By signing Davis away from Golden State and stealing Camby from the Nuggets for nothing but a second-round pick, the Clippers were able to withstand Brand’s suspicious defection to Philadelphia and Maggette’s jaunt up the coast to the Warriors and might just have come out as a better team.
It’s understandable why seeing Brand skip town was tough to swallow for Clippers fans. L.A.’s “other” pro basketball team, a longtime league doormat and redheaded stepchild in Tinseltown, rarely accomplishes anything worth cheering about and it was Brand who was the lynchpin on the Clips’ 2005-06 squad that won 47 games and reached the second round of the playoffs.
But sometimes emotions cloud the facts, and the reality of the situation is that Brand played just eight games last season, turns 30-years old in March and is trying to comeback from a shredded Achilles’ tendon.
Davis gives the Clippers a dynamic guard who can literally take over a game the way that few can when he gets rolling. His penchant for creating steals, running the fastbreak, distributing the ball on offense and all the while splashing treys or putting a dunk on some poor defender’s head (ahem, Andrei Kirilenko) add up to one of the complete talents in the league when healthy and motivated.
That’s not to say that health and motivation are a given for B-Diddy this season. He’s playing in the backyard where he grew up. You can’t tell me that ticket requests, party invites and movie-making opportunities from his SoCal buddies and UCLA friends won’t be just a little distracting to The Bearded One.
Add in the fact that Davis looked a little doughy in paparazzi photos that surfaced of him and leading lady Jessica Alba the beach. Alba just popped out a baby and her body still looked more toned than L.A.’s $65 million man.
Usually you want your star spending the offseason working out with a trusted trainer like Tim Grover, David Thorpe or Idan Ravin. Instead, Davis admitted to taking on the Jenny Craig regimen. No joke.
Outside of Baron’s love handles, there’s a lot to love about this Clippers team. Al Thornton had as good of a second half of the season as any rookie – Kevin Durant included – last year; Chris Kaman is one of the handful of true back-to-the-basket big men around today and is one of the best rebounders in the league; Cuttino Mobley, Tim Thomas and free agent Ricky Davis can do nothing if not score; and rookie combo guard Eric Gordon and hybrid forward DeAndre Jordan are exciting prospects.
Mike Dunleavy enters his sixth season at the helm in L.A., amazingly becoming one of the longest tenured coaches in the league despite occupying a position that has traditionally been just about as stable as the San Andreas Fault Line.
Improving upon last season’s 23-59 record should be a given for this new-look squad and if all the new faces end up fostering a this-is-new-and-exciting, we’re-all-in-this-together chemistry, then the Clips might just be able to vie for a lower rung playoff spot in the hyper-competitive West.
And if that happens, Clippers fans will be sure their team got the better end of their offseason deals.
-- Dave McMenamin