Season preview: L.A. Clippers
The Clippers were one of the league's busiest teams during the offseason
The interior defense should improve with the addition of Marcus Camby
Baron Davis brings explosiveness, but Elton Brand's low-post game will be missed
SI.com will analyze each of the NBA's 30 teams as regular-season tip-off approaches. For a complete list of team-by-team breakdowns, click here. The information in the "Go figure" category below is provided by Roland Beech of 82games.com.
Clippers at a glance
Last season: 23-59
Notable additions: Baron Davis (FA), Marcus Camby (trade with Nuggets), Ricky Davis (FA), Eric Gordon (R), DeAndre Jordan (R), Brian Skinner (FA), Jason Hart (trade with Jazz), Steve Novak (trade with Rockets)
Notable losses: Elton Brand (signed with 76ers), Corey Maggette (signed with Warriors), Brevin Knight (traded to Jazz)
Coach: Mike Dunleavy (175-235 in five seasons with Clippers; 573-625 overall in 15 NBA seasons)
Reasons for hope
1. Baron's back home. In one of the offseason's big surprises, Baron Davis opted out of the final year (and $17.8 million) of his contract in Golden State and signed a five-year, $65 million deal with his hometown Clippers. The two-time All-Star brings careers averages of 17.1 points and 7.2 assists per game over nine seasons. In a promising early sign, he showed up for training camp 19 pounds lighter and in the best shape of his career. "I felt if I could get a little excess weight off, I could be a lot quicker," Davis said.
2. They should be better defensively. To help offset Brand's departure, the Clippers acquired Camby from the Nuggets for the comically low cost of a future second-round pick. The 6-foot-11 Camby isn't a big offensive threat, but the former Defensive Player of the Year led the NBA in blocked shots (3.6) while ranking second in rebounds (13.1) a year ago. He should join with 7-foot center Chris Kaman to make things tougher for foes under the basket.
3. A new look. Two seasons removed from their last playoff appearance, one could argue that the Clippers were in need of a shakeup. They got one in adding three major rotation players (Baron Davis, Camby, Ricky Davis), three rookies (Gordon, Jordan and point guard Mike Taylor) and three backup types (Skinner, Hart and Novak). Only time will tell if all the new blood produces victories, but there should at least be a fresher atmosphere around the organization.
Reasons for worry
1. Baron's back home. Some believe the real reason Davis returned to L.A. was so that he could more easily tend to his career as a budding Hollywood producer. Others say he was simply trying to land the security of a long-term deal anywhere he could get it. Either way, Davis will have to avoid distractions from his hometown and stay focused on keeping his body in condition if he is going to earn that big payday. "I'm here for a reason," Davis said. "Once the season starts, nothing takes precedence over basketball."
2. No Brand on the block. Clippers fans might not have liked the way Brand (or agent David Falk) engineered his exodus to Philadelphia, but they will surely miss the 6-8 workhorse. Brand's ability to score in the low post and draw double teams provided a key dimension of L.A.'s offensive attack. Kaman has the skills to pick up some of the slack, but he has yet to show he can be a consistent force on the block night in and night out.
3. Philosophical differences. Even if Baron Davis manages to stay healthy, his freewheeling style and tendency to dominate the ball could clash with Dunleavy's preference to call a lot of plays and run his offense through the post. It will be a challenge for the veteran coach to persuade his headstrong QB to stick to the game plan. "Coach Dunleavy and I have been talking all summer," Davis said. "Nothing has changed in my game. I'm still going to play the same." Keep in mind, Dunleavy also will have to manage a slew of other quirky characters in Cuttino Mobley, Kaman, Ricky Davis and Tim Thomas.
Keep an eye on ...
Baron Davis' health. The 29-year-old missed 32, 15, 36, 28 and 19 games in the five seasons prior to 2007-08. Davis did manage to start all 82 last year, but he appeared to be running out of gas at the end. That's why some in the Warriors' front office were unwilling to give him the big-money long-term deal he wanted.
The Clippers finished a league-worst 2-30 last season against "good" teams, or clubs that ranked in the top 10 in net points (points for minus points against).
The Clippers did their best to regroup after losing Brand. The extreme makeover could go either way, but Baron Davis and all the new faces should at least make for an entertaining Hollywood show.
Sports Illustrated's NBA preview issue will be on newsstands Wednesday, Oct. 22.