The Other Side: Los Angeles Clippers
While the sports world will be focused the NFL's Super Bowl in Tampa on Sunday, the privileged masses who converge upon the Verizon Center tonight will get a treat of their own: The NBA's Toilet Bowl. The Los Angeles Clippers, the second-worst team in the Western Conference, will take on the Washington Wizards, the worst team in the Eastern Conference, in a game that will have an impact on the NBA draft lottery in May.
The Clippers and Wizards have a lot in common. They are bad teams still reeling from some offseason mishaps (Elton Brand jilted the Clippers in free agency; Gilbert Arenas had surgery on his left knee again). They made midseason trades that produced few immediate results (the Clippers shipped Cuttino Mobley and Tim Thomas to New York for Zach Randolph; the Wizards traded Antonio Daniels for Mike James and Javaris Crittenton).
They have veteran, all-star caliber talent on the roster (the Clippers have Baron Davis and former Defensive Player of the Year Marcus Camby; the Wizards have Antawn Jamison and Caron Butler). And they have dealt with serious injuries to key players (the Clippers have been without Randolph (bone bruise) and Chris Kaman (left foot) for significant stretches, and Davis has been in and out; the Wizards have missed Arenas and Brendan Haywood, among several others).
The franchises also have a history of futility, combining to win two playoff series -- one each -- the past 25 years. The Clippers (10-36) have lost four games in a row -- and 20 of their past 22 overall -- after kicking off their seven-game road trip with a 112-95 loss in Cleveland on Friday night. Randolph has missed the past 19 games, but is traveling with the team.
Here's what else you need to know about the Clippers before they play the Wizards tonight at Verizon Center.
1. Baron Davis Is Having A Sour Homecoming
Sports Illustrated's L. Jon Wertheim wrote a nice profile looking into Baron Davis's numerous outside interests -- he produces movies, he's involved in political and social causes. At least he has something else to focus on, because he hasn't had that much fun playing basketball in his first season with his hometown team. Davis left the Golden State Warriors to sign with the Clippers, but he has already dealt with a bruised tailbone and hamstring injury all season, he's clashed with Coach Mike Dunleavy, and former teammate Stephen Jackson said Davis wishes he never left Oakland. Davis returned to action this week, after missing the previous 13 games with the hamstring injury. He is averaging 16.6 points and 7.9 assists this season. But while coming off the bench the past two games against Chicago and Cleveland, Davis has scored just 12 points on 21.7 percent (5 for 23) shooting.
2. The Clippers Have Some Promising Young Talent
The Clippers will have two players in the Rookie Challenge Game during all-star weekend in Phoenix, with Al Thornton representing the second-year players and Eric Gordon on the rookie team. Thornton, who went just two spots ahead of Nick Young in 2007, is averaging 17.2 points and 5.3 rebounds. Gordon, the seventh pick of the 2008 NBA draft out of Indiana, turned 20 on Christmas. He is averaging 14.1 points, but he has been a scoring machine in January, averaging 21.7 points this month. He has scored 30 or more points three times, including a career-high 41 points in the Clippers' last win against Oklahoma City on Jan. 23. Gordon's teammates have nicknamed him, "The Hobbit."
3. Dunleavy Plans To Hold On To His Big Men
The moment the Clippers acquired center Marcus Camby from the Denver Nuggets last summer, rumors started swirling that they would move center Chris Kaman. And, when Dunleavy traded for Zach Randolph in November, the Clippers appeared to have too many quality big men, but not enough time. Dunleavy, though, contends that he won't trade any of them and can spread the minutes around -- when and if Kaman can ever return from his sore left foot and Randolph can come back from his knee injury. The trio has only played one game together this season - a 106-105 loss to Denver on Nov. 26. Through all the turmoil this season, Camby has been a bright spot, averaging 12.1 points and 13.6 rebounds. He has had 11 games with at least 17 rebounds, including a 27-rebound game on Dec. 17. Camby missed five games earlier this month with an ankle injury.
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