Note: Read Dennis' answers to Steve's questions here: Questionable Blogger, NetsDaily
1) The Los Angeles Clippers currently sit in first place in the Pacific Division and we knew they'd be good offensively, but would Doc Rivers and his penchant for strong defensive play sink in? It looks like it's really happening. How different is this team from last year's 56-win team as far as defensive effort?
The problem with trying to answer this question is that the Clippers have essentially been two different teams this season, neither one bearing much resemblance to the other. Through the first 14 games, they were an offensive juggernaut, but a defensive sieve. For the last nine games it's been the almost complete opposite -- their defensive efficiency numbers are top two in the league, but the offense has sputtered. If they ever put it all together, watch out.
I guess the good news is that shooting slumps happen (and man are the Clippers in one right now) but they don't last forever. The most optimistic explanation for the schizo performance (and probably the most reasonable) is that the team went into a slump just about the time they were really grokking Rivers' defensive schemes, so the defense got better, but the offense got worse. And of course it didn't help that J.J. Redick got injured, as he's an important cog in their offensive machinery, especially his movement off the ball. So continuing on that optimistic train of thought, when the shots start falling (especially when Redick returns) the offense will be humming again, and defense doesn't go into slumps. Certainly Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan are more focused, more dedicated defenders this season than last season, and it makes a difference.
3) The Clips recently signed Stephen Jackson, a known hothead of sorts. He'll be joining Matt Barnes, another player known to get emotional and doing/saying things he probably shouldn't have. How volatile can this duo get in the locker room? Is this pairing actually a good thing?
Having said that, a perimeter defense and toughness and an edge are some things this team could use more of -- so long as the crazy can be kept to a minimum. Chris Paul is generally considered among the best on-court leaders in the NBA, and Doc Rivers is a players coach who commands a great deal of respect. There aren't many places where Jackson would work, but this might be one of them, if only because the combination of Paul and Rivers has at least an outside chance of keeping him on the straight and narrow. But if he strays from the path before contracts become guaranteed on January 10, he's gone.
4) There are strong rumors that the Clippers would likely be Lamar Odom's team of choice, but would he be worth the risk considering the baggage of Kardashian infection, alleged drug use and just being another year older and out of tip-top basketball shape?
Obviously the Clippers have shown great interest in Lamar, going so far as meeting with him last month for a couple of hours. Equally obviously, the Clippers have very little front court depth, where Antawn Jamison is by far their most productive option off the bench -- and that's just sad. So Lamar -- who was easily the best front court defender for the Clippers last season and put up career best rebounding numbers as well -- is an easy, "I've got a brand new pair of roller skates you've got a brand new key" sort of option.
But I've been told in no uncertain terms that the Clippers will vet the crap out of the situation. They will not sign him unless they are as convinced as they reasonably can be that he is clean and focused and ready. The conditioning part is a bit tricky -- even in the best of circumstances, Odom was never a guy who reported to camp in great shape -- he has always played himself into shape. But the Clippers are looking for a solution to a problem they'll have in April, May and June -- if they're convinced Lamar is serious (and sober), then he can use two or three months of the regular season to get into shape.
5) What are three to five other things that Brooklyn Nets should know and give us a final score!