Remember ‘A Tribe Called Bench’? They were the lineup of Clippers reserves that started pressing their footprint onto games and their faces onto t-shirts.
Last season that tribe had members by the name of Austin Rivers, Hedo Turkoglu and Glen Davis – all with PERs in the neighbourhood of 10.5 – and the Clips were about as deep as your childhood paddling pool.
Fast forward to the summer of 2015 and Lance Stephenson, Paul Pierce and Josh Smith are on Steve Ballmer’s payroll. The days of Hedo & Friends playing significant minutes are mercifully over, as are your resulting dreams of “Hey, if these guys can get major minutes, surely I could crack an NBA rotation if I worked out occasionally.”
Having dodged a bullet/rocket-propelled missile when they pried DeAndre Jordan out of Mark Cuban’s hands, and after making a flurry of free agent signings, GM Doc suddenly added a bunch of talent for Coach Doc to work with. Along with Wesley Johnson and Austin Rivers, LAC’s bench now features J-Smoove, J-Crossover, Born Ready and Glen Davis (Born Heavy).
While we’re (somewhat) on the topic, let’s recap that DJ mess one more time, just for fun. How could I resist, it was the most embarrassing DJ related shemozzle since DJ Khaled inexplicably joined the First Take debate desk during the 2014 Finals.
It all started with DeAndre’s backflip – worthy of a 10 from the judges – five days into his verbal agreement with Dallas. In the process, DJ painted Dallas into a corner and locked the door, threw a spanner in the works of the league-wide free agency process, avoided Mark Cuban’s calls like he was a telemarketer, and generally handled the whole thing about as poorly as Mr. T would handle a Grand Canyon joy flight.
Respect the Chemistry
Chemistry questions were first raised when Doc went into full Liam Neeson mode to rescue his son from being held hostage by the vengeful Celtics.
Now the Clips have thrown checkered history guys like Josh Smith and Lance Stephenson into this melting pot, which might just boil over. General consensus is that you can have one shot-happy loose cannon, but no more. A little crazy is fine, but it needs to be the exception, and mustn’t become the rule.
Additionally, Stephenson, Smith and Pierce clearly won’t be able to play as many minutes as they’ll want to, and will have to learn to share. Lance and J-Smoove may end up irritating teammates by joining Crawford and Rivers in the Questionable Shot Player’s Union, their all-encompassing president being former Clipper Nick Young. Throw in Chris Paul’s ability to rub guys the wrong way, and suddenly we’ve raised more questions than a True Detective plot line.
Will The Real Lance Stephenson Please Stand Up?
Lance Stephenson’s 2014/15 campaign in Charlotte was somewhere between a train wreck and a dumpster fire, which incidentally, are the same words most folks are using to describe the Clippers’ new uniforms.You don’t have to be familiar with the laws of graphic design to know the Clippers just violated every single one of them.
Shifting gears back to Lance, and this time last year I wrote:
If Lance can just channel the right amount of crazy – the crazy that sees him racing all over the court, slashing to the hoop, throwing absurd passes, making plays and pumping himself and the crowd up so much that all involved have a collective aneurysm – the Hornets will be a real factor in the wide open east. If he channels the amount of crazy that sees him talk obscene amounts of trash, make stupid plays, distract his teammates from actual basketball and royally pisses off MJ, things could get messy.
While no one knows the whole story, it’s safe to say Lance chose something close to the latter option in Charlotte.
The Indiana incarnation of Stephenson could really help put the Clippers over the top, while the Charlotte version would just add to the uncertainty and potential dysfunction.
The Clippers are the undisputed champs of the risky signing, not to be confused with the equally enjoyable ‘straight up idiotic signing’, the championship belt for which New York and Sacramento hold joint custody.
The Clips love guys with a questionable basketball past (Josh Smith, Lance Stephenson, Austin Rivers, Sasha Vujacic), adore players who are objectively over the hill (Hedo Turkoglu, Danny Granger, Chauncey Billups), and positively froth over guys who tick both boxes (Lamar Odom, Stephen Jackson).
The Clippers recruited plenty of talent, but seem to have gone for best available acquisitions over best fit, like a girl cramming herself into a pair of new shoes that are clearly three sizes too small.
Ultimately, it will be up to Doc to juggle the minutes and egos of guys like Smith and Stephenson; and Chris Paul to tread the fine line between marshalling the troops and chewing their ear off.