With the Golden State Warriors' opponents from today and yesterday playing each other on Wednesday, I actually contacted the bloggers from both teams shortly after the Los Angeles Clippers beat the Memphis Grizzlies on L.A. figuring that both would provide some meaningful insight on this pair of games and thus give some extra insight to chew on as we think about the state of the Warriors right now. As I mentioned in today's preview, the consensus was that the Warriors' chances of beating the Clippers on the road are slim if they couldn't beat the Grizzlies at home.
The following is my Q&A with Steve Perrin of Clips Nation who answered these questions prior to the Clippers' big win over the Lakers last night but still offered some meaningful insight on the Clippers. For my thoughts on the Warriors entering this game, check out Steve's questions for me over at Clips Nation. For some third party insight on the Clippers-Warriors matchup, check out my Q&A with Tom Lorenzo of Straight Outta Vancouver from yesterday.
Please let me know if there's a perspective on this game that I've missed.
Q&A with Clips Nation
1. It's obvious that scheduling a season opener between the Clippers and Grizzlies was more than a coincidence after last season's playoff meeting. While the Lakers might be considered your biggest rival, how big a rivalry would you consider the Clippers and Grizzlies right now?
Steve Perrin: We've discussed this a lot at Clips Nation -- the Lakers are certainly the most obvious rival. If geography is an important aspect of rivalries, the quarters doesn't get closer than sharing a building. Unfortunately the Clippers haven't been a competitive rival for the Lakers to date, though hopefully that is changing. The Clippers and Grizzlies have similarly dismal histories (hello, Warriors!) and are trying to take a step into sustained success, so they've got that in common. Obviously they've been very competitive recently, and equally obviously they do NOT like each other. So yeah, it has the makings of a decent rivalry. If they were to meet in a 4-5 or a 6-3 playoff matchup this year (which is in the realm of possibility) it would definitely take another step as a rivalry.
2. Depth was clearly a major factor in that season opener and the Clippers weren't even at full strength. Given all of the absences, was that bench performance surprising to you at all or is it really going to be that good all year?
SP: I always found it interesting when stats would list San Antonio high in bench points or some such because of course Ginobili was a bench player in name only. On Wednesday night, that was true of Crawford, who was essentially a starter coming off the bench -- not to mention that he had an absolute monster of a game with 29 points. But even without Crawford, the Clippers bench outscored the Memphis bench, so that's impressive. So to answer your question, I knew the Clippers bench was going to be good, and if it was a little better than I thought it might be last night, just wait until Barnes is back and Hill is healthy. The Clippers were thin at small forward last night, but they will have one of the deepest and most talented benches in the NBA this season, provided Crawford and particularly Lamar Odom are anywhere close to the players they have been.
3. Your bench includes three former Warriors. Have any of those three shown anything so far that you didn't expect?
SP: Oh hey, look at that, there are three Warriors there. Hadn't really thought about that. I've always liked Ronny Turiaf and he is pretty much who I thought he was. Great energy, solid post defense, great towel waver. He can provide a decent approximation of Reggie Evans 'rebounding, defense and beard for the Clippers this year, but when everyone's healthy, he won't play much (depending on the opponent).
Jamal Crawford is one of those guys who absolutely seduces your eyes, but you have to keep using your brain and looking at the stats to keep some perspective. He is an amazing shot maker and has that Kobe-esque ability to make incredibly tough shots. Unfortunately, he always shares Kobe's proclivity for taking tough shots. But so far in preseason and the first game he's been simply great as a Clipper. I remember now that he came into the league as a point guard, but his passing ability has been quite eye-opening.
Matt Barnes has impressed as well. He was terrific in preseason, providing a wing slasher that the Clippers really need. He's that player that you hate when he's on the other team because he's an a-hole; but then when he becomes your a-hole you love him, know what I mean?
4. Tom Lorenzo said prior to the opener with the Clippers that the Grizzlies could stop Lob City from getting out of hand by getting back on defense and "... counter the Lobs with our presence in the paint." How successful were the Grizzlies in actually accomplishing that?
SP: I think the problem with that reasoning is that it tends to assume the Clippers are a running team. The Clippers actually played at one of the slowest paces in the league last season, and while they say they're going to run more this year (and so far it seems like they are indeed trying to) this is really a half court team. The Chris Paul pick and roll is always going to create some seams as defenders rotate and scramble, and Paul will be able to find guys like Griffin and Jordan at the rim as a result. Presence in the paint or not, Paul and the Clipper bigs don't need a lot of space to finish a lob. In fact, Paul hit Jordan for a crucial one in the final minutes Wednesday night to more or less seal the win, and that was on a Griffin-Paul pick and roll in the half court.
5. You and I had an exchange early last season about DeAndre Jordan - the Warriors made him an offer, the Clippers matched, Jordan struggled, the Warriors eventually got Andrew Bogut to fill their center spot instead and you've written a few times now that Jordan seems to have turned a corner this preseason. In hindsight, how do you feel about that decision to match the Warriors' offer for Jordan?
SP: I've always understood why the Clippers matched on Jordan -- they more or less had to do it. He's pals with Griffin, Paul has compared him to Tyson Chandler from his New Orleans days, and if nothing else they had to match to convey seriousness and overcome the impression that they are cheap. Still, I think the Dubs were shrewd, essentially knowing all that, to push the price tag up on DJ.
Having said all that, and recognizing that all bigs - especially athletic ones - are overpaid, Jordan is now showing signs that he could earn his paycheck. It was certainly problematic that the Clippers had a player making $10M sitting on their bench at the end of every playoff game last season, replaced by guys like Reggie Evans and Kenyon Martin making a fraction as much. But DeAndre is vastly improved as an offensive player this year, and if he can maintain that focus, he can make a major contribution. He might still be on the bench at the end, but at least this year it will be in favor of a guy like Lamar Odom which is a bit more justifiable.
Looping back to the offer sheet, when Griffin's extension kicks in next year and assuming the team re-signs Paul, the Clippers will be severely hamstrung regarding the luxury tax, and Jordan's contract is a big part of that. So still a shrewd move by the Warriors, and Jordan really, really needs to earn that paycheck going forward as the Clippers have less money to spend on guys to pick up the slack for him.
6. You mentioned in your preview of the opener that the Clippers and Grizzlies were mirror opposites of one another: "The Clippers won with a terrific offense and middling defense, the Grizzlies won with good defense despite a mediocre offense." Given how familiar you are with the Grizzlies, which of those two teams do you think matches up better with the Warriors?
I'll admit up front that I don't have much feel for what to expect from a Warriors team with Andrew Bogut in the middle -- I'm not sure I know who you are anymore, and I'm pretty scared of what you could be. The Grizzlies LOVE to force turnovers and thrive on that. The Clippers beat Memphis consistently last season by doing a good job of taking care of the ball (something they didn't do well Wednesday night). Likewise the Warriors did a pretty good job taking care of the ball last year, and should be better still if Curry is healthy. So I'm going to say that the Clippers will be the tougher matchup for you guys simply because defense has never been you're strong point and the Clippers are looking like an even better offensive team this year than last year. But again, Bogut could change that significantly.
Unfortunately, we'll have to wait to see Bogut's impact on this matchup at some other point in time, but thanks for the insight Steve!
For my thoughts on the Warriors entering this game, check out Steve's questions for me over at Clips Nation. Click here for our preview of tonight's game. For updates on this game throughout the day, check out our storystream by using the sidebar on the right side of this page.