Last year's record? 29-53, missed playoffs.
Projected record, as predicted three months ago in time to publish in Yahoo! Sports' NBA Preview Magazine? 35-44
Why I think that sounds about right?
Because this is a very talented team that could see a lot of things go right, especially if (as was the case in 2005-06) a significant home court advantage can be found. Though rookies like Aminu and Willie Warren might take a little while to find their way, they've more or less added a gimmie double-double guy in Griffin without giving anything up.
Why I think I might be terribly, terribly wrong?
The easy answer is to point to the team's braintrust. In Baron Davis(notes), the Clippers have a playmaker that has disappointed in just about every year of his checkered career, save for a couple of nice playoff runs. And though Vinny Del Negro did well to work toward a .500 record in two tumultuous years with the Chicago Bulls, he still has to convince many that he has the chops to be an NBA-level head coach.
But the main reason the Clippers might not reach 35 wins mostly have to do with the squad's abilities. This is a thin team, so any injury hurts double, and a good chunk of these rotation players just tend to go too long between good basketball decisions. On both ends. And I'm not even talking about Davis, here.
That's Dan's job.
Step up or step off
Let's review, Baron:
All-consuming, hype-producing incendiary rookie power forward who will crash the boards, who fills the lane like a freight train, who catches just about anything you put near him and who makes fans give a damn? Check.
All-Star-caliber pivot who averaged 19 and 10 per 36 minutes last year, who can get you buckets in the post, who has a little bit of touch outside the paint and can win his matchup most nights? Check.
Emerging stud at the off-guard who can harass opposing scorers, who get it just about however you want it on O, and who followed two pretty impressive seasons by scoring 17.5 per 36 and hitting 45 percent of his long balls on this summer's gold-winning U.S. national team? Check.
Two dynamic, athletic rookies who look capable of giving you a jolt off the bench, playing tough defense on ones, smaller twos, threes and fours, and getting up and down the court if that's how you want to play it? Check.
That's not a bad place to start a season, dude. It's not a perfect roster, by any stretch, but you can beat teams with those guys -- on some nights, even pretty darn good teams. Provided, of course, that you're interested in A) being the leader this roster needs and B) being Baron Freaking Davis.
No one's saying it'll be easy. You're in a tough division and a tougher conference, and you're going to need those checklist pieces to play at or near maximum potential all year long to stay in the hunt for a lower-tier playoff spot. And I don't think anyone would blame you too much if you weren't particularly thrilled by the Vinny Del Negro hire, if you were somewhat sub-whelmed by the free agent acquisitions of Randy Foye and Ryan Gomes, or if you're still not real sure what exactly about DeAndre Jordan(notes) is supposed to excite you. Like we said, it's not perfect.
But warts be damned, this looks like your best chance at a winner since coming to the Clips, if you're down for giving it your all. Everybody knows the team takes its direction from you. For the sake of basketball fans who remember how amazing you can be when you want to -- and, even more so, for the sake of the younger ones who've never really gotten to see that -- here's hoping you're willing to accept the challenge.
Five things about the Clippers that furrow Ol' Man Howard's brow
1. I don't know what the heck you think is so funny, Kaman, but everything about you right now is horrifying. Women and children watching this game, son. No place for whatever all that mess is.
2. You got about five seconds to shave that trapezoid off your head, Gomes, before I take out a rusty straight razor and do it myself.
3. I think it's real nice that you boys decided to dress up for your first day on the job, but you boys need to learn something about coordinatin' colors and what's right for the workplace.
4. I'm real proud that after years of failure, you finally figured out how to spin it on your finger, DeAndre. But dangit, you don't have to look so smug about it. A little humility never hurt anybody, least of all anybody who's playing 15 minutes a night.
5. Aw, heck, it's just a ball, Jarron. Quit looking so scared.
What Blake Griffin did this preseason: Yiiiiiiiiiiiiiikes
His name is Blakey GriffGriffs. Look on his works, ye mighty, and despair.
- Vinny Del Negro