Hip to Clipp staff writers Vince Robbins, Scott Lerner, and Adam Levine sit down with Clippersaddict Michael Freeman for the first Roundtable of the 2012 season.
1. We know CP3 and BG will be integral to the success (or failure) of the team in the playoffs. Assuming they perform as well as they have all season, who’s the third most important player? Who’s the game-changer that will define how the team performs this postseason?
Vince: On the negative side—the player that could do the most damage if they don’t play well—is DeAndre. We’ve seen him come out of the first half with no rebounds, no points, and it’s really almost impossible for our offense and defense, on the starting unit, to function without him playing well—or at least okay. On the positive side—who could add the most—is Mo Williams. I think he could definitely be our Jason Terry off the bench, and take over a game, having 25 off the bench, getting the crowd involved.
Michael: I’ll have to agree. Mo Williams, or any guard in addition to Chris Paul, that can handle the ball, be dynamic, that can score, is essential. Mo, Nick Young, Randy Foye…we really need a two guard scoring off the dribble, making his own shot, to take some of the burden off Chris Paul to have any real success in the playoffs.
Adam: I’m going to go with Kenyon Martin. K-Mart was acquired to give the Clippers a scoring option up front. He has the skills in the post that Blake and Deandre struggle with, and has the experience to be a pillar alongside one of our young bigs.
Scott: DeAndre Jordan. If we have an absent center, as DeAndre often is with his foul trouble, etc., we don’t stand a chance in a seven-game series against any team with a solid bigman—the Lakers, Thunder, and Grizzlies come to mind. Without DeAndre, I can just see Marc Gasol having a lot of fun around the rim.
2. Is Chauncey’s presence on the bench actually helping the team, or have they just been playing better basketball?
Vince: Does he travel with them? (No.) I think that it’s not necessarily Chauncey, but rather the veteran leadership of Chris Paul, Kenyon Martin, and Chauncey Billups. They’ve been through the coaching turmoils, playoff runs, etc., so I think all of them are helping the younger guys. Chauncey is definitely one of these anchors of stability, and he definitely is making some sort of positive impact. I don’t think he’s the only reason for our good play, but he’s helping.
Adam: The reason why the Clippers have been playing basketball is because they’ve been playing a lot at home over this stretch. During the home games, Chauncey is on the bench, and I think he’s definitely a good guy to have around.
Scott: I’ve been thinking of Chauncey as one of those rock stars who died too young, got turned into a god, and all their negatives seemed to get buried with them. I mean, they even hung Chauncey’s uniform in the locker room like he did die. My point is that I was calling him Mr. Miss Shot for a while back in the beginning of the season, and now that he’s not playing the players, the fans, the media, hold him with this reverence like he is the golden key to the Clippers’ success. He isn’t, they’ve been able to have success without him, and they will continue to have success without him. He helps, sure, but I don’t think he will make or break the team.
3. Do we stand a chance, in a seven-game series, versus any of the WC playoff teams?
Michael: We have a chance against any team in the West, but we need to have all cylinders running—our shooters making shots, presence in the paint, and Chris Paul dishing. We’re a scary team, but because our shooters are so streaky, any seven-game series might prove to hold some issues. I don’t think they’d beat the Thunder, for example, right now, without home court.
Vince: They definitely stand a chance against any team. They beat the Thunder twice in what, the last week or so? We’ve beaten the Spurs on the road. We’ve beat every good team convincingly. I think any series we get in going to be hard-fought, good series. We’ll see. We have some inconsistency, unlike the Spurs or Thunder, but we definitely stand a chance.
Adam: We’re not favored against any of the top teams. We have a new team, and this definitely makes us the underdogs. I think we have a chance to beat any of these great teams, especially because we have the most clutch player in basketball. In all honesty, because we can’t rely on Blake Griffin’s free-throw shooting, or Vinny’s coaching, and because they haven’t played in any truly big games as a team, I’m more excited about the 2013 playoffs.
Scott: I think we’re inconsistent, and it’s quite worrisome. We have a chance, but I really don’t see us winning many seven-game series.
4. Who should be our coach next season? Why? Is Vinny for sure out?
Adam: There are two ways the Clippers keep Vinny del Negro next season: one, they win a championship; two, Chris Paul wants him to stay. CP3 could walk away at the end of next season, and the Clippers need to do whatever it takes to keep Chris Paul on the team, whether that means Vinny stays or goes. Contrary to what a lot of people might think, I’m starting to think that D’Antoni would actually be a great fit for the Clippers. He likes to run, we like to run, and it could be a serious Lob City if we’re running a D’Antoni offense, not to mention that Chris Paul supposedly has a good relationship with him.
Vince: Right. And I think the playoffs will be a big test for what Vinny truly means to the team—if they get knocked out in the first round, Vinny is out. Conversely, if they make a good run, Vinny might hold on to his job. But it doesn’t look good for Vinny, to be honest.
Michael: Fire Vinny, get Phil Jackson. Maybe Shaq too.
Scott: Jerry Sloan. We need good pick and rolls, solid plays, and veteran leadership. We need someone who knows what they’re doing, and isn’t trying to figure out how to coach during the season. Vinny should stay on as a bench coach, learn from Sloan, watch him mold the young players, watch him make Blake stop whining, and then coach the team again when Sloan retires for good.
5. Who’s the league’s MVP thus far, this season?
Adam: The Clippers were a lottery team last year, and now they’re a home-court playoff team. Chris Paul has solidified not only a team but an entire organization. But, overall, I think Kobe has been leading his team valiantly as well. CP3 or Kobe are my picks for MPV.
Vince: It’s hard to say that LeBron isn’t the best player today, but there’s also the whole issue of what MVP really means. Although, Kobe, with the team he has, has been doing quite a good job.
Michael: I don’t really know what MVP means, or what it should mean, but LeBron is probably the best player in the league, his stats are incredible, so it probably has to be LeBron.