Monday , Nov , 19 , 2007 C.Y. Ellis

The Slow Rise and Rapid Decline of the Clipper Nation

Teams tend to rest injured players when they face the Suns.  It’s true – watch the injury report.  If someone has a nagging injury, why make him run up and down with the Suns in a game that you’re likely going to lose, right?

This should make for a very boring game Friday night when I take my brother-in-law to his first-ever Suns game.  The latest news is that Maggette is out for a few more weeks.

The Clips started out 4-0, and everyone was shocked they were winning games without Elton Brand.  “Shocking” is the word because Tim “I turned half a good season into a payday” Thomas and Chris “Blinding Whiteness” Kaman were not expected to be able to carry the team.  Thomas has been playing more than adequately but still not living up to his paycheck, and Kaman is having a good start to the year.  Some time this season, Sam Cassell will crumble into dust unless Elliot rejuvenates him once again with his life force.


What happened?

For years, the Clippers struggled to do anything right, with much of the blame laid on poor management and penny-pinching ownership.  They had a break-out season in 2005-2006, with Brand getting MVP consideration and Kaman getting accolades for competent, workmanlike performance.  Add a strong supporting cast and the leadership of Cassell, and the Clippers took Phoenix to Game 7 in the Second Round.

Reversing course on their penny-pinching, going into 2005 and through the last off-season, management has paid some players some pretty good money.  Brand, Kaman, Thomas, Cuttino Mobley and Corey Maggette all received nice fat, long contracts and the Clippers are over the salary cap.

Try as I might, I cannot figure what went so horribly wrong last year.  The internal “chemistry” issues were there and they suffered more than their fair share of injuries, but with Brand they still plummeted to 40-42 for no apparent reason.

Without Brand this year, they started strong and then hit the wall.  Part of this season’s decline is the other teams’ realization that Kaman really is not that good.  He’s serviceable, but without Brand (or any other contributing teammates) he is easily guardable with a half-hearted double-team or above-average defensive effort.  Even if you decide you don’t want to double him, is anyone afraid that he’s going to go off for 40 points?

A general malaise is surrounding Clipper Nation – perhaps it is some sort of deadly fog?