TALKING CLIPS: SCOTT HOWARD-COOPER
Eric Patten, Clippers.com
NBA.com national reporter Scott Howard-Cooper, who has also covered the NBA for the Los Angeles Times and Sacramento Bee, spoke with Eric Patten of Clippers.com from Summer League in Las Vegas. The two discussed the Clippers’ offseason moves, how the perception of them nationally has been altered, how to maximize resources when making personnel changes, and more.
Here is a transcript of their conversation:
Eric Patten, Clippers.com: When you look at the way the Clippers’ season ended, heading into the offseason, is it a matter of making a few minor tweaks or is it a matter of making bigger changes?
Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com: “I don’t think there was a need for major changes. But the problem is San Antonio is saying the same thing. Oklahoma City is saying the same thing. So, the Clippers in a sense have to force the issue to make something happen to get to the next level. If everybody stands pat, then the Spurs and the Thunder, probably in that order, are the favorites going into the summer. Now, we don’t know what happens between now and training camp and then opening night. But as we sit now, there’s no question those are the two teams to beat in the West.”
EP: Where do you see spots where they could improve? They added Spencer Hawes, a big that can stretch the floor a little bit. Where have you seen opportunities for them to improve?
SHC: “Well, that was clearly one area that they have been trying to address, not this offseason, but for several offseasons. They’ve been looking for that third big. Spencer’s a nice pickup because he’s got the experience. His game is much different than DeAndre [Jordan’s] so it’s a nice complementary fit. He’s a guy who can pass the ball really well and that’s another nice addition to have when you already have guys who can do that. You have Chris [Paul] obviously and Blake’s game is expanding all the time and putting Spencer in there is nice.
“I think clearly they’re still looking around for another wing. C.J. Wilcox, you’d say okay that’s one addition, but you can’t really expect too much from a rookie drafted late in the first round and now a guy that won’t have Summer League. He’s a player in that position but he’s not necessarily the answer. When you saw the moves that they made last season, by getting Hedo [Turkoglu], getting Danny Granger. Not expecting that they’re going to be some grand solution, but that was indicative of the Clippers understanding that they have to patch things up and they’re still in the mode I think.”
EP: When you look at a team with limited resources, in terms of a number of players already under contract, how do you think they should approach the offseason?
SHC: “Two ways. The tough part about it is you have to get cooperation from other people in this, but that’s really the root because as you said they don’t have a lot of maneuverability. You find a trade. Obviously, easier said than done. That’s one way you do it. You say, we do have some assets. We mentioned some of the young players: Reggie Bullock and now C.J. Wilcox. Again, they’re not going to get you a lot, but there’s always going to be a team out there that says we want the young players and you can have our veterans. Then it’s just a matter of getting the money to match and both sides having players. Again, easier said than done.
“The other way and this where Doc [Rivers] has shown he can be really successful, is as a recruiter. That is getting people to come for less money than they may be able to get some place else.”
EP: A guy like Darren Collison last year?
SHC: “Exactly. Hey, come here and you’re going to have great exposure and you’re going to have an important role and if you take one year and plus an option then you can be a free agent again. Or come here and we’re not going to pay you as much as other teams but look at the playoff money you can get. And by the way it’s Los Angeles with a franchise that is reenergized right now like few others. It’s a new start why don’t you come be a part of that. Doc’s good at the sales pitch, if you look at some of the guys that came last year during the season after they became free agents. That’s the other way of doing it, is you hope guys take the sales pitch because beyond it’s, ‘Boy, I hope Reggie Bullock takes a big step forward. Or boy, C.J. Wilcox maybe surprises us all and is ready to contribute as a rookie.’”
EP: Are the Clippers in a 2-3 year window where they really need to win? Or do you feel like they have the pieces to maybe extend that window longer than a more veteran team?
SHC: “I think the only reason we say window right now is because I think they have the foundation of a roster that can compete for a championship. You want to say window because you don’t want to say in two or three years then they’ll start to get to it because you have to grab the opportunity. If you miss it, it could be gone forever. At the same time, though, I don’t think it’s a two or three year window. They have so many players that are young enough. Blake Griffin is still getting better. DeAndre is still getting better. Chris Paul has a lot of experience but by no means is on the downside of his career. He’s got more than two or three years left in him. I think you want to put in the focus of you’ve got to grab the opportunity now because you don’t want to look up one day and say, ‘What happened? Where did that window go?’ Because that’s what can happen in the NBA. It can close really fast. There are a lot of teams out there that can attest to that. But because their best players are young, I don’t think it’s like you better win now or the opportunity is gone forever.”
EP: From the outside what has this perspective ownership change looked like to you and what has it done to reenergize the franchise internally but also generate a newfound excitement about them externally?
SHC: “I think it’s one of the strangest situations anyone’s ever seen. Everybody agrees that’s very unique. And it’s incredibly complicated because it’s not just why it happened but how it’s happening as it plays out in the courts. The NBA says it’s moving forward and I believe it is clearly going to happen. I don’t think there’s any doubt about that. But it still can remain messy for a little while longer so that’s a problem.
“At the same time, I think what you’re going to see happen next season, because it started to happen a little bit at the end of this last season, the Clippers are going to get a lot of fans around the country. People that may not have been Clipper fans before are going to latch onto this team because they’ve just sort of watched from afar. They’re going to say, ‘New beginning. We like the change. Let’s see what these guys do with it.’”