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Searching for Answers
But after watching yet another dismal, uninspiring double-digit loss to Portland last night on the heels of two absolute beatdowns by San Antonio and Utah, it's time to let this voice be heard.
Make. A. Move.
Everyone has been saying that the Clippers have been underachieving, that they have an immensely talented team that is just out of sync. They've had injuries to key players, such as Chris Kaman, Sam Cassell, and Corey Maggette. They were worn down from an overly ambitious travel schedule during the offseason and preseason.
Excuse after excuse after excuse.
Twenty-two games is a large enough sample size that we can make some rational assessments about the team. The verdict? They are entirely mediocre. The words made famous by Bill Parcells, Dallas Cowboys coach, ring true: "You are what your record says you are."
The Clips are 10-12, in last place in the Pacific, and losers of 10 of their last 14. Not terrible. But not good.
Make. A. Move.
Let's face it, if you turn on the TV and watch them play the game, they don't look like a team that belongs in the upper echelon. It's not like the Clippers are beating themselves with a lot of turnovers or defensive lapses. They simply look ineffective and outmanned - offensive sets without purpose, shaky perimeter defense, poor outside shooting. The Clipper fan in you says, "wait a minute, I saw these guys play last year, they should be way better than this." The basketball fan in you says, "you know what, they just don't have it; something's missing."
Make. A. Move.
So what is missing? This space noted the team's lack of a true alpha dog, someone capable of willing a team to victory when the situation dictates it. The team is seemingly playing without emotion and fire, burdened by something, whether it be raised expectations or locker room whispers from trade rumors. And fair or not, the fans are jumping off the Clippers' ship just as fast as they boarded last year.
But there is an answer out there. The Answer. Allen Iverson.
He's listed at 6-feet, 183 pounds, though it's probably closer to 5'10", 165. He comes with an entourage rivaling that of Vincent Chase. He has a long history of run-ins with the law, from brawls to weapons to marijuana. He's created controversy with his fire on the mic. And he hates practice.
He's also a career 28.1 per game scorer, third all-time, and four-time scoring champ. He's averaged 41.7 minutes a game over ten-plus seasons. He's an MVP, an Olympian, a seven-time All-Star, three times a first-team all-NBA player (and another three times on the second-team). He's in SLAM Magazine's Top 75 Players of all-time.
Most importantly, he is a warrior, a guy that leaves it all out on the floor. A guy that will take the big shots, that can change a game by his presence. He brings a fire and intensity that few in the league can match. In short, he brings everything that the Clippers are lacking.
Yes, he's 31 years old with a ton of mileage. Yes, he's a career 41.7% shooter and notorious for not jelling with teammates. Yes, it may cost the Clippers Shaun Livingston (the "next" Magic) and Corey Maggette (who's already on his way out anyway) and a number one draft pick (of which they have an extra one because of the Cassell-Jaric heist). Yes, it could be a disastrous move, given AI's monstrous contract ($39.8 million) over the next two years and his potential to blowup team chemistry.
But he could also be the guy that pushes the Clippers into elite status, the missing piece of the puzzle. He's a bona-fide superstar that will instantly sell tickets, jerseys, and TV broadcasts. And as seen through the passion of Sixers fans for him, he'll give the team a guy that Clipper Nation can rally behind.
The Clipper front office wants to exercise patience, reluctant to give up Livingston, who has the potential to be a star player in his own right, and to sacrifice their cap position. Clipper Nation has been waiting for 23 years for the team to be a legitimate force in this league, to be worth talking about and investing our energy in, to not have to be overshadowed by the Lakers. We're tired of being patient.
Make. A. Move.
AP photo by Manu Fernandez