NBA Season Preview: Los Angeles Clippers

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Last season: 32-50, or to frame it in context, 13th place in the West out of 15 teams.

Head Coach: Vinny Del Negro, who, after the team successfully traded for Chris Paul, is now officially on the hot seat. VDN has yet to prove he can be successful coaching at the NBA level, and if this season doesn’t end with (at minimum) a trip to the playoffs, he could very well be gone this summer.

Key Departures: Eric Gordon, Chris Kaman, Al-Farouq Aminu, Minnesota’s unprotected 2012 first round draft pick.

Key Additions: The league’s best point guard in Chris Paul, Caron Butler, and Chauncey Billups, who was claimed off of amnesty waiver and may or may not stick around in L.A. now that the deal for Paul has been completed.

Best case scenario: One could easily make the case that the best case scenario for the Clippers has already taken place, even before a single game has been played yet this season. L.A. is now more relevant than ever with the acquisition of Chris Paul, and we’re talking about a team that had a considerable buzz around it last season with the above-the-rim play of then-rookie Blake Griffin. Moreover, we’re talking about a franchise that has overall been the league’s worst for decades, and this is their one shot to lay claim to a large section of Los Angeles basketball fans.

For that to happen: The buzz and excitement surrounding the Clippers will fade quickly in Los Angeles if the team isn’t winning and can’t produce runs deep into the postseason sometime in the next few years. L.A.’s fans have been spoiled by the gaudy success from the Lakers over the years, and will only put up with a “fun” team that doesn’t win for so long.

That being said, it doesn’t have to happen this season. But what does have to happen is the Clippers making the playoffs — they simply can’t screw this up. The team should be a virtual lock to take the place of Paul’s former New Orleans team that played in the postseason last year, and a quick look at the offseason moves that other teams in the West made (or didn’t make) would lead you to believe that L.A. with Paul should finish higher than the rest of the teams in the conference that finished out of the playoffs.

More likely the Clippers will: Find a way to screw this up, because historically they always have? Not this time, at least not this season. There are depth issues in all areas but guard for the Clippers, so if health becomes a factor for any of the team’s big names, they may struggle to make the playoffs. But injuries aren’t something you can predict, and analysts always begin any bold statements with “if they stay healthy …” for a reason.

There will be a lot of pressure on the Clippers front office to put pieces around Paul to enable the team to compete with the big names in the West, but that’s a season or two away. For now, the Clips are relevant, and all they need to do is make it into the first round of the playoffs to keep that momentum going into next season.

Prediction: 37-29, seventh seed in the Western Conference.

Carmelo Anthony on his role with Rockets: “Let’s just let it play out”

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From the moment it became clear Carmelo Anthony was going to join the Rockets — which was a long time before he actually signed the contract on Monday — the questions started:

Would he accept a reduced role with the Rockets? Maybe come off the bench? Be Olympic ‘Melo and blend in with the team?

Coach Mike D’Antoni said he spoke with Anthony and said the player is open to coming off the bench, but he’s not sure what ‘Melo’s role will be. When ambushed by TMZ trying to walk to his car, Anthony said basically the same thing.

“Let’s just let it play out, though. I don’t even know what’s going on. I just signed, let it start first.”

Anthony coming off the bench, being the fulcrum of the offense when James Harden and Chris Paul are on the bench makes some sense (CP3 and Harden are better and more efficient shot creators than Anthony at this point). It’s a chance for Anthony to get his touches and help the other two rest. However, the idea of Anthony starting the first and third quarters and getting heavy touches then but sitting more later is not out of the question.

At the end of close games, D’Antoni is more likely to lean on James Ennis — a long, switchable defender who can shoot threes in the Trevor Ariza mold — than Anthony. It will be just a better fit. Will Anthony roll with that? Will it cause problems in the locker room?

Let’s just let it play out.

The time Andre Drummond taped Spencer Dinwiddie to a chair under cold shower

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Remember when the NBA cracked down on hazing?

It was 2013, and the Miami Dolphins were in the midst of a bullying scandal. The NBA wanted to avoid similar problems.

But enforcement of the NBA’s guidelines was clearly fleeting, a temporary overreaction to the Dolphins’ issues.

By the very next season Andre Drummond and the Pistons were hazing rookie Spencer Dinwiddie.

Kristian Winfield of SB Nation:

Dinwiddie:

Thankfully, Dinwiddie appears to take this in good fun. Context matters, and if the team welcomed him overall, this could be just a harmless prank.

And Dinwiddie has gotten revenge – flourishing with the Nets, including hitting a game-winner at Detroit last season.

Magic Johnson posts low-quality video of his birthday party, Lonzo Ball offers to get him an iPhone

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LeBron James sent Magic Johnson an ardent happy-birthday tweet last year. Then, LeBron eventually provided the best gift imaginable – signing with Johnson’s Lakers.

I think Johnson is having a good 59th birthday today. But I can’t say for certain – because the video he posted is pixelated and has distorted audio:

That prompted Lonzo Ball to tweet:

Ha!

That’d be a pretty nice gift. But I don’t think it’ll endear Ball over LeBron.

Jimmy Butler disses agent, trainer, chef, commenter – not Timberwolves teammates – on Instagram

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There’s reportedly friction between Jimmy Butler and his Timberwolves teammates, Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns.

It’s not hard to see why. Butler pulled himself up from the bottom and has developed an understanding of how he got here. He has shown little patience for those who don’t match his work ethic and competitiveness. The younger Wiggins and Towns are former No. 1 picks who seem too content at times.

Anyway, Butler posted this photo to Instagram:

Butler appears to be talking – almost certainly in jest – about his trainer (Chris Johnson), agent (Bernie Lee) and chef (Christian Bowman). After all, those three are behind him in the picture.

A commenter brought up Wiggins and Towns, saying Butler should lead those two, and Butler shot back:

This has gotten spun into evidence of strife in Minnesota. I don’t see it. That strikes me as a retort to the commenter, not a shot at Wiggins and Towns.

Besides, if you’re looking for evidence of the Timberwolves’ internal problems, there’s more than enough elsewhere.