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Friday, 8 August 2008

Elgin Baylor, will you do my homework for me?

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You know the old saying, if you want something done, ask a busy person to do it for you.

Well, if you want something done right about now, I'd be asking Elgin Baylor to help out. His Clipper ship has been steaming through the Pacific, tacking where necessary and heading dead astern (we like that word here ... asternwarning) for a dose of respectability or at least the appearance that Head Office has tried.

Baylor has gone through his rough patch of years as VP of Basketball Operations in Los Angeles' other team. He's been labelled as everything from stupid, to gutless to lazy in the Clippers' continued mediocrity through the 90s. They have only made the playoffs twice since 1993 and have failed to make much noise, always being seen as the 'also-ran' to the cross-town Lakers.

"May you live in interesting times" supposedly is the Chinese proverb. Well, this off-season for the Clippers has certainly been that. It all started out with doom and gloom as it looked like the Clippers were going to lose their key free agents (Elton Brand and Corey Maggette) and see nothing in return. Then suddenly there was a blast of fresh air with the apparent double-signing of Baron Davis and Brand. The see-saw went back down as it became clear that Brand was not returning. Then the fat kid got back on the other end of the see-saw as the Nuggets make a charitable, tax-deductible donation of Marcus Camby to the Clips.

Now, let's see if you can keep up with this as we recap the moves that have been made in Clipperville since mid-last season, February 2008. Just after the trading deadline, they signed Nevada rookie Nick Fazekas to a 10-day contract. They also set Sam Cassell free to join his buddy KG in Boston for the title run.
In March, they signed Fazekas to another 10-dayer and picked up the now-smushed-Smush Parker. They then decided to sign Fazekas for the rest of the season and picked up Marcus Williams, dropping his namesake Aaron.

Then to the off-season where things really get fun... the Clips extended qualifying offers to Fazekas and Williams, pretty much because they had only about 5 other players on their roster (including Baylor, who decided he'd make a comeback as he's clearly more successful on the court than upstairs, much like MJ, Larry and Isiah).

Farewells were given to Smush, the unfortunate Shaun Livingston, Disaster Dan Dickau, Boniface Ndong and James Singleton. Nothing too surprising here. But this is just when it all starts to get interesting.

Solid shooting guard draftee Eric Gordon was signed, in a situation which gives him a great mentor in Cutino Mobley. And his backcourt partner was announced as Fear The Beard's own Baron Davis. Then the controversy came when Golden State tried to counter by throwing cash at Elton Brand, which he refused, duping them both to sign with the Philadelphia Sixers.

All the while, Corey Maggette was in negotiations in the background and Golden State picked up their consolation prize on the way out the door by signing the slashing small forward to a 5 year, $50m deal.

Next up to the table were draftees Mike Taylor and dominating big man DeAndre Jordan, who projects as a solid interior player. As the ink was drying on that, Baylor was finishing cleaning Rex Chapman's three cars (inside and out) as the VP of Basketball Operations in Denver gifted Camby to the Clips, giving them a solid defensive presence to play alongside bratwurst eating Chris Kaman.

Laura Bush got jealous and signed her own deal to play backup point to B-Diddy (see left) as her husband picked up his tickets to see China v the Redeem Team in Beijing from Ticketmaster.

At this point the Clippers realised they weren't in as desperate a situation as first thought and threw Marcus Williams and Nick Fazekas back onto the NBA/D-League merry-go-round.

Not content to let Golden State's Chris Mullin rest, they signed atheltic restricted free agent Kelenna Azubuike to an offer sheet. The Warriors were having none of it and matched.

Baylor was pretty happy with how the Camby trade panned out, so brimming with confidence he decided to try his luck again. This time he traded as-pure-a-point-as-they-come Brevin Knight to the Utah Jazz for Jason Hart. A move that makes the Clips younger and slightly more versatile in the backcourt.

Get buckets? Things were getting a little quiet there for 5 days or so and with the focus not on the Clippers, they decided to sign "community service leader" Ricky Davis, who is still only 28 amazingly enough. And he has gotten rid of the braids, in an image shift. "I was thinking about doing it last year. It means something to cut the braids off. I got a new look."

Next on the chopping block was Josh Powell, who was replaced by been-around-the-world big man Brian Skinner, a quality big to have off the bench. The PF/C, who has played for seven teams, was originally drafted by the Clippers back in '98.

In another "let's swap 2nd-round draft picks in the future if you want to at the time" deal, pure shooting forward Steve Novak was acquired from the Houston Rockets two days ago. But Novak was too skinny to fill an entire roster spot, so the Clippers followed that by signing another Miami Heat castaway in Jason Williams... look out for some White Chocoalte in Los Angeles, ladies and gentlemen.


Is it all over? Who knows. Only Elgin knows.

Certainly, no one can accuse Mr Baylor of being lazy or Donald Sterling of being stingy in their moves this Summer. The fans of LA know that they've got staff working to bring them a better basketball team. The wild west is a tough place to play, so playoff are far from certain, but the Clippers will challenge for that final spot, no doubt.


PG ¦ Baron Davis ¦ Jason Williams ¦ Jason Hart
SG ¦ Cutino Mobley ¦ Eric Gordon ¦ Mike Taylor
SF ¦ Al Thornton ¦ Tim Thomas ¦ Steve Novak
PF ¦ Marcus Camby ¦ Brian Skinner
C ¦ Chris Kaman ¦ DeAndre Jordan
Head Coach ¦ Mike Dunleavy

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