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Los Angeles Clippers
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An opposing team's scout sizes up the Clippers

The Clippers have had a lot of difficult injuries, namely those to Elton Brand and Shaun Livingston. They were headed in the right direction and things were looking good and, snap, it changes like that. So was it bad karma for all those years of cheap ownership? You reap what you sew. I feel sorry for the players, but not for the owner. I can just see after this experiment of spending on his roster that he'll be wanting to go back to where he had it before, which will be to spend nothing and have the same results as he'll probably have this year with the injuries to two key guys ...

I'm sure Elton Brand is doing everything he can to hasten his recovery from the ruptured Achilles he suffered over the summer, but guys don't generally come back from that quickly. Without Brand, it's going to be a tough ride for them because you're talking about their best player and an All-Star power forward. He's a double-double guy and he's relentless. He's strong in the post and he can knock down the elbow jump shot. He's just everything you want in a power forward, both on and off the floor. His loss would have a serious impact on any team ...

So how will they get by while they're waiting for him to get back? They'll probably try to go with Tim Thomas and Aaron Williams, and even sub in Ruben Patterson at the position some ...

With Brand sidelined, that opens up the role of leading scorer that Corey Maggette has been coveting for a long time. But I don't think he could possibly be more selfish than he was last year. He shoots a lot of free throws, which implies that he's looking out for himself as opposed to dishing it off once in a while. Look at his assist-to-turnover ratio [2.8-2.7 last season]. But they'll need him to score, so maybe they'll give it to him in his favorite spots more often. He's a streaky shooter, and if they're depending on him to be the No. 1 scorer, it's going to be hard. It would be better to get everybody involved and playing team ball, but that's hard to do, especially when you have some injury problems and guys in the last year of their contract, as Maggette is [if he chooses to opt out next summer]. All it takes is one guy to be selfish and it starts spreading throughout the team. If Maggette has the ball and he's not passing to a teammate who's open for an easy shot, then the next time that teammate gets the ball he's going to feel like forcing a shot to show his productivity. And around and around it goes ...

When Maggette gets his hands on the ball, the defense is going to flood him because he's looking to score. If he's looking at this as an opportunity to have a career year, my answer would be that it's not much of a year if he's not helping his team win. The great players in this league who get the ball on the wing -- LeBron James, Dwyane Wade -- are not just great at getting to the basket; they make their teammates better too. If Maggette could ever figure that out, then he'd really be valuable. It's going to be a real challenge for their coaches because if I were playing for the Clippers I would be asking, Why are we going to Maggette all the time when he's not helping us win? I guess the happy medium will be to put him in positions where he can score without necessarily making him The Man because you don't want it to be all about him even as you're utilizing his skills ...

I really liked Livingston before he suffered that catastrophic knee injury last year. He was playing unselfishly, making pull-up shots from close range and growing more and more comfortable on the floor. Now we'll have to wait and see how much speed, quickness and strength he lost to that injury. He has excellent court vision and a feel for the game, which he won't lose. But speed is a big concern for point guards; if he were a big guy, he could overcome the loss of speed with strength and skill. But in the backcourt you've got to have quickness to keep your man in front of you defensively, and at the other end you need it to get by your man into the paint. If it comes to this, maybe he could reinvent himself and come back as a small forward. It would be a big change for him, but he has some versatile talent. At 6-7, he'll have the height for it, he'll get bigger as he gets older and he'll be able to improve his shooting with time ...

Sam Cassell [who turns 38 in November] is at the end of the trail. He can still shoot it, though he can't get to his favorite spots as easily as he used to. He can take a smaller guy down in the post sometimes. But now he's more of a back-you-down type of guy from the perimeter. ...

I just don't see a lot of answers on their roster to deal with the losses of Brand and Livingston. The best they can hope for is to stay near .500 until Brand comes back, but they're going to need a grind-it-out, ugly style ...

Chris Kaman will be a crucial guy for them. If his career could be put on a graph, you would see him improving each year up to last season, when he suddenly leveled off. Maybe he got comfortable with where he was, maybe the motivation wasn't there after he signed his new contract. He's a big, long center who can use both hands and he has good footwork. If he can get back on track, he can help them overcome the loss of Brand as a guy in the half-court who can make a play inside. Defensively, he'll have to be their anchor and really step it up if they want to remain competitive ...

I like the energy they're getting from rookie Al Thornton, though he's a little wild. He plays at a high speed and I don't know if he's always under control, but he gets to where he wants to go. They'll need to rely on him more ...

Ruben Patterson plays hard every night and he gets to the basket. He plays unconventionally for his size, but he's been effective at both ends of the court for a long time now ...

Mike Dunleavy is a very good coach, but this situation is going to require everything he's got. For example, he has to try to squeeze something out of Tim Thomas as a replacement for Brand. Every time I see Thomas I'm asking, Why is this guy not better? It has to be his heart. Does he want to compete? He's capable of shooting ball and making plays around the basket, and he's more than athletic and skilled enough. But instead he just floats around, not playing hard, not mixing it up. It's going to be especially frustrating this year because they really need him. It will be a coaching challenge of the highest level to motivate Thomas to compete more than he's ever done in his career, and if Dunleavy can achieve that, it will be a Coach of the Year accolade ...

Their other forwards don't have nearly as much upside. Quinton Ross is a solid, complementary, swing-the-ball and knock-down-shots guy. Josh Powell isn't somebody who can get the ball inside and score. Aaron Williams is capable of maybe 15 minutes a night, though he looks like the kind of guy who keeps himself in shape ...

Another guy who can provide some scoring is Cuttino Mobley, though at 32 he's getting up there. The issue for him is whether he'll get the same looks at the basket without Brand inside to draw in the defense ...

The bottom line for this team is going to be whether Kaman can perform at a higher level and whether Maggette can succeed on his terms without hurting their chemistry. Can he help them win by being a scorer?

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