Baron Davis, and other questions
Five questions facing the Los Angeles Clippers in 2010-11:
1. Whose team is this, anyway?I went to the team's website to answer this one and found Blake Griffin on the left of the screen, Eric Gordon on the right and Baron Davis nowhere. From a marketing standpoint, that's spot on.
But on the court, that could be a problem. Ninety percent of the time, Davis is the guy bringing the ball up, deciding who gets to shoot it. Internally, the Clippers aren't sure whether Baron's game meshes well with Gordon, their young shooting guard who took a huge leap forward in his career with the United States national team over the summer.
Gordon is a pure scorer who needs the ball in his hands to make plays, but he can get a little lost if he's left on the perimeter to spot up and shoot. Griffin is a natural leader who has already earned the respect of the Clippers veterans and young players. Whether he and Davis can lead this team together remains to be seen.
2. Will the real Baron Davis please stand up?The mercurial point guard came home to Los Angeles to make his mark two seasons ago. So far he's only made a mess of things, clashing with former coach Mike Dunleavy over playing style and tempo, then missing 24 games with an assortment of injuries. New coach Vinny del Negro has promised Davis more freedom offensively. He's also publicly called him out for not being in shape at the start of training camp. When Davis is at his best, he's one of the top point guards in the NBA. When he's not, he's a distraction and a drag on the rest of the team. The Clippers signed Randy Foye as a free agent to hedge their bet on Davis, but for this team to live up to its potential, Davis has to be in top form. He has said and done all the right things during training camp, and teammates have been saying they've been impressed by his attitude. But this issue can only be settled on the court.
3. Is this a college team or an NBA team?Six of the 14 players on the Clippers' opening-night roster are 22 or younger. Only three players -- Davis, Rasual Butler and Jarron Collins -- are older than 30. In other words, the Clippers are young. That doesn't mean they can't win. But recent history -- take Oklahoma City or Memphis as examples -- suggests it takes a year or two for a team with such a young core to develop an identity and learn how it needs to win games.
4. Can Chris Kaman build upon his All-Star season?
5. Will the team that takes the court Wednesday be the same after the trading deadline?The short answer: Depends on how the season goes. The Clippers have the talent to make a playoff run. They also have enough issues to fall out of contention by the All-Star break. If things are going well, look for the Clippers to try to upgrade at small forward and in the front court, where they lack depth. If the wheels fall off, don't be surprised if the Clippers shop Davis and Kaman and try to stockpile high draft picks again. Either way, it's pretty unlikely the team stays together all season long. And as we saw last season at the trading deadline, this is a regime that's not afraid to role the dice and shake things up. Ramona Shelburne is a columnist and writer for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Follow her on Twitter.
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