COMMENTARY | By mid-December, the Los Angeles Clippers were supposed to be leading the West with more than 20 wins, showing the transcendent qualities of a team that made a major upgrade at head coach over the summer.
Instead, they stand at 14-8 as of Dec. 10 -- the same 56-win pace as 2012-13, and in the middle of the Western Conference. And they are suddenly looking for some quick personnel answers, with J.J. Redick, Matt Barnes and Reggie Bullock hurt.
One of the possible acquisition candidates, according to reports by ESPN, USA Today and several other outlets, is veteran swing man Stephen Jackson, who was last seen in April at the San Antonio airport, leaving town after Gregg Popovich refused to put him on the Spurs' playoff roster for reasons not necessarily related to production.
For the Clippers, the need is understandable: With Redick out six weeks with a broken hand, and fellow summer acquisition Jared Dudley battling a knee-tendinitis condition severe enough for him to seek out the ol' Kobe platelet-rich injection, L.A.'s Other NBA Team is in need of a three-point shooter or two to space the floor and keep guys from collapsing on Blake Griffin down low.
My guess is that they'll ultimately beg off Jackson and find a lesser name, a second-rounder playing in the D League who will take a 10-day contract.
In case the Clippers need convincing, however, here's my scouting report on Jackson:
>> He has not been an effective three-point shooter in several seasons, peaking at an impressive 36 percent back in 2007-08 with the Golden State Warriors but shooting a career-low 27 percent in 55 games last season with the Spurs, a team that goes out of its way to support and enable long-range shooting.
>> Jackson is no longer a dynamic presence when he has the basketball, generating a 1:1 assist-to-turnover ratio last season (in fact, he averaged 1.4 giveaways in just over 19 minutes with San Antonio).
>> Last, but certainly not least, he's not a positive force in the locker room ... or the team plane, or the local restaurant, or wherever the team hangs out and exchanges thoughts and ideas. Doc Rivers is a veteran coach who can handle him? I'm not buying that. Coaches don't come any more veteran and able than Popovich. But when it came to a choice of having a veteran wing player on his playoff roster, or listening to Jackson gripe about his minutes, Popovich chose Tracy McGrady, who was literally on his last viable piece of knee cartilage last spring.
Indeed, since leaving the Spurs the first time after their breakout 2002-03 championship season, just how much playoff success can any of the five teams Jackson played for boast? Yeah, there was Golden State's first-round upset of Dallas back in 2007, but the Warriors didn't advance too far after that ... and Jackson has done practically nil in the postseason since, too.
Adding Jackson to the roster, meanwhile, would likely disrupt -- or at the least, exacerbate -- the planned reintegration of Lamar Odom onto the roster. After meeting with Rivers in November, Odom has been reportedly working out with an eye towards rejoining the Clippers at some point down the road. Do you really want a wild card like Jackson around when you're mixing in a guy who recently generated five posts a day on TMZ.com?
Jackson's acquisition might also distract from a larger issue -- that the Clippers as currently built aren't a championship team. I don't believe the offensive capabilities -- and free-throw shooting -- of their frontcourt starters, Griffin and DeAndre Jordan, add up to enough of a presence to make teams not collapse in on Chris Paul.
But that, of course, is a bigger issue for another day (like, maybe, the trade deadline in February).
For now, I think the Clippers should look for a safer short-term solution at small forward.
Daniel Frankel is the founder and editor-in-chief of TitleTownNews.org, the place to go to when you really, really want to read about sports but all the other sites are down.
- Sports & Recreation
- Los Angeles Clippers
- Gregg Popovich
- Stephen Jackson