exercise to beg GM Elgin Baylor to make some moves to shore up the roster -- especially considering the fact that his last midseason trade netted him Isaac Austin in 1998, back when people thought Ike could actually play. As it has been every year since Y2K, the attitudes have to stay strong, the players have to share the ball instead of holding it, and the squad has to stay healthy.
Feel free to cheer away, but don't say we didn't warn you.