Clips Causing Confusion

A Daily Babble Production

What is the Clippers' plan?

Perhaps that isn't the right question.  Might be a better idea to take it back a step and start from the beginning: Do the Los Angeles Clippers even have a plan?

It would be nice to have an answer to either of those two inquiries.  But with Mike Dunleavy pulling the trigger on a deal to acquire Zach Randolph and his $48 million from the Knicks on Friday, I don't have the first semblance of a clue.

The standard disclaimer applies here, which is that I'm long since past the point where I'm going to have too much of an open mind about heading in any direction that involves acquiring Zach Randolph.  For reasons delineated ad nauseam throughout Daily Babbles of days gone by, I find Z-Bo one of the league's least appealing players and would want no part of him on any team of mine under nearly any circumstances.

But even pretending for the moment that I didn't have such a problem wrapping my head around the idea of bringing Randolph to town - and imagining that I could see a bit more value in his 20-10 potential - there still seems to be plenty of room for questioning in La La Land.

With Randolph in tow, the Clips now have three big men with starter talent being paid starter money.  Marcus Camby makes $15.7 million over this season and next.  Chris Kaman makes $43.4 million between now and 2012, and Randolph is locked in at $48 million through 2011.  Starting all three isn't a particularly viable option because it would leave the Clips far too slow in the frontcourt, and while having excess big men is a luxury, there might not be enough room for all three players on the interior. 

So one of them is the odd man out - either out of the starting lineup, or perhaps the organization altogether.  The newly acquired Randolph isn't going anywhere anytime soon, and he'll probably start in order to give Mike Dunleavy a scoring presence in the high post.  The 34-year-old Camby would seem the player to come off the bench thanks to the facts that he is less of an offensive threat than either of the other two and that he's older, makes less money and won't be there as long, likely making him less a part of the future for the Clippers than either of the others.  Of course, it's odd to note that Camby was brought in this summer to solidify the Clips' defense in the frontcourt, and starting Randolph (as awful an interior defender as the league has to offer) in his place would counteract any efforts in that direction.

Meanwhile, the plan for Kaman seems uncertain.  The sixth-year vet comes off a breakout season in which he averaged 15.7 points, 12.7 boards and 2.8 blocks per game and made the Clips happy to have already locked him up for the next four seasons at the age of 26.  Now, despite the Clips' recent claims that they won't be moving Kaman or Camby, rumors are circulating that Kaman could be gone sooner rather than later, possibly to Charlotte in exchange for Gerald Wallace.

Hard to see how that one would make much sense at all.  Kaman is off to a good start once more this season, averaging 14.5 points, 10.7 boards and 2.1 blocks per game, and he is continuing to establish himself as one of the league's few legitimately good centers and thus one of the building blocks for this team.  Dealing Kaman would be done for the purpose of undoing the big man logjam, so a swingman (such as Wallace) would be the likely return.  This doesn't make much sense either, given that the team's last two first-round picks have been small forward Al Thornton and guard Eric Gordon.  Thornton came on down the stretch last season and has been the starter from day one this year, averaging 16 points per game and shooting better than 41 percent from the outside.  The 24-year-old is expected to be a big part of the future in Los Angeles.

So the Clippers sit in an odd position.  The franchise run by notoriously frugal Donald Sterling is now locked into spending a lot of long-term money on three big men as well as the franchise point guard.  Keeping all three big men doesn't make a ton of sense, but dealing the most tradeable of those three isn't likely to bring back the right sort of asset for the Clips.  Marcus Camby, averaging 9.0 points and 9.4 rebounds in just 28 minutes per game (meaning his per-minute production isn't actually far off what it had been in recent years), suddenly has a much less well-defined role on this squad.  Acquiring Zach Randolph in any capacity is always a suspect decision.

Now 2-11, the Clippers gave up a couple of soon-to-be-expiring contracts in order to acquire a highly paid problem child frontcourt scorer this weekend.  What they didn't do was leave us with any idea of where they plan to go from here and whether or not this team even has a long-term vision for its roster.  Seems like business as usual as far as the roughness of life for Clippers fans is concerned.

 

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