Well, I hope you all are feeling the delicious shame and regret that comes from the morning after Thanksgiving like I am, and if you are doing Black Friday shopping, I hope you return with all your limbs intact. Tonight, the Rockets finish off their five-game homestand against the 9-5 Clippers, so to learn more about tonight's enemy, we asked our friend Jul Jessup over at ClipsNation some probing questions. She didn't wilt under the pressure.
What has been Clippers fans' reaction to the slow start? Nothing to worry about or cause for concern?
Jul Jessup: I'd say fan reactions have ranged in varying degrees between "OH CRAP THE SKY IS ACTUALLY FALLING" and "meh." Personally, I fall somewhere on the "meh" side of the scale, simply because I am a dumb sports fan and have blind faith that these Clips will figure it out.
One of our writers over at ClipsNation, FlyByKnite, pointed out that the Clippers were 8-5 through their first 13 games, which happens to be the same record they've had through 13 every year since acquiring Chris Paul, so that suggests they'll be alright. However, those who are more concerned about the Clippers welfare this season contend that it's not the 8-5 record that worries them, but the fact that the Clippers have lost some easily winnable games due to a complete and utter lack of effort. And you can't trade for effort--wait, can you?
Do you see the Clippers making any moves? Do you see the Rockets as compatible trade partners or would they not want to trade with a contender?
JJ: Wow, what a perfectly timed question! I don't think the Clippers would pass on a trade with the Rockets because of their high standing in the West--mostly because what we have to give up is none too valuable and probably wouldn't help you much anyway. The Clippers are in dire need of a small forward, while to me it looks like the Rockets could use some help at the power forward and center positions. But from what I can tell from salaries and trade restrictions, the best the Clippers can give up on a handful of shooting guards. You guys want Reggie Bullock? Please? Pleeeease?
That said, I anticipate the Clippers making a move to gain a starting SF sometime (hopefully) soon. Doc Rivers has been experimenting with starting Jamal Crawford at forward, and as I'm sure you can imagine, I can't take much more of that.
As another team with a devastating 1-2 punch, who do you think is better, Paul-Blake or Harden-Dwight?
JJ: Ah, this is a terrifying question! Can I say Paul and Blake without looking like a homer? Is that possible? I'm tempted to say Harden and Dwight just to make myself seem open-minded and cool to Rockets fans. However, sadly, I fall in line with my stereotype and say that Chris Paul and Blake Griffin are the better 1-2 punch overall.
Dwight and Harden combined could (and probably will) outscore Blake and Chris combined every night. Where I give the Clipper guys the edge is in playmaking and health. Chris is one of the best in the game at creating opportunities for other guys to score and facilitating the break, while Blake has shown flashes of becoming a really solid interior passer. Even then, a Dwight/Harden vs. Blake/Paul debate is close--so the matter that ultimately tips the scales for me is, regrettably, as you may know, injuries (Ed. note: low blow). There are also a few instances of, um, lackluster defense from James Harden that are a concern. Perhaps my view is skewed from watching Chris and Blake together much more than I've watched Dwight and Harden--so if I'm wrong, go ahead. Light me up.
How do you think the Clippers and Rockets match up? What would be your biggest concerns in a seven-game series?
JJ:James Harden, James Harden, James Harden.
This guy I know of named James Harden has absolutely killed the Clippers over his career. And if the Clippers and Rockets were to get into a playoff matchup with their current rosters healthy and intact, who would stop him from getting 40 a game? Defensively, Trevor Ariza would nullify any option the Clippers came up with at small forward. That whole situation would not be pretty for the Clippers--but the likes of Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan and Dwight Howard dealing with each other in the paint is something I'd love to see.