Lob City comes to the District tonight… the highest highs and the lowest lows of the Wizards multiplied by the Los Angeles Clippers and divided by a 4-19 record against a 13-7 one. “I told them I’m pulling that cigarette out tonight,” said Wizards coach Randy Wittman before the game, referring to the very poor effort the Wizards gave in a loss to Toronto last night and how his team “fell off the wagon” back to poor habits. The coach is also going with Trevor Booker over Jan Vesely in the Wizards starting lineup. Talking to the Cook Book before the game, his focus will be keeping Blake Griffin away from the basket and on how the Wizards guard pick and rolls (Chris Paul runs a lot of them, Wittman admitted). What’s the key to stopping Paul on the P&Rs? “We got to make sure we stop the ball, make sure he can’t get in the lane. The more he’s in the lane, the more have to collapse, and the more the bigs are going to be open to throw the lob to,” said Booker. For tonight’s 3-on-3 drill we have Kevin Arnovitz (@kevinarnovitz) of ESPN TrueHoop/ClipperBlog, along with TAI’s Rashad Mobley (@Rashad20) and Kyle Weidie (@Truth_About_It). Three questions, three answers starts now…
1) What’s the No. 1 thing Chris Paul has that John Wall doesn’t, but really needs to get?
ARNOVITZ: Vision. When Paul has the ball in the half court, he’s thinking about one thing — where he is relationally to the other shotmakers on the court and those on the defense who can alter those shots. Wall is speedy, but like most people in their early 20s – apologies to Louis CK – he has no idea how to do the job yet. That will change.
MOBLEY: Since this is the Super Bowl weekend, I’ll start with a football analogy. Rookie running backs tend ignore their offensive line and to try to use their God-given athleticism to make a big play. Seasoned running backs patiently wait for the offensive line to open a hole (they may even rest their hands on the backs of the O-line while the play is unfolding) then they run right through. There’s an impatience to Wall’s game right now that manifests itself via the one-man fast breaks, the rushed jumpers, and the exasperation with his teammates. Chris Paul, with talented teammates in Los Angeles and less talented teammates in New Orleans, is a patient point guard. He lets the game come to him, he sets up teammates, and if he’s needed to do more, he does that too.
WEIDIE: Pace. Watch Chris Paul stop and go, use a screen how he sees fit, get a defender on his back. Paul has developed a killer jumper over his NBA career, but he started as a player who could control a game’s pace, use his quicks deceptively when he needs to, and create passing lanes with the measured ability to see a play unfold. In other words, chill sometimes John Wall.
2) Do we really believe that Blake Griffin isn’t into dunk contests and that he won’t participate this year? And if so, does that make JaVale McGee the favorite?
ARNOVITZ: I sense Griffin’s feeling at this point is, “I got a dunk contest for you — it’s called the NBA regular season and playoff schedule.” Is there anything he could do inside the collegial, choreographed boundaries of a dunk contest that will top the spontaneous combustion that comes with a real-life in-game dunk? His exclusion should make McGee, who had a good case for the crown last February, the favorite.
MOBLEY: Blake Griffin, like Vince Carter and Kobe Bryant before him, produced one legendary dunk contest victory, and then gracefully bowed out, and frankly I respect that. To his credit though, he probably realizes that this year’s Clippers team has expectations and needs him, as opposed to last year’s team that was young and carefree. JaVale McGee should be this year’s favorite, but in both his and the eyes of many observers (including yours truly, who was sitting courtside) he won last year’s contest. It is possible that he may not be quite as motivated this year if he can’t avenge his loss to Blake. Or perhaps I’m underestimating the persuasive motivation techniques of Pam McGee.
WEIDIE: We would only wish his highness LeBron would grace us with a kingly presence in the dunk contest… and then Blake Griffin would have to defend his honor against the best… and then who knows who else would come out the woodwork for a show in Orlando. But none of that will happen, and it will probably be JaVale McGee’s to win as long as he comes up with a gimmick that no one else’s length can accomplish.
3) The Clippers come off a spanking at home against the Nuggets and are looking to kick off a six-game road trip right in D.C. (with stops in Orlando, Cleveland, Philadelphia, Charlotte and Dallas up next)… The Wizards are playing with much more beat in their chest under new coach Randy Wittman, but Friday night’s 106-89 loss in Toronto was particularly disheartening. Danny Sheridan is favoring the Clips on the road by 9. What’s the final score and the main reason behind it?
ARNOVITZ: Clippers 108, Wizards 100. The Clippers’ lack of defensive speed on the perimeter was exposed on Thursday night. Meanwhile, the Wizards’ lack of defensive wherewithal is an ongoing exhibition in exposure, really.
MOBLEY: The final score will be 111-100 Los Angeles, and the experienced backcourt of Chris Paul and Chauncey Billups will be the difference. Coming off of that bad loss in Denver, the Clippers will look to their veterans to set the tone early. The Wizards will keep it close and be equally motivated after last night’s waste-of-an-effort in Toronto — plus they have just as much talent as the Clippers. Unfortunately, they lack the experienced players to lead them in these types of big games.
WEIDIE: Trevor Booker is starting for Jan Vesely, so the Wizards are giving themselves a better chance off the bat, but I’m thinking the Clippers take it 110-89. Too much Paul, too much Griffin, too much DeAndre Jordan, too much Caron Butler “D.C. Stand Up!” nailing the jumpers he missed so many times toward the end of his tenure with the Wizards. Randy Foye will, however, do nothing in a return visit to Washington.