Westside Connection will be posts that highlight a few different teams each week. Here's the first installment featuring the Clippers and the Nuggets.
-Denver, with their trade for Chauncy Billups, have boosted themselves up into the playoffs, especially considering the Clippers’ dreadful start, Portland’s injury to Greg Oden, and San Antonio looking like they have a big 2 and that’s it. Chauncy Billups is exactly what the Nugs need. He is selfless, a real point who gets others involved, and one who can muscle opposing guards and play way better defense at the one than Denver has seen in years. Plus, he will get the ball to Melo, J.R. Smith, and Nene, so the team will stop giving Kenyon Martin 12 shots per game. K-Mart is best as a finisher. Let Chaunce be the initiator. The team even has a decent bench now, with Linas Kleiza, Chris Anderson, Renaldo Balkman and Anthony Carter. You can even throw in Cheik Samb, who should get some minutes with Steven Hunter's knee being messed up.
-Another tough loss for the Clippers tonight. They played, for the first 3 quarters, as I had envisioned them playing when they made their roster overhaul. They held the high-scoring Lakers to only 71 points over the first 36 minutes. They played slowed down, grind-it-out defense. Marcus Camby got 7 boards and 4 blocks…in 16 minutes. He and Kaman with Baron (3 steals) is a formidable trio on defense. The rest of the team is shaping up too. Al Thornton, by the way, looks like the real deal on offense. He’s taken another step towards improvement. He’s got a pretty consistent, though admittedly ugly-looking fadeaway jumpshot that, when he shoots it, you look and think, “Damn, that’s ugly, no way that’s going…” and then he nails it. Mike Taylor is greased lightening. All he needs is a chance to, gasp, play more. 7 and 4 with only a single turnover in 12 minutes is better than anything Jason Hart could hope to do on his best day.
-The main problems for the team are that Baron hasn’t found his shot yet, they’ve played two whole games together, and that Mike Dunleavy doesn’t know how to utilize the talent he has on his team. He’s totally misused Ricky Davis.
-Come to think about it, I’m about to call for Mike Dunleavy’s head. Cat Mobley getting 39 minutes? Really? I mean, really? He shot 4-11 and actually improved his overall shooting percentage to 39 percent. He’s at 33 percent from beyond the arc. He’s sporting a 0.5 assist to turnover ratio, a nifty little 9.75 PER and jacking up nearly 14 shots per game. I don’t know what Eric Gordon has done, or if Dunleavy just has some sort of prejudice against athletic wings who get to the hole (Maggette), but EG should be playing. Period. No question. Who cares if the team struggles with him out there? They’re 0-5 anyway and Eric can’t possibly do any worse than Mobley. Plus, there’s plenty of upside. Gordon’s a solid defender, so there won’t be too much drop off there. What he brings to the table is the ability to actually shoot the freaking ball. He can rain threes from anywhere—which would open up the middle for Kaman and Camby to go to work instead of allowing opposing defenders just cram the middle. Thornton has improved his 3 (hit 2 of 3 tonight) but the team needs floor spacing. Gordon would provide that. Plus, he’s the future, and Mobley is not. I hope they are showcasing Cat in the hopes of trading him, but at the rate he’s “producing” the Clips would be better off sitting him and letting his rapidly fading rep of a savvy veteran do the talking.
-Uh…pretty much ditto for Tim Thomas. Though, while I’m sure DeAndre Jordan would bring some WOW dunks, he might look completely lost out there. Then again, pot-smoking Darrell Arthur is playing well out in Memphis, so why not roll the dice on the upside? What have they got to lose…More games?
-Check my Lakers blog for a Lakers update www.nflfootballonline.com/dodgerblue15/weblog/5230/how-does-kobe-be-better-than-mj.html