The New Orleans Pelicans and Los Angeles Clippers face off in a few hours time in a matchup of two teams predicted to have a complete role reversal of standing to start the season. The Pelicans (12-12) were expected by many to be one of the early season darlings after last season’s finish, but injuries and inconsistent play have once again stood in their way. As for Los Angeles (15-7), the Clippers were expected to be a tough matchup nightly, but miss out on the postseason because they lacked a star. The first matchup between these two teams resulted in a New Orleans victory, but things have changed immensely for both teams since that day.
For an extended look into the Clippers, we continue our Outsiders Perspective series by hooking up with Robert Flom from Clips Nation and the SB Nation family. Be sure to follow Robert at Twitter @richhomieflom and enjoy our latest installment of Outsider’s Perspective.
1. If someone told you during training camp the date would be December 3rd and the Los Angeles Clippers would be tied for first place in the Western Conference, what would your response be?
Also, what has been the biggest factor in the Clips going from the forgotten to one of the best early stories in basketball?
My response would have been shock. To be honest, I thought this Clippers’ team would be .500 at best through their first 16 games or so due to the difficulty of their schedule, and would only make a run later in the season when it eased up.
I think the biggest factor in the Clippers’ strong start has been health. While Luc Mbah a Moute has missed much of the season, the Clippers’ core starting players have mostly been completely healthy, barring a handful of missed games from Avery Bradley.
This health has enabled the Clippers’ chemistry to really come into focus, and they’ve just played more together than most other teams they’ve faced this season. The other big factor, of course, is the Clippers’ never-say-die attitude, which has helped them win many a close game already this season.
2. I’d absolutely love to spend a day in the Clippers’ locker room because their mix of talent and personality 1-15 is seemingly the most unique in the NBA. So many different characters coming from many walks of life placed on one roster — and they’re succeeding. What are your thoughts on the basketball gumbo of sorts Los Angeles currently has?
The Clippers certainly do have a bunch of unique personalities and talents on their team. You go from the grit and toughness of Montrezl Harrell and Pat Beverley to the suaveness of Lou Williams, to the quiet hard work of Tobias Harris, to the laugh-out-loud hilarity of Boban Marjanovic, and it’s a wonder that all these guys get along as well as they do.
But all of them are united by a desire to win games and play their hearts out, and that’s allowed them to come together to form one of the more formidable groups in the NBA in the early going. They are a fantastic team to cover in the locker room, and a difficult one to face on the hardwood.
3. Speaking of unique, let’s dive into Montrezl Harrell. Pelicans fans know him as the single Clipper NOLA just hasn’t had answers for lately. In addition however, he’s the epitome of grind, hard work, and perseverance despite what natural talent suggests.
Being very similar to the Pelicans’ Julius Randle in his bully playing style, the caution to play him extensively always confused me. The Clips and Doc Rivers seem all in going forward however. Was there a method to his original inconsistent minute structure even dating back to last season? Is he the person Patrick Beverly sees in the mirror every morning?
Last season was a bit different, as Montrezl was coming off the bench behind DeAndre Jordan, the Clippers’ then face of the franchise and nominal best player. He simply wasn’t going to get huge minutes with DJ on the roster, especially since the two can’t play together much due to a lack of shooting.
This season, however, Harrell’s improvements on the defensive end of the court have turned him from “dynamite energy big off the bench” to “dominant two-way presence”, and he’s gotten more and more minutes as the season has gone along.
I think he and Pat Beverley are kind of similar in their intensity, but Montrezl is more likely to fire up the crowd then pester opposing players. He’s been incredible to watch this season, and might be the single most irreplaceable player on the roster: nobody on the Clippers can do what he does.
4. What’s the biggest misconception about the Los Angeles Clippers?
Probably that they’re due to regress as the season comes along. Not much about their start seems unsustainable, outside of perhaps Gallinari’s health and his and Harris’ shooting. In fact, Lou Williams, Pat Beverley, and Avery Bradley are all shooting well below their career norms, so it’s quite possible that the Clippers’ offense actually improves as the season goes along as they regress to their mean percentages.
5. Outside Perspective on the Pelicans.
The Pelicans are a ton of fun to watch. Jrue Holiday has taken up Mike Conley’s mantle as the most underrated point guard in the league, and his ability to take over on both ends is incredible.
I’m not sure what I can say about Anthony Davis that you don’t already know, but he’s one of the scariest players to face in the NBA, especially for a Clippers’ team that lacks the combination of size and athleticism to contest him consistently.
Mirotic, Randle, and Moore are all very solid players in their own rights, and when healthy, I think the Pelicans are probably a top 5 team in the West. A couple trades for some better depth would help them considerably, but there’s no doubt that the Pels are a tough opponent.
Pelicans win 120-110. Both teams are playing on the second night of a back-to-back, so I expect defense to lag a bit. Ultimately, Davis will push the Pelicans to victory.
And that was our time with Robert thanks again to him and Clips Nation. Hope you enjoyed our latest installment of Outsider’s Perspective and be on the lookout for more.