Last week, just as the Rockets were starting to feel good about themselves, the Clippers came in and knocked them off their high horse, scoring 137 points in a rout in Los Angeles. As the Rockets try to right the ship tonight in Houston, Steve Perrin of Clips Nation joins us once again to answer questions about the Clippers. You posed them in this thread a few days ago, and Steve was kind enough to answer a ton of questions for us. Hope you enjoy.
How do Clips fans feel about Blake Griffin?
I get the sense that Clips fans worship him while the rest of the league thinks he's overrated, thus underrating him overall. I know he needs help in certain areas (defense, jump shot, post game), but how do Clips fans think he rates at the moment in terms of overall NBA rank?
Steve: This is a great question and one we spend a lot of time on in Clips Nation. I have a couple of theories on this. Blake was so impressive and hyped during his rookie season, and people were so high on him, that there was a backlash hat began in year two. In fact, in ESPN's NBARank (which is far from scientific yet does seem to capture the zeitgeist rather well), Blake was rated the 10th best player after his rookie season, and 14th the two years since -- which is just crazy. His efficiency and overall effectiveness are much better now than when he was a rookie, not to mention that he's been doing it for three years now so we know he's not just a flash in the pan. There's simply no way to justify him being rated higher as a rookie than he is now, but that's what happened. So as you say, he was overrated, then when everyone started complaining about him being overrated, he almost instantly became underrated.
The other thing that happens with Blake is that he is constantly measured against what people think he should be, and almost never against what he actually is. So because his game needs so much work -- and don't get me wrong, his game clearly needs work -- people start deducting those points, and knock him down pegs as they go. But they do that without looking at the incredible level of production he already generates. It's astounding to me that Griffin is constantly labeled "just a dunker" when in fact he was third among forwards in assists last year (behind LeBron James and Josh Smith) and averaged more assists per minute than any player over 6'10. People absolutely rave about Marc Gasol's passing while lambasting Griffin as "just a dunker", but Griffin averaged more assists per minute than Gasol. Griffin's ceiling is incredibly high because there simply aren't many humans who combine that size and athleticism -- he's LeBron-like in that manner. He has a long way to go to reach his potential, but that doesn't mean he's not already awfully damn good.
Having said all that, I actually didn't have a big problem with his 14 on NBARank this season. There were so many guards on that list, and it's impossible to compare a power forward to a guard really. Love was ahead of him, which is fine if Love is healthy (though it is interesting that Griffin seems to be dinged for his defense which is much better than Love's). But yeah, one of the top two young power forwards in the league -- I'll take that if that's what people say he is. (But don't get me started on Charles Barkley and Kenny Smith. Seriously. DO NOT.)
Do the Clippers have a player other than Paul who fans think can run the offense at a high level when opposing defenses deny Paul the ball?
Steve: Well, it's easier said than done to take Paul out of the game. Miami did a shockingly good job of it on Thursday, but CP3 wasn't having his best game either. Usually, if you try to trap Paul, he'll just split the double team and find someone for a dunk, so it's rarely a winning strategy.
Among the starters, Redick is a better playmaker than people give him credit for. And Griffin is pretty good, but needs to get a lot better. I think Doc would like to eventually run more of the offense through Griffin. Dudley and Jordan are obviously terrible playmakers. Of the bench players who are likely to be playing with Paul, Jamal Crawford is a great playmaker -- yes, many of those plays are for himself, but he is also a good passer and you can run the offense through him if teams are effectively keying on Paul. Darren Collison has had an absolutely dreadful start to the season (which is weird because he was terrific in the pre-season), but he will rarely be playing with Paul.
What is love?
Steve: You really wanna know what love is? Well, it's really quite simple. It's kinda like...
I love lamp.
Also, do they think they can win a title in the next 5 years?
Steve: It's a superstar driven league. So the smart money looking forward for what teams might or might not win a title over the next five years or so is on teams with young superstars locked into contracts. In the west, that's Oklahoma City... and the Rockets... and the Clippers. It doesn't mean there aren't other teams to consider and we never know what's going to happen. But the easiest answer is to look to the stars.
J.J. Redick. What has he done to make himself an NBA starter? Do the Clips see him as a stopgap or the real deal? Has he crisped anybody besides Hardin?
Steve: That's a valid question and one that I've asked myself. He's been in the league seven seasons and never been a full time starter -- why would we think he's the answer as the starting two guard on a championship level team?
But he's far more than a stopgap. The Clippers are elated to have him and believe he's one of the pieces to the puzzles, because he's just such a good fit on this team. Obviously the ball is going to be in Chris Paul's hands a ton, and Redick excels at working off the ball. In fact, in the newly available SportVU tracking data, Paul is leading the league in touches.... and Redick is leading the league in miles run. That's not an accident.
He's an elite shooter who excels off the ball, which makes him a great fit with Paul and Griffin. He also has a basketball IQ that's off the charts, which should make him a good team defender in Doc Rivers' schemes. He doesn't have the best lateral quickness, but he's actually a better defender than he's generally given credit for. It would be great to have elite, all star level players at every position and sitting on the bench, but the reality is that's not going to happen. To answer you're final question, he's certainly a higher level two guard than Udonis Haslem is a center, and probably better than Mario Chalmers is at the point, but Miami has won back to back titles. Teams have to have role players at some spots, and Redick is perfectly suited to his.
Are Clippers fans aware of Chris Paul's tendency to flop and how egregiously awful most of them are?
Given that Chris Paul has demanded trades, gotten coaches fired, flops like a fish, and bullies refs
where do Clippers fans get off acting like Howard is a bad guy?
Steve: Hmmm.... I've had a little talk with my community about asking questions of our guests in a polite and respectful manner. I think there are valid issues that can be addressed here, but in the future I'd recommend that one try to find less confrontational wording when asking visitors from other team blogs to take their time to answer one's questions. Enough said? (Editor's note: He's right. Let's be nicer to guests.)
Paul is incredibly competitive and incredibly smart. He is looking for any advantage he can exploit. He absolutely wants to win at all costs. He may be all smiles and charm on the Jimmy Kimmel show, but on the basketball court, he's kind of a dick.
One advantage he has been known to exploit is to try to dupe the referees into giving him a call. He's far from the only player in the NBA to do this of course. To me, it's always been the responsibility of the league and the refs to do a better job NOT being fooled. How many times have you seen a flop -- and I mean in real time, not on the replay -- and said to yourself, "That was such an obvious flop" and yet the referee gets fooled. There's got to be a way to get better calls on bad flops. The warnings may help some, and as I said, Paul is smart, and as a person who watches him day in and day out, I would say he dialed it back some last season -- he only got one flop warning on the season, for what it's worth.
As for the Paul/Howard question, I'm not sure that Clippers fans are any more hostile toward Howard than any general NBA fan, and I'm not sure where you think they should "get off". There was a recent post at SBNation calling Paul 'teflon' which I think made the mistake of focusing too much on his basketball reputation. Frankly, it's not very much in dispute that he's the best point guard in the game today, is it? Is he a coach-killer? Well, if he killed Vinny Del Negro's coaching tenure, it was a mercy killing. Did he 'demand a trade'? Not publicly. There's little question that Howard handled his departure from Orlando worse than Paul handled his departure from New Orleans, where he is still held in high esteem. I think Paul gets away with some stuff because of his charming demeanor and his polish with the media. I also think he is less culpable than Howard as regards their actions over the past three seasons, but I'm not in the business of bashing Howard.
How far are the Clippers from their 'ceiling'?
And what key factors determine whether or not they reach it...
Steve: Right now they're pretty darn far from their ceiling, particularly on the defensive end. The good news is that the NBA is rife with examples of teams that are great defensively, even though they are made up of ordinary or even poor individual defenders. The 2011-12 Bulls led the league in defensive efficiency with Derrick Rose, Carlos Boozer and Kyle Korver among their top six in minutes played. Whether this team gets there with time in Rivers system remains to be seen, but that's where the most headroom exists at this moment.
And then there's Griffin. As I've already pointed out, he's really, really good right now -- and he could conceivably be a lot better. The idea that he has to reach his full potential for the Clippers to ever be truly great is not true -- but if he does ever get there, watch out.
Does it bother them that the majority of the people at the games are actually Lakers fans?
I was there and the crowd in my section was 10% rockets fans, 15% clippers fans, and 75% lakers fans. Other than booing Howard, the crowd pretty much just bitched about the championship banners being covered up by the ‘tenants'.
Steve: The simple answer is yes, it bothers us when this happens. However, for the vast majority of games, it's not true that the majority are Lakers fans. We generally view the crowd at Lakers-Clippers games as 55-45 in favor of the Clippers -- which is a drag on your home floor. Your section last week was not indicative of the overall crowd, I promise. Having said that, it does seem like a bunch of Lakers folks bought tickets to that game to boo Howard. I was surprised by that myself.
LA is a Lakers town and it always will be, but there are a LOT of people in LA, and there are plenty of Clipper fans as well. Some Clipper fans are fans of both teams -- but many are not. For those who are not, Howard really ought to be a hero, or at least be representative of an important moment. It's not just that his leaving the Lakers weakened the rival for the time being. In the bigger context, for Superstar A to choose to re-sign with the Clippers at the very time that Superstar B was rejecting the Lakers is a watershed event in the history of the two franchises. It says, "Yes, the Clippers are a viable destination for a star, despite their owner, despite their history" and it also says "no, not every single player in the NBA is falling over themselves to play for the Lakers." I mean, these things were true before the summer of 2013, but those events served to make it widely known.
That whole tenants line is pretty funny, considering that the Lakers pay rent at STAPLES Center just like the Clippers do. The Lakers don't own STAPLES Center -- though the owners of STAPLES, AEG, do own a small piece of the Lakers. But if the Clippers are tenants of the Lakers, then the Lakers are tenants of the Kings, who are wholly owned by AEG.
I wanted to ask if the Clipper fans feel like they have as a group the best shooters in the league?
ROCKETS - RAIDERS - NEWCASTLE UNITED
Steve: First of all, Newcastle? Really? Tottenham, baby! (Editor's note: Important)
Are the Clippers the best shooters in the league? Not even close, at least not in my opinion. Steph Curry and Klay Thompson and my aged mother would form the best shooters in the NBA right now, and Harrison Barnes is a better shooter than my mom. I think there are other teams that are probably better overall than the Clippers also, and the Rockets are in the discussion. Having said that, the Clippers haven't had a shooter like J.J. Redick in the history of my fandom, with the exception of Steve Novak who was a bit player during his time in LA as he had been with the Rockets. I think that shooting is undervalued (or rather that it has been, that's starting to change) and am thrilled that Doc went after shooters in making roster changes this year.
Now, I do think that the Clippers have the ability to be the best offense in the league, but that's because of the combination of Paul, and Griffin, and the athleticism of DeAndre Jordan, and those shooters -- not just shooting.