Got Mail? (Clippers Edition)
Before we get to the Clippers mail, there is a bit of business to take care of. Someone needs to send the NFL a tweet or something, letting them know fans aren’t thrilled about their two-for-eight good game ratio. Aside from Cards/Packers and Jets/Chargers, the postseason has been a snooze-fest. I’ve had snot-rockets more captivating than that Colts victory.
But this isn’t about the NFL. This is an NBA column. Specifically, a Clippers column. Am I crazy? Can I pump out 1,500-2,000 words on L.A.’s most irrelevant franchise?
Heck, until essentially shooting flares into the internet sky, all-calling Clips fans, I wasn’t totally sure they existed. I thought Cory Ritzau and I were the only ones. And that scared me in an “Ice Age 2: The Meltdown; last two woolly mammoths left HAVE to mate” sort of way.
I can only assume that’s what Icky Thump means. Speaking of which, I have a great Jack White (from The White Stripes) story, I’ve meant to share with you for some time now.
In 2006, fresh out of college, I took a job working as a barista for the Sports Arena drive-thru Starbucks in San Diego. It was great. Working for minimum wage plus about two bucks extra an hour in tips, scrubbing drains, washing nasty mats, waking up early for 4 a.m. shifts; yeah, it was fantastic. The plus side was working in such a prime place for one of San Diego’s busiest coffee shops, ensured that you’d end up seeing a fair amount of entertainers, playing up the road at the Sports Arena.
That or the strippers coming through the drive-thru at 9 p.m. ordering Carmel Macchiatos with seven extra shots of espresso. Nothing made me sadder.
I had friends who were in the store as The Undertaker drove up in a pink Cadillac. Others saw Brittney Spears’ posse. But one of my co-workers had the unique experience of serving Jack White some weird, not-so-manly latte. The kind of drink matters very little to this tale. What does, is how the rocker reacted when my buddy handed him his beverage.
He went slightly insane.
The foam was thick and frothy, really superb, top of the class foam. But the drink was a little bit full and as Jack White (You can’t really shorten his name. It sounds too strange to say just Jack or White. It must be Jack White.) received his drink, a very small amount of foam spilled out of the drinking hole in the lid. Apparently he wasn’t thrilled.
Have you ever seen a grown man in eye liner start prancing around, flicking foam on a 22-year-old kid while screeching, “HEHEHE TAKE BACK YOUR FOAM! YOU LIKE FOAM? I KNOW YOU DO!!! HEHEHEHEHEHEHE!!! TAKE IT!!! TAKE BACK YOUR FOAM!!!”
Trust me. It was as strange as it sounds.
Some things you just can’t make up. Things like devoting an entire Got Mail? blog to Clippers fans.
Blake Griffin, are you really trying to break my record for most injuries in your rookie season?
Ben: I have no idea who Bob from Indy is, but one can only assume he is somehow related to Tyrone Biggums from the Chappelle Show.
/scratches neck obsessively.
//realizing that was likely a swing-and-a-miss reference to Bob Sanders of the Colts. You can do better than that Bob.
What do you believe the Clippers roster will be like next season? Who are we keeping, releasing, trading and getting (via free agency)? Do you believe the roster next year will be an improvement (on this year’s)? I’m pretty sure we are losing a big man and I love having Kaman and Camby.
Ben: This cat touched on pretty much all the important questions headed into the offseason. Actually, free agency almost totally depends on what happens between now and the trade deadline.
I’m sure you’ve read writers (like Bill Simmons) who are trying to popularize the idea of chasing LeBron James this offseason. Not a bad fit at all (both roster wise AND for marketing purposes), but some work would have to be done first.
The salary cap next season isn’t set yet, but with it potentially lowering by 2.5-5%, that would end up setting the soft cap at roughly $53-million. As of this moment, the Clippers have a 2010-11 payroll of just under $40-million, with eight players (Baron Davis, Chris Kaman, Blake Griffin, Eric Gordon, Al Thornton, Sabby Telfair, Mardy Collins and DeAndre Jordan) on the books.
Should the cap hover around $53-million, as expected, max contracts would be limited to $16-million annually. Meaning LA, with $13-million free, would be about $3-million shy of capably offering a max deal.
Which leaves them three options should they want to pursue LeBron/Wade/Bosh:
A) Trade Telfair. ($2.7-million)
B) Trade Collins. ($2.7-million)
C) Trade Kaman. ($11.3-million)
Depending on how badly Donald Sterling wants in the L/W/B sweepstakes, Kaman would be the guy in that group most likely to be jettisoned. Why? Because no one is going to give away an expiring deal, just to receive Telfair or Collins. And rightly so.
Kaman (formally known as Hulka-Kamia, until he chopped off his Hogan like locks) on the other hand, has surprisingly looked good this year. Kaman is averaging nearly a double-double (20.4 points and 9.4 rebounds) 35 games into the season. Considering the grizzly center is set to make a somewhat reasonable $11.3-million next year and $12.2-million the one after that, there might be a market for him.
Unfortunately, since his points per-game average is about twice as high as his career mark, a team would be taking a flier on him. It feels like the best case scenario would be gaining $4-5-million in expiring money and $6-7-million by way of someone they would rather not touch. But that WOULD free up enough money to offer a max contract in the offseason.
Will it happen? I don’t know. I’m pretty sure playing Kaman up in Griffin’s absence and dealing him for an expiring deal has been the plan all along, and Kaman couldn’t be doing a better job of skyrocketing his potential value.
Most teams who have inquired about a Clipper big, have preferred Camby, but the chances of Mike Dunleavy dealing a guy who is both producing now AND expiring after the season, are next to none.
As for the roster next year? The core of Baron, Griffin, Gordon and Thornton will certainly be around, as will Jordan and at least one of the Kaman/Telfair/Collins trio. As for after that, your guess is as good as mine, because Sterling can’t be pegged as a “Captain Obvious” type of owner. Who knows what trick-ockery he will pull?
But unless Kaman is dealt, Camby will NOT be back.
Odds of netting LeBron next season?
Ben: As I outlined with the above number crunching, at least one significant trade would have to happen JUST to sniff negotiating with The Global Icon.
Sooooo, they aren’t high Tim. I do think the Clips make a lot more sense for LeBron than say the Nets, Knicks or staying with the Cavs. But they can’t offer the prestige Chicago can, or the opportunity to play with a bona-fide second super star like Miami potentially will be able to.
But L.A. can offer a very promising young core, the limelight of Hollywood and the possibility to turn around a franchise, while outshining Kobe Bryant – L.A.’s favorite son – in the process.
I’d tag the Bulls as the favorite, with the Heat, Clips, Cavs, Nets and Knicks trailing, in that pecking order.
Am I the reason LeBron isn’t coming?
Ben: Well you sure aren’t helping.
Blake G., Couch
Am I forever tagged as an injury risk? I know I couldn’t stay healthy, what with the shoulder and knee issues this year, but I PROMISE I’ll be back next year.
/as Dunleavy pushes my time-table back another few months.
Ben: I loved this e-mail, just for that last bit alone. I know the Clips announced that Griffin would undergo surgery, missing the rest of the season due to his knee not healing properly, but based on his return date being pushed back repeatedly, you had to see this coming. At least a little.
First it was November, then December and then, “resume basketball related activities” in January, before the surgery finally came and he was done before ever getting started. I couldn’t shake the feeling the injury was worse than made public all along.
But it doesn’t seem like the public is Oden-izing Griffin, despite the Clippers’ bad luck with draft pick injuries in the past, which is great. Let’s give him another season before we coat him in milk chocolate Olowo-Candy.
Other than the W/L column, in what ways does Griffin’s season ending surgery effect the team?
Ben: Well clearly, free agency. Wouldn’t the Clips have been a much more attractive destination for players, had they the opportunity to see exactly what kind of pro Griffin will be? Not to mention having at least part of a season under his belt would have given him at least some experience headed into next October.
On the flip side, with the win-loss column undoubtedly due for a plunge, L.A. will end up with a higher draft pick, adding to the young core.
Spare yourselves the agony. I’m not coming. Move on. Speaking of moving on, when you trade Kaman and I turn you down, who’s next on your radar?
Ben: Direct words from Mr. James.
IF L.A. trades Kaman and has a max contract available, Bosh becomes the second choice. Dwayne Wade isn’t leaving Miami. Period. So Bosh would fill the lineup nicely…
PG: Baron Davis
SG: Eric Gordon
SF: Al Thornton
PF: Blake Griffin
C: Chris Bosh
Bench: Jordan, Collins, Telfair, First Round Pick X, Second Round Pick Y and Random Mid-level Exception guy.
You can compete with that lineup and the best part is other than Davis, you would have a very young group who could grow together.
Of course that’s assuming Griffin can come back healthy.
If not Bosh though, Amar’e Stoudamire wouldn’t be a terrible choice, but then the defense would suffer without Camby (leaving via free agency). I wonder if Amar’e couldn’t be had for less than a max deal, enabling the Clips to either KEEP Kaman or sign another decent shooting guard.
I would love it if the Lakers pull the trigger on a Andrew Bynum for Bosh swap, only to lose Bosh to the Clips in free agency.
Of course, I don’t think they’d mind too much, seeing as they would cruise to the 2009-10 title.
I love Eric Gordon, but dunking-off in the Rookie Game to gain entry into the main event? Did you see that coming?
Ben: That I did not Paul. Don’t get me wrong, the idea of our under-sized shooting guard in the Dunk Contest thrills me, but in no way do I believe he can beat DeMar Derozen. That guy can fly.
Alright folks, thanks for the great Clippers questions. As always if you want to get your questions, thoughts or stories in a Got Mail? blog, send me an e-mail.
Until next time.