Clippers destined for usual struggles despite hot start
Posted: Friday November 11, 2005 8:19PM; Updated: Friday November 11, 2005 11:19PM
Impending free-agent point guard Sam Cassell has sparked the Clippers early, but how long will the good times last?
Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images
Have a question or comment for Kelly Dwyer? Submit it here.
About once a season since 2000-01, the Los Angeles Clippers string a few wins together, act professional and appear ready to finally fulfill their potential. Fans and columnists alike scan the boxscores, noticing names that are known for both potential or past production, and start to get giddy at the thought of the team finally getting its act together. Invariably, everything falls apart.
The reasons for these booms and inevitable busts have nothing to do with some romantic curse or a some notion that the Clippers will ultimately fail "just because they're the Clippers." No, the reasons behind the Clippers' lack of on-court success (including three .500 seasons since moving to San Diego in 1979) are entirely more pragmatic.
First, they don't spend money on a roster full of NBA-capable players, so their bench is often the weakest in the league. They draft well, because they can't help but luck into talent with a series of lottery picks, but their mismatched personnel selections are usually pretty clueless. They'll always have an important cog in the machine playing for a contract, alternating fits of brilliance with spasms of selfishness -- and they'll always have enough youth on the roster to make the "wait 'til next year" coda go down a little smoother.
And though the team is basking in the glow of a 5-1 start, we can't help but see the same thing happening this year. As usual, the Clippers look good. Sam Cassell was the best point guard in the league two years ago, and he's had his way with defenses a few times this year, but he's also playing for a contract and even looked disinterested in the action during the season's first week. A slimmed-down Elton Brand (31 and 13 against the Wizards on Wednesday) is a hard-working beast who's developed an undeserved rep as a garbage-time superstar, but a halfhearted Minneapolis zone took him out of the action on Monday in Los Angeles' first loss.
Corey Maggette? Supremely talented, wants to win, still has issues contributing to a team when his shot is off. Center Chris Kaman has nice moves and a nicer offensive touch, but the occasional lefty hook isn't enough to offset the deficiencies in the other areas of his game. Cuttino Mobley can keep up with his teammates now, but how's he going to look when his contract ends in 2010? Shaun Livingston should be the best point guard in the game by '10, and yet he's never going to get anywhere if his body doesn't hold up. Chris Wilcox can score and board, but he's continually frustrated at his inability to crack the starting rotation.
And that's the A-team. From there, coach Mike Dunleavy is stuck with a litany of minimum-wage workers, both veterans and youngsters alike, and this will be Los Angeles' undoing.