Fraternizing with the Enemy: The one where YOU asked the questions and ClipperSteve answered.

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So. let's keep this intro short and sweet. The title pretty much says it all- you all asked the questions (or at least some of you) and ClipperSteve from Clipsnation responds. Good job by both -- to those of you who asked the questions, and to Steve in answering them. Drinks all around. If you'd like to see the questions they asked me and my response to them, then you should probably click this link. Enjoy.

Do Clippers fans ever wish that they could go back under the radar, that the hype is setting them up for inevitable failure?

As you might imagine, Clipper fans tend to be a fairly fatalistic lot, a trait acquired out of necessity over the years. There's definitely a part of the fan base that would love to go back to being the team with no expectations. For years, every road victory was cause for celebration. Now every road loss is vital in something I've been told is called "the playoff race". Opponents get fired up for the Clippers now -- there's a bull's eye on the team that wasn't there before. They can't really sneak up on anyone anymore.

Still, it's the price you pay for being a real team. It's definitely better this way -- and if it can be sustained in some way, maybe we can get past the dismissive "It's the Clippers, they'll screw it up somehow" attitude in the media. Don't get me wrong, it's what Clippers fans are thinking in the back of their minds, but we've earned the right to feel that way.


What is your take on the "Clipper Darrell" situation?

Apparently it's resolved, FWIW. My short answer is that it should never have been a 'situation' to begin with. Darrell exaggerated and misrepresented what had been said in his "I AM DEVASTATED" post, and the team, forever tone deaf in matters of public relations, threw gasoline on the fire with their mean-spirited response. Both sides were at fault, it was all stupid, it's over. The long answer is here.

Is Vinny Del Negro the long-term coach for the team? (obviously, no...) If not, then who do they think should fit with the current crop of free agent coaches? (Sloan? JVG? Fratello?)

Is it that obvious? The Clippers defense has been terrible this season, and after a minor improvement when Kenyon Martin joined the team, it's gotten worse again. So a defense-minded coach would seem to be the right one to take this team to the next level. Jerry Sloan is interesting when you consider the level of success he's had, and in particular the point guard-power forward combinations he's successfully coached. It's tempting to think that he's the guy to turn Paul-Griffin into an even better version of Stockton-Malone. But the dude is 70 years old, and retired in part because of clashing with a young superstar -- it seems more than possible that Sloan is no longer compatible with NBA players. He got Stockton and Malone as rookies -- I wish it weren't so, but I worry that his old-school style is not going to fly with superstar players like Paul and Griffin who are used to getting coddled. I especially worry that Sloan would crush DeAndre Jordan's gentle spirit -- I don't think I could handle that.

The same issue might well apply, to a lesser extent, to Van Gundy or Fratello. They do both qualify as defensive-minded, so that would be a plus. But are we really limited to 60 something analysts in the available pool of coaches?

I would have loved to have seen the Clippers cut their losses with Del Negro and pursue Rick Adelman when he became available, but that didn't happen. Likewise, if Nate McMillan's seat is hot in Portland, I think he would be a great choice as VDN's replacement.

What is your take on Hot Lips (Kenyon Martin) taking major minutes away from DeAndre Jordan. Good or bad?

First of all, you have to realize that K-Mart's minutes are coming from a couple of sources. Brian Cook averaged 10 minutes per game through the end of January -- Cook's PER this season is up to 0.1 now. Yes, I said 'up to' 0.1. He's now completely out of the rotation, with the next stop being out of the league. Reggie Evans has lost some minutes as well.

Martin is much better at defending the pick and roll than DeAndre; that's not really a knock on DJ, K-Mart happens to be really good at defending the pick and roll. So against teams that are running a lot of pick and roll, Martin is definitely VDN's preference.

DJ's minutes went from about 30 before Martin signed to about 24 -- that's not inappropriate. All in all, Martin's signing has absolutely been a good thing for the Clippers. I could do without the antics (he picked up a crucial fourth quarter technical foul in the one point loss to Minnesota, and a double technical in the one point loss to New Jersey, and that ain't helpful), but he's a terrific defender, and has actually shot surprisingly well from mid-range in recent games. The Clippers front court depth was a massive problem before Martin signed -- it's no longer one of their biggest issues.

How do you (and the fanbase) see Griffin's development? Is he making the kinds of strides that you'd like to see at this point of his career, or is he kind of settling in now that Paul has joined the Clippers?

Griffin came so far so fast last season that there's a tendency to worry that he has regressed some this year. And when you look at his rookie season splits, it is pretty interesting to note that he increased his production from November to December, finally peaking at 26 points and 13 rebounds per game in January. After that, his production dropped back down some. But it's still great production. So although his scoring and rebounding numbers this season are slightly off his rookie season averages, it would be crazy to complain about 21 points and 11 rebounds per game.

One reason that things have flattened out for him is because he doesn't have to score as much on this team. Chris Paul, Caron Butler and Mo Williams can all take part of the load -- most of last season, it was just Griffin and Eric Gordon, and Gordon was hurt a fair amount. He also gets a lot more defensive attention than he did in January 2011. These days game plans are built around containing him, and he hasn't yet developed the offensive repertoire to compensate now that defenses are taking away his pet moves. But remember -- he's a week shy of his 23rd birthday, and he's only in his second season. When people talk about how much more refined Kevin Love is at this point (and there's no question that he is) I remind them to look at Love's stats from his second season in the NBA. There's no reason to think that Blake Griffin won't continue to develop. In fact that's probably the good news for Clippers fans -- he still has a ton of headroom.

It's possible he'll never figure some things out. But it seems more likely that he will. The free throw shooting this season is certainly a big concern, given that he was much better than this at the end of last season. But it seems to be mostly in his head, and I assume he'll figure that out as well. I seem to recall a season when Tim Duncan shot under 60% from the line, but he turned out OK.


How do you like to share building with the Lakers? Do you see it as an advantage (less travel), or disadvantage (many Lakers fans at their home games)? Also, would they want to play a series against the Lakers? In general, who do they want to play / want to avoid in the playoffs?

It's clearly a disadvantage for two home games a season (and would be a disadvantage in a playoff series). The other 39 home games it's fine. The Clippers get to play in one of the marquee arenas in the NBA, and there's no way that would have happened if it was up to Donald Sterling to pay for the whole thing. The arrangement has been a financial windfall for Sterling. Most people are aware that the Clippers are one of the relatively few profitable teams in the league and have been for awhile. But that run of seasons in the black corresponds precisely to the move to Staples Center. The Clippers were losing money when they played in the Sports Arena, because no one wanted to attend games there. Is that profitability an advantage to the franchise beyond the extent to which it lines Sterling's pockets? Probably. Over the course of the last decade the Clippers, despite their miserly reputation, have spent money like a normal franchise, signing Elton Brand, Corey Maggette and Baron Davis to big contracts and trading for Chris Paul.

The Clippers would love to beat the Lakers in a playoff series because it would help to quickly dispel the aura of invincibility -- but I'd be scared to death of that matchup. The Staples Center crowd (it would be at best four games on a neutral court, and more likely up to seven road games) is only part of the problem. The Clippers have no one to defend Kobe Bryant, are tiny on the wings which makes it difficult to deal with Bryant and Metta World Peace, and have no one beyond Jordan who can come close to matching up with Andrew Bynum, so if Jordan gets into foul trouble they have big issues. The Clippers present the Lakers with plenty of matchup problems on the other end of course, starting with Chris Paul, but I'd just as soon avoid them. I guess, based on how this season has gone, I'd like to avoid Minnesota and San Antonio as well, since the Clippers are 0-5 against those teams. Conversely, the Clippers have had pretty good success in recent seasons against Oklahoma City -- so while no one wants to face them because they're really good, the Clippers at least seem to get decent results against the Thunder.

Will proof be found of the higgs boson this year, before the LHC shuts down for upgrades? if not, how will this effect the clippers next season?

As NBA fans, we tend to think one season at a time. So either you're working towards the playoffs now, or you're building for next season. I think you need to adjust your time frame a bit when it comes to the search for the so-called "God Particle" -- they've been looking for a long time, losing the LHC for 20 months isn't going to be a big problem.

As for the Clippers, I think it will be a good thing. Chris Paul is an adamant supporter of the Standard Model while Blake Griffin has been dabbling in several Higgsless theories, and the trash talk has reached an unhealthy level. "That dunk was like a weak nuclear reaction" and "I heard your mom likes top quarks" - that sort of thing. I think it will be a good thing for team unity if the search for the Higgs boson goes on the back burner for a while.


I know we all would like for our players to get the awards and I know a good portion of the press (ESPN) feels Paul is on the top 5 list but from the games I have seen I consider he is not having an MVP kind of season and they are using the look how much the Clippers have progressed approach while not considering the other additions to the team and development from within. Do you believe Paul's is the Most Valuable Player in the league this year?

There's little doubt that MVP voting is as much about the narrative as it is about performance on the court. And of course the season is barely half over at this point. If the Clippers get on a roll, win the Pacific Division convincingly and make a run at a top two seed in the Western Conference, then of course Paul is going to be in the discussion (assuming he's a big part of that run, which I think is a relatively safe assumption). But does Chris Paul's season measure up to LeBron James' season? No way.


If there is a reason to hate on the Spurs .... why?

Sure. Jealousy. Sports fans aren't the most rational beings to begin with. If your team isn't succeeding, and you see a team that is, the easiest thing to do is to dislike that team, to assume that they have some unfair advantage or just got lucky or are just bad people. Ginobili's a flopper! Tony Parker is French! I mean, seriously, he's French, and then he cheated on his movie-star wife! What's up with that? Tim Duncan is so smug!

Duncan's a great example. That "Who me?" look he gives the refs ON EVERY SINGLE CALL gets really old, really fast, to everyone except Spurs fans. I totally get why Joey Crawford hates him. If I were Joey Crawford, I'd Tee Duncan up for smiling on the bench too. HOW DARE HE?

In a small way, I'm seeing this type of reaction directed towards the Clippers this season. Does Blake Griffin flop anymore than the average NBA player? Does he preen more after dunks? I certainly don't see it, but I hear about it all the time.


Whats the definition of a model franchise? Lakers, Celtics, Spurs

It's not the Lakers or the Celtics or the Mavericks, because I don't think you can have the model involve simply spending more money than most teams are allowed to. And I don't think it makes sense to overemphasize historical achievements, since the rules that Red Auerbach worked under aren't the ones that exist today.

The Spurs are probably the leading candidate, or perhaps it's the Thunder now. But let's not ignore the role that luck may play in all of this. The Thunder are good because they have Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, James Harden and Serge Ibaka, all players they drafted in the last five drafts. If Portland takes Durant, then they would have Greg Oden. As for Westbrook, Harden and Ibaka, you have to give them credit since none of those players were no-brainers where they were picked and they are all exceeding expectations. But did Sam Presti pick that well, or did he get lucky? We'll never know.

Bear in mind that it wasn't that long ago that the Detroit Pistons were considered the model NBA franchise and Joe Dumars was considered a brilliant GM (even after he drafted Darko Milicic second overall). Now look at the Pistons.

Do you think Sterlings spending habits will stay at their current level, go higher or lower?

I don't imagine that Sterling will ever venture over the luxury tax threshold. The new CBA makes it less likely that anyone will, and Sterling and the Clippers were never too likely to do so. Maybe slightly over, avoiding the double tax, and for a year at a time, avoiding the repeat offender penalties. But probably never -- and that's smarter now than it was in the past.

But the misconception about Sterling is that he's an idiot. You don't make as much money as he's made by being an idiot. He's a scumbag, but he's not stupid. Blake Griffin and Chris Paul are a gravy train for Sterling -- and he'll spend the money necessary to keep them on the team. That means paying them, but it also means adding pieces around them to make the team successful and keep them around. I think he'll do that, because it's the smart thing to do from a business perspective.

Do you think it's possible for the other NBA owners to force Sterling out, like MLB did with Frank McCourt? As a Clips fan, would you want to see that happen?

If it hasn't happened yet, it's not going to happen. Writers like to dust off their "Sterling is a scumbag" stories when something happens that fits that narrative, like the Clipper Darrell thing. But it's not as if Donald Sterling had any involvement in that situation. Then, Sports by Brooks posts about Sterling taking team advice from a prostitute -- well, that story is from 2003, and Donald Sterling is still owner of the Clippers. He's actually been on his best behavior lately, compared to his history. But he's still here.

The other owners don't have any stomach for forcing Sterling out. Why? Because it would set a precedent that they would not like. If Sterling can be forced out, then they could be forced out. So even if David Stern wanted to try something, the owners would never support him. Besides, Sterling is the kind of fiscally conservative owner that Stern wants in the NBA. The CBA negotiations were all about saving the owners from themselves -- if Stern had 30 Donald Sterling's owning teams, they wouldn't have to be saved from themselves. Sterling is a friggin' model owner in that sense.

Would I love it if Donald Sterling were forced out / decided to sell / died a peaceful or even not so peaceful death? Sure. The Clippers have a massive amount of baggage, much of it deserved, some of it not deserved, associated with their owner (who is, a truly bizarre man, it must be said). But a regime change is going to have to come via something other than a palace coup.

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