AFTER examining the new additions to the LA Lakers and how it potentially affects their chances to repeat as champion, let’s take a look at its basement brother, the Clippers.
They jettisoned 6th Man of the Year Montrezl Harrel to the Lakers, lost Landry Shamet, Jamychal Green and also waived center Joakim Noah.
In return they recruited Serge Ibaka, Luke Kennard and Nicolas Batum.
UPGRADE. Ibaka is definitely an upgrade from Harrel. In three years with the Toronto Raptors, he averaged 15.4 points per game while shooting 38.5 percent from three-point range. He gives the Clippers a menacing inside presence while at the same time posing a threat from long range.
Kennard is deadly from the three-point range with a career percentage of 41 percent. He has so far bumped that percentage up to a whopping 52 percent this season.
Batum is a veteran who brings a lot of championship poise and experience to the team. He was with Tony Parker when they won the European championship, and this will be his 13th season in the NBA. He has career averages of 11.5 points and 5.2 rebounds.
He has also been a revelation at the three-point range, averaging 42 percent, a far cry from his 28 percent average last season with the Charlotte Hornets.
So far, the new recruits are performing well, and so we can safely say they have successfully upgraded their roster.
PAUL GEORGE. But the player who has been spectacular so far has been George, and he is largely responsible for them being at No. 2 in the Western Conference standings right now.
He is playing at an MVP level, increasing his numbers to 24.8 ppg, 6.2 rpg rebounds with 5.1 apg while shooting an insane 51 percent from three-point range. He’s currently doing a 50/50/90 split.
He is the main reason why the Clippers are leading the league now in team three-point percentage. Kawhi Leonard has been his consistent self and so far has shunned load management. At this pace, this dynamic duo complemented by the right parts will be unstoppable.
COACHING. Of course, it’s still too early in the season , but so far I like what I am seeing. In my opinion, last season’s second round collapse against the Denver Nuggets was a coaching issue.
This year, new head Coach Ty Lue has been experimenting with the roster and has made changes that seem to work. He pulls out George early in the first quarter so he can come back with the bench, and this has produced solid results.
VERBATIM. “I’m coming back with a vengeance. ... I didn’t like much of the noise and everything around it, but just the fact that people saw weakness. And I had to address that.”—Paul George (www.latimes.com)
LAST ROUND. It’s on my SHS-B ’89 batchmate, Francis Nino Yap, who recently celebrated his birthday. Cheers!