For the last time this year, barring playoffs (unlikely at this point) the Grizzlies are set to do battle with the hated Clippers. This matchup is all about bragging rights, and with a win the Grizzlies would take the season series three games to one. Clips Nation’s editor Lucas Hann was kind enough to take the time to answer some questions about the upcoming matchup and how the Clips’ season is going.
1. There has been a lot of trade chatter around Los Angeles as the deadline nears, with both DeAndre Jordan and Lou Williams being named as potential candidates. Of the two, which is more likely to get dealt? Will both get traded? Or maybe neither?
I think that probably DeAndre Jordan is more likely to be dealt. While the on-the-court fit with Blake Griffin has always been quite good (despite a confusing narrative to the contrary), it’s questionable in today’s NBA to invest so much money in to big men. DeAndre has a player option this summer, and the Clippers are hesitant to give him a big extension. Lou Williams, on the other hand, seems like a more likely candidate for a reasonable extension.
2. The Clips have been hit especially hard by injuries this season, with key players like Blake Griffin, Danilo Gallinari and Pat Beverley all missing big chunks of time. Has this played a large part in how the Clippers’ season has gone so far, or is where they’re currently at about what you expected from this team?
The only narrative that tells the story of this Clippers season is the injury narrative. They’re definitely below where they’d be if they had had a reasonable amount of health--aside from Gallo and Beverley missing almost the entire season up to this point, and Blake missing a full month, the Clippers have gone extended stretches without supporting starters Austin Rivers and Milos Teodosic. They just missed DeAndre Jordan for a few games, and C.J. Williams, who was starting in place of Gallinari, is also out for an extended time.
That said, they’ve definitely overperformed expectations once we take injuries into account. This Clippers team has 7 really good players (Beverley, Milos, Gallinari, Griffin, Jordan, Rivers, and Lou Williams), and they’ve been lucky when they have four of them available for the same game. They’ve given extended minutes to second-round rookies Jawun Evans and Sindarius Thornwell, as well as rookie G-Leaguers Jamil Wilson, C.J. Williams, and Tyrone Wallace. With the players that have been forced into the lineup, it’s shocking that they’ve been as successful as they have. The fight that they’ve shown is something that is definitely similar to some recent depleted Grizzlies squads.
3. Clippers-Grizzlies has been a heated rivalry the past few seasons, especially in the playoffs. Do you expect that to continue, even though some of the mainstays like Zach Randolph and Chris Paul have moved on?
It certainly has felt to me like the tension in the games has sort of subsided due to the departure of instigators on both sides. It’s unfortunate, but all good things must come to an end.
4. Milos Teodosic was a heralded signing this past offseason. He’s only played 19 games so far, but now that we are around the half-way point, what are your thoughts on the Serbian?
Milos is a unique talent. He has a ton of shortcomings (the individual perimeter defense is atrocious), but he is an offensive magician. His highlight passes are what you’ll see on YouTube and Twitter, but it misses an overall impact that he has on the team: everyone runs their lanes harder on the break when he’s in the lineup, and the ball moves better even on plays he isn’t involved in. The entire offensive identity of this team is different in the games where he’s been able to play.
5. What is your official game prediction?
The Grizzlies always give the Clippers a fight, but I think that LAC will take this game. Memphis is a lottery team, and it’s the kind of game that the Clippers need to win if they want to stay in the playoff hunt. After a recent slip that left the Clippers under .500, they have some pressure to win games. I think they’ll bring some intensity to this game and take care of business, but I don’t think the Grizzlies will roll over and let them run away with it.