There’s been some chatter these last few days of Dwight Howard supposedly expanding his preferred destination list, adding in the L.A. Clippers as well as the soon-to-be Brooklyn Nets, L.A. Lakers and Dallas Mavericks. A day later, when approached by the media about the topic, Howard respectfully denounced the rumor that he now includes the Clippers on his short list. But this hasn’t stopped every sports media outlet to come up with trade scenarios, build hype of a potential Chris Paul-Dwight Howard tandem in the red, white and blue, etc., etc. Most recently, Ken Berger of CBS Sports put out a column addressing many of the rumblings in today’s NBA, including the Clippers-Magic potential trade.
The one thing he openly admits to is the fact that neither team has even so much as dialed the other’s phone number, let alone spoken to one another. There are rumors, and then there is stupidity. And I am not taking away from Berger as he is a tremendous sports writer, probably one of the best – especially because he isn’t one of those “hired because I used to play” types on ESPN, but he cannot legitimately think that the Clippers would do anything of the sort. This is a word-for-word quote from Ken Berger:
“Given the alternatives, would a package including Griffin and DeAndre Jordan provide the Magic with enough basketball and marketing assets to walk away from the loss of Howard in great shape on both fronts? You bet it would. And if you don’t think the Clippers would part with Griffin in a Howard trade, you disagree with a top talent evaluator I floated this scenario by Thursday. He said the Clippers would do it ‘in five seconds,’ and he gave that answer in less than one. From a technical standpoint, scouts are skeptical that Griffin’s game will continue to evolve, but it’s difficult to think of a player in the league who’d generate as much marketing and fan excitement as Howard’s replacement.”
What the sh*t are you talkin’ about?! Clippers GM Neil Olshey has spent years trying to gain the trust of Donald Sterling because their last GM, Mike Dunleavy was, well, inept. He put together a team this season that is finally breaking through. As Florence would say, “The dog days are over“.
The Clips have Chris Paul manning the point (he sat out Friday’s loss to Minnesota nursing a strained hammy), Chauncey Billups, Caron Butler, Blake “Beast” Griffin, DeAndre Jordan (who leads the L in blocks per) and a very capable bench led by Mo Williams – who will most likely contend for 6th man of the year. What’s this garbage about trading your two big men – who combined give you 29 points per game, 20 rebounds per game, and four blocks per game – when Dwight Howard gives you 20, 16, 2.5 ….Yes, Howard is the best center in the league. Yes, he would definitely help the Clippers – but Blake is 22, and Jordan is 23. Howard is 26. Not saying that 26 is old, but youth is what the Clippers are preaching. Build around their two budding superstars at the PF and C positions because once Jordan and Blake polish their games, this team will be unreal. Why even talk about breaking this team up when they have started the season 8-5 (while playing games without Chris Paul), highlighted already by wins against the Blazers, Heat, Lakers, Mavericks. No need to break up a team that thrives on enthusiasm and great relationships on and off the court. It is known that Blake would have been quite upset had the Clippers not matched the Warriors offer sheet to bring Jordan back to Staples.
I am taking the less popular standpoint because it has to be defended. Most people hear Dwight Howard and they begin to salivate at the thought of CP3 teaming with Superman in LA. However, take into account the fact the Clippers have played just 13 games and they are already sitting atop the Pacific division. They’ve shown poise and cunning in the most crucial points of integral games such as the win over Miami.
The Clippers weren’t going to allow the Heat to beat them hitting layups – so they sent LeBron James to the line, they sent Wade to the line, making them earn their points. It paid off when Lebron went 9-17 from the FT line – missing a crucial one at the end of regulation. Or when Jason Terry hit two clutch threes at the end of Wednesday night’s game, giving the Mavericks a one point lead with five seconds remaining. Billups then buried a huge three with one second on the game clock, essentially giving the Clippers a two point victory.
The Clippers never won these games. These were those games I’d be watching five years ago and say, “well there goes that one,” or “at least we almost won.” No longer. These Clippers have changed the culture of the much maligned franchise. No need to break up a core that’s so cohesive on and off the court, led by savvy veterans like Billups and Williams to go along with star power of Paul and Griffin. Butler has been an undervalued addition this offseason as he has quietly averaged 16 ppg.
Dwight Howard doesn’t belong in a Clipper uniform, but he may look good in the purple and gold. And Mitch Kupchak may feel more inclined to make the move sooner rather than later as the Lakers are losing media attention while their arena-mates are gaining steam. But who knows if Howard’s list is legit? No one. I do not recall one instance where Howard publicly explicitly said “I will only go to the Nets, Mavericks, Lakers (or Clippers)”. Do you?
That’s what I thought. Until that day comes – this is all speculation. Besides, Howard may not want to come to LA because him and Shaquille O’Neal, for some odd reason, have some sort of feud ever since Dwight took on the Superman nickname. Shaq event went so far as to say recently that Andrew Bynum is the best center in the NBA, with Dwight following. And we all know thats a load of crap. As much as I love Shaq, he’s totally wrong. At the end of his career, Dwight was just becoming big – and he was stealing the spotlight from the Diesel. So goes life, Big Fella.
Moral of the story? Griffin and Jordan will be in Clipper jerseys for the foreseeable future, and they will eventually (potentially this season) be contending for the Western Conference crown.
AJ’s Top 10 Poll
1.Chicago (14-3) – They are No. 1 in the NBA in rebounding and blocks and second in assists. With key vistories against the Lakers, Clippers, Atlanta and Orlando, the Bulls are proving this season may be different than last, where they were bounced from the East Finals in five games. Hopefully Derrick Rose’s toe holds up long enough for a deep playoff run.
1A.Miami (10-4) – With wins over San Antonio & LA Lakers (without Dwayne Wade), Dallas, Atlanta and Indiana – Miami really might be the best team in the league. They also might have played the toughest schedule in the league thus far. With road losses to the Clippers and Denver, they have played the most teams above .500 to this point. They also rank No. 1 in field goal percentage and points per game (106+) and second in three-point field goal percentage.
3.Oklahoma City (12-3) – With wins over San Antonio, Dallas, Orlando and road vistories against Boston and Memphis, OKC runs the West through 15 games. They also rank third in field goal percentage as well as third in blocks. As long as Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant and James Harden can continue to gel without getting in each others way, teams will be hard pressed to take them down.
4.San Antonio (10-6) – Victories against the Clippers, Orlando, Dallas, Portland and Denver – the Spurs have played the second toughest schedule at this juncture. Also ranking fifth in points per, fourth in assists and fifth in field goal percentage, all the while playing without their top player in Manu Ginnobili for the last two weeks.
5. LA Clippers (8-5) - Huge victories against Miami (with a healthy Wade), LA Lakers, Dallas and Portland, the Clippers have risen to the occasion with all the hype surrounding their squad coming into this season. They have also been without CP3 the last four games (2-2 record).
6. Portland (9-6) - Wins against Oklahoma City, Clippers, Lakers, Denver and Philadelphia; the Blazers are flying under everyone’s radar once again this season. Nate McMillan has his team poised to make some noise this season.
7. Denver (11-5) - Second in both field goal percentage and points per game while manning the top spot in both assists and steals, the Nuggets have not missed a beat since trading Carmelo Anthony. Give credit to General Manager Masai Uriji for making the right moves to keep this team relevant in a deep Western conference. Big wins over Miami, Dallas, LA Lakers and Philadelphia have propelled George Karl’s team to seventh in the NBA.
8. Atlanta (11-5) – Huge victories against Miami, Chicago and Portland have Atlanta cracking the top 10. Ranking fourth in rebounding and fifth in assists helps a team that has also dramatically increased their free throw percentage, and now stand at fourth in the NBA.
9. Orlando (11-4) - Theyve played a relatively weak schedule thus far, but have victories against Portland and the LA Lakers and rank third in the NBA in three-point field goal percentage. Hedo Turkoglu is also playing at a similar level to when they went to the Finals three years back. Ryan Andersen is early season Most Improved averaging a shade under 20 ppg.
10. LA Lakers (10-7) – The Lakers rank second in rebounding and third in assists, and Kobe averages 30 points per game. But we’ve seen this before – When Kobe shoulders the load as he has for the first 17 games, the Lakers do not perform up to standards. Wins over Denver, Utah and Dallas highlight their season.