Opening Statements: Wizards vs Clippers, Game 22 | Wizards Blog Truth About

Opening Statements: Wizards vs Clippers, Game 22

Updated: December 12, 2014

Washington Wizards vs Los Angeles Clippers - Feb. 4, 2013

We won’t take time getting immersed in numbers or history leading up to tonight’s game. Well, maybe a little.

The Wizards used to be the Clippers of the East and the Clippers the Wizards of the West. Strange bedfellows without a bed—blessed instead with a cardboard box and neck-beard thick enough to trap small rodents. Before Chris Paul pouted his way out of New Orleans, these were some real, real crappy franchises.

From the 1988-89 season through the 2010-11 season, they were the worst two franchises in basketball, in fact. Counting out the Memphis Grizzlies, founded in Vancouver, Canada, in 1996, the Clippers and Wizards ranked worst and second worst in winning percentage over those 23 seasons (.361 and .389 respectively, via Basketball Reference).

Things are a bit different now. Paul, despite being elected mayor of Lob City, still hasn’t made it past the second round of the playoffs (or the Conference Semis) over his nine-year career. Neither have the Clippers over the franchise’s existence going back to 1970 in Buffalo, NY.  And the Wizards haven’t made it past Round 2 since losing in the NBA Finals in 1978-79, the season after they won the title.

Los Angeles rides in on a nine-game winning streak, a 16-5 record, as the current 5-seed in the West. Washington has won seven of 10 (two in a row) and sit at 15-6, tied for second in the East.

The Clippers rank first in the NBA in field goal percentage (48.4%), while the Wizards rank sixth (47%). The Clippers rank fourth in 3-point attempts per game (26.9) and second in percentage (38.1%); the Wiz rank 27th in attempts (16.1) and first in percentage (38.3%). Geez, what a discrepancy. Is Randy Wittman not listening to his old pal Doc Rivers? Or is there something that the Doc is not prescribing to the olde tymer from Indiana who sometimes preaches basketball coaching doctrine as if he were Mary Baker Eddy. “My offense don’t need no medicine… Doctors, smocktors!

Yea, riiiiiiight.

Without further digression, Washington ranks first in assists per game (25.8) while L.A. ranks fourth (24.7). But, because of those more efficient long balls, the Clippers rank third in offensive efficiency (110.9 points scored per 100 possessions) and the Wizards rank 14th (104.1). The Wizards, however, are fifth in points allowed per 100 possessions (99.2) while the Clippers rank 11th (102.7). Maybe this bodes better in the big playoff picture for Washington, but L.A.’s Net Rating (points scored minus points allowed per 100 possession) of 8.2 is more desirable than the mere 4.8 from the Wizards.

These two franchises still mirror each other in many ways. Steve Ballmer is an over-excitable cheerleader with a Microsoft/ background. Ted Leonsis is the sometimes subtly, sometimes not-so-subtly, beatnik blogger with an AOL background. Sam Cassell is probably sharing trade secrets with his new team as I type … and probably crafting scribbled cocktail napkin trash-talking ideas for when he gets to be adverse to his former pups, John Wall and Bradley Beal, from the opposing bench tonight.

Five of L.A.’s 16 wins have come against current playoff teams (Portland, Houston, Miami, and Phoenix twice). Four of Washington’s 15 wins have fit the qualification (Miami, Cleveland, and Milwaukee twice). Past merely being the next game on the slate, this is a very important barometer game for both franchises.

Stopping by TAI today to answer some questions curated by TAI’s Conor Dirks and John Townsend is Fred Katz (@FredKatz), hoops writer and contributor to the Washington Post‘s Fancy Stats column. Also check out ClipperBlog, where I took part in a 3-on-3 for tonight’s game. Vámonos.

Teams: Wizards vs Clippers
Time: 7:00 p.m. ET
Venue: Verizon Center, Chinatown, D.C.
Television: CSN
Radio: WFED-AM 1500/WNEW-FM 99.1
Spread: Clippers fav’d by 2.5 points.

Q #1: A recent Kevin Arnovitz piece discussed Doc Rivers: the Executive. What’s your assessment of the job he’s done in the newer of his now dual roles?

@FredKatz: I actually wrote about this concept a few weeks ago and, in some ways, believe that the jury is still out on Doc. Still, you have to acknowledge that most of the transactions Rivers has made have been coverups for previous failed ones. He acquired a Jared Dudley contract which ended up being a bad one (while giving up Eric Bledsoe in the process). He made up for that by shipping off Dudley to Milwaukee, but had to give up a first-rounder to do so. Dudley’s contract became too much for the Clips once they signed Spencer Hawes to the full mid-level exception, hard-capping the team and leaving no room for maneuvering. All those moves are related. On top of that, both Reggie Bullock and C.J. Wilcox, the Clippers’ past two draft choices, are yet to make an impact (we miss you, K.J. McDaniels, even if you were never here). There’s a theme here, and it’s not a good one.

Q #2: In these parts, J.J. Redick is still (somehow!) likely to be booed, likely out of the memory of his time with Duke and the bygone battles with then-ACC rival University of Maryland. In L.A., Redick is the team’s starting shooting guard and a reliable 3-point shooter. Is he anything else? Is there anything to love about Redick outside of his shooting ability? If not, is that enough?

@FredKatzSurely. Redick has been somewhat miscast as a pure shooter during his time in the NBA. That was true early on in his career with the Magic. It’s not anymore. Redick is a quality pick-and-roll shooting guard. The Clippers like to facilitate with Redick out of set plays, especially ones off dribble-handoffs. On top of that, Redick’s No. 1 value isn’t even making shots, it’s the threats his shooting ability causes. Redick is consistently one of the best-conditioned and smartest off-ball cutters in the NBA. The action the Clippers run for him off screens contains some of the most essential parts of their offense, considering he singlehandedly gets defenses to move.

Q #3: Chris Paul or John Wall. Paul has the fourth highest single season AST/TO ratio (5.89) since giveaways were first recorded in 1977. But Wall is averaging an NBA-leading 14.4 dimes per game this month. Who’s playing better basketball right now. And who would you rather have wearing your team colors for the next five years?

@FredKatz: Currently, it’s Paul. I don’t mean to sound like much of a homer (classic thing a homer would say, I know), but it’s not close. Let’s take raw numbers out of it—ignoring points, assists, turnovers, shooting ability, efficiency and the like. Let’s say they’re even in those categories (which is generous, anyway). There are plays the Clippers run when Paul is supposed to set screens to open up the floor for big guys, when Paul is supposed to run off picks to deter a defense and let others create. Wall can absolutely get there—his game is progressing at a tremendous pace—but no point guard in the game can replicate those skills to Paul’s level right now. Over the next five years, the answer is Wall, who is five years younger than Paul and has as bright a future as one can, but right now, I’m taking CP3 over any other floor general in the NBA, even if Stephen Curry is right on his heels.

Q #4: The Clippers are on a nine-game winning streak (the fourth longest in franchise history) and have played much better on the road this season (8-2). What’s been the team’s secret to success out West?

@FredKatz: An easy schedule. Seven of those eight road wins have come against teams below .500. Early-season road trips down the eastern seaboard will yield those kinds of results for top-notch Western Conference teams. Of course, Washington doesn’t fit in the category of “Eastern Conference pushover.” A team with two competent bigs, wings who can crush from corner 3 (if only because of Wall’s ability to create for them in those areas) and personal revenge games against Doc Rivers (Paul Pierce and former teammate Randy Wittman) may not continue the Clippers’ road trend.


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Kyle Weidie
Founder / Editor / Reporter / Writer at TAI
Kyle founded TAI in 2007 and has been weaving in and out the world of Wizards ever since, ducking WittmanFaces, jumping over G-Wiz, and avoiding stints on the DNP-Conditioning list. He has covered the Washington pro basketball team as a member of the media since 2009. Kyle currently lives in Brooklyn, NY with his wife, loves basketball, and has no pets.