By Alex Groberman
Low key offseason acquisitions appeared to be the theme of the LA Clippers’ summer.
While the rest of the NBA universe was off ogling the new-look Miami Heat’s prized pick-ups of LeBron James and Chris Bosh, the Clippers quietly brought in Randy Foye and Ryan Gomes.
As Amare Stoudemire stood in front of Madison Square Garden with a big goofy grin on his face much to the delight of New York Knicks supporters, Brian Cook was quietly welcomed home to LA with very little fanfare.
And when giddy Chicago Bulls fans jumped up and down knowing they had just acquired the oft-injured (in fact, currently injured) Carlos Boozer, the Clippers silently snuck Craig Smith back through the front doors of their El Segundo training facility.
For a team that shines under the bright Hollywood lights, Los Angeles’ other team has decided to dedicate itself to substance over style this year.
The reason that the Clippers were so unconcerned about making a big off-season splash this past summer was because they knew they had all the necessary pieces for success in place. When they were named as one of the potential destinations for Carmelo Anthony, the team’s front office made it clear on media day that they had no intentions of going after the Denver Nuggets star.
All this young group needed was to fill a few holes, get healthy and hope for a bit more luck than they had last season.
While point guard Baron Davis’ conditioning and injury problems were a concern right out of the gate, the depth of the team at this position will prove to be key for the duration of 2010-11. Guards Eric Bledsoe and Foye possess all of the intangibles necessary for success, and they could ask for no better teacher than a 31-year-old point guard who’s often been referred to as one of the most skilled players in the game.
Foye has put up respectable totals in the team’s preseason outings in Davis’ place, and Clippers GM Neil Olshey has expressed confidence in his ability to help the team on both ends of the floor.
“Randy has improved throughout his time in the league and will provide on-the-ball defense, athleticism and an ability to score to the group we have in place,” said Olshey.
The former Minnesota Timberwolves guard averaged 10.1 points and 3.3 assists per game after the Wolves traded him to the Washington Wizards last year.
Gomes is another former Minnesota player that the Clippers hope will help them in the new season. With averages of 10.9 points and 4.6 rebounds over 76 games last year, he should be able to spread the ball on offense and be a bother to opposing players with his length and athleticism on defense.
Considering the growing pains the team’s eighth overall pick, Al-Farouq Aminu will likely experience in his rookie year, Gomes’ contributions will be key.
While Eric Gordon will no doubt bring his improved his shooting from Team USA to the Clippers, the team felt like they needed one more shooting weapon for the coming season. They got that in the form of ex-Los Angeles Laker, Cook. Besides bringing some nice size to the roster, Cook’s knack for hitting clutch 3-point shots will be important to the offense when it comes to spacing the lanes and keeping opposing defenses honest. Already in the preseason Cook has put up solid averages of 9 points per game, a figure that will likely improve when the team kicks off its regular season campaign.
Of course, everything in Clippers universe rotates around the Oklahoma standout who is expected to take this franchise to the next level, Blake Griffin. After sitting out a year with injury, Griffin is back at full strength this season and ready to do some damage. To ensure, just in case, that they either have a suitable replacement for the big man if necessary, or someone to spell him for a few minutes a game, the Clippers brought back Craig Smith. While Smith’s 7 point per game preseason averages likely won’t invoke fear in his opponents’ eyes, they’re more than enough for the role he needs to fill in this group.
General NBA fans may not have heard of the moves the Clippers made this summer, but that’s just the way this team wants it. They’ve been in the news for all the wrong reasons for too many seasons, and by now this group has learned their lesson.
The next time their name is mentioned, this LA team wants it to be because of how they play on the court, not the moves they make off of it.
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