TrueHoop: Quentin Richardson

Lamar Odom goes home

June, 29, 2012
Arnovitz By Kevin Arnovitz
Lamar Odom
Jeff Gross/Getty Images Sport
Nine years after departing "basketball hell" in Los Angeles, Lamar Odom checks back in.

Lamar Odom's parting from the Los Angeles Clippers in August 2003 was a no-brainer, both financially and personally.

The Clippers had offered Odom a three-year, $24 million contract, but after losing out on Clippers restricted free agent Elton Brand, Pat Riley swooped in. The Heat laid an offer sheet of six years and $65 million at Odom's feet, and the then-23-year-old curio promptly switched coasts.

For most organizations, losing a talented fourth overall pick after only four seasons would have been devastating, but that wasn't really the case for the Clippers.

Summer 2003 was morning in ClipperLand.

Earlier that offseason, the team had matched $124 million worth of offer sheets for Brand and Corey Maggette, and brought on Mike Dunleavy to be the new coach. The team still had a stable of other promising youngsters age 23 or younger in Quentin Richardson, Chris Wilcox and Keyon Dooling, and had drafted a big man out of Central Michigan named Chris Kaman.

Out of nowhere, the Clippers looked like a serious NBA organization, and, from the perspective of then-general manager Elgin Baylor, Odom wasn't a serious person. Baylor described the rationale behind not matching Miami's offer for Odom as "based on issues of character and other risks involved." Although Dunleavy would have loved the opportunity to move a player of Odom's versatility around the chess board, Odom was the most expendable of the Clippers' young assets.

It didn't start that way for Odom with the Clippers. He displayed ball skills uncommon for a 20-year-old big man and was the first of the team's young stars to ignite some buzz around early-'00s Clippers. Odom posted a Player Efficiency Rating of 16.8 and 18.9 respectively in his first two seasons. In February 2002, he, Brand and Darius Miles posed on the cover of SLAM as the Clippers enjoyed a couple of seasons as one of the league's more likable baby squads. Had League Pass existed 10 years ago, the Clips would have been an attractive candidate to fill out your slate of "Choice" teams, and Odom was a big part of that.

Still, Odom was one of those young players for whom potential soon became a millstone. During his four-year tenure with the Clippers, Odom served two drug suspensions. After two productive seasons out of the gate, his efficiency dropped in his third and fourth seasons with the Clippers (13.7 and 14.6 PER), during which he played a combined 78 games as he battled a series of injuries.

When the Clippers didn't offer Brand, Maggette and Odom hefty extensions during the 2002 offseason, Brand and Maggette might have stewed quietly, but when the ball was tipped that fall, they killed and maimed for coach Alvin Gentry. In contrast, Odom's mood grew morose, and his shot selection was confounding. He loafed on defense and often appeared lost when the ball went into Brand on the left block. The injuries played a factor, but Odom's disengagement was more serious.

When Miami came knocking with the big offer sheet, Odom let it be known publicly that he wanted the Clippers to let him walk. On his way out the door, Odom referred to his time with the Clippers as "basketball hell."

Nine years is a lifetime in the NBA. Since leaving the Clippers as a callow talent brimming with potential, Odom established himself as the game's premier multiskilled big man, won two rings with the Los Angeles Lakers, used his celebrity as an adjunct Kardashian to cross over as a star on the shlock-ertainment circuit, consumed heaping amounts of refined sugar before games and, over time, emerged as one of the more interesting personalities in the league.

Odom was devastated in December when he was included in the post-lockout trade that would have sent him from the Lakers to New Orleans. He was so distraught that, when the deal wasn't consummated, the Lakers felt compelled to send him away to Dallas for nothing rather than deal with the emotional fallout. In Dallas, Odom found another basketball hell, one of his own creation. After a series of incidents, the Mavericks finally told him to take a walk a few weeks before the playoffs. Mark Cuban called it "addition by subtraction."

Thirteen years after the Clippers made him the cornerstone of their future, Odom returns to them for what will effectively be a nine-month stint. He was acquired by the team Friday in a four-way deal that shipped Mo Williams to Utah, the rights to second-round Clippers draft pick Furkan Aldemir to Houston and some cap relief to Dallas.

In both composition and reputation, the organization looks different than it did in the spring of 2003. Odom will join a team, anchored by Chris Paul and Blake Griffin, that's instilled a solid culture under Vinny Del Negro. Most of all, after decades of building for an uncertain future, the Clippers' only measure of success in 2012-13 will be present success.

What can Odom do for the Clippers? Running the numbers to project what he will contribute is an exercise in futility. Odom's 12th season in the NBA was statistically his best -- his 13th the worst. Season No. 14 likely will fall somewhere in between, a precarious balancing act between Odom's ingenuity and his temperament.

If Odom can revitalize his interest in the game, he can thrive as the Clippers' first big off the bench. If need be, he can play a handful of minutes at the small forward spot behind Caron Butler and operate as a distributor on a second unit that will need a player or two to keep the ball moving.

Odom can start, sub, pass, slash, score, facilitate and defend -- but we knew all that. In fact, the Clippers were the first to learn about Odom's range of skills. More than a decade later, they hope to finally profit from their original investment.

A couple of thoughts on shot location

December, 29, 2009
Arnovitz By Kevin Arnovitz
In today's bullets, we featured the link to Tom Ziller's superb graph that documents what percentage of its shot attempts each team takes from 3-point range and in the immediate basket area, the two places on the floor that produce the most efficient shooting percentages. I've found myself hypnotized by Ziller's organization of these data and his pretty chart.

It seems counter-intuitive, but the two teams in the upper-right quadrant of the chart -- those that take a high percentage of their shots from beyond the arc and at the rim -- are 12th (Sacramento) and 16th (Houston) in offensive efficiency. That's surprising for obvious reasons. One would think teams that make an effort to take higher-efficiency shots would reside near the Top 10 in offensive efficiency. Both Sacramento and Houston is though both teams take a high proportion of their shots at the rim, but neither converts at a high rate. Houston shoots 57.4 percent at the rim (26th) and Sacramento hits at a 59.9 percent rate (19th). In 3-point effective field goal percentage, Houston and Sacramento are 15th and 11th respectively. So, it's important to delineate between taking smart shots and converting them.

If your team is situated in the bottom-left quadrant (few 3-point attempts and shots around the hoop), your logical reaction is probably, "They really need to reallocate their distribution of shots!"

While that's certainly true, this prescription reminds me a lot of the nutrition debate in America. Those who care deeply about issue lament the rise in the nation's obesity rate and all the harmful consequences that go with that. The epidemic is particularly bad among poorer Americans. The sensible antidote, of course, is a healthier diet for those who suffer from obesity. The problem? People who don't have discretionary income and live in impoverished areas often can't afford and don't have access to more nutritional food.

With a few possible exceptions, there probably isn't a coach in the league who doesn't want his team getting shots at the rim or uncontested looks from beyond the arc. Erik Spoelstra is one of the smartest young coaches in the game, and one who values empirical data. I can't imagine he's satisfied with where his team is situated on that chart. But what can you do when opposing defenses are clogging the paint to keep Dwyane Wade at bay, and you have only one legitimate threat from beyond the arc among your regulars (Quentin Richardon)?

So far as the Wizards, who occupy the worst piece of real estate on Ziller's graph, the problem may rest with the players:

Blame it on a set of players (Caron Butler, Antawn Jamison and Andray Blatche, to name three) more likely to fire mid-range twos than to shoot threes or get to the rim. Flip Saunders has cursed Washington's shot selection repeatedly, and that surely has more to do with the level of contention those shots receive from opponents than location, but the team's shot selection profile based on location sure isn't showing the offense is set up for success. A talent change will be needed for the profile to be fixed ...

Want to improve your diet of shots? You have to exercise discipline, as Ziller points out. But you also need the means to get better shots.

Tuesday Bullets

August, 18, 2009

Posted by Kevin Arnovitz

Monday Bullets

August, 17, 2009

Posted by Kevin Arnovitz

Friday Bullets

August, 14, 2009

Posted by Kevin Arnovitz

Posted by Kevin Arnovitz

The last time Quentin Richardson was a member of the Los Angeles Clippers, the Clips were a promising, young squad that included Elton Brand, Corey Maggette, Bobby Simmons and Chris Wilcox. Next week, Richardson will be shipped back to Los Angeles as nothing more than filler in a deal that will send Zach Randolph from the Clippers to Memphis. It's a seemingly inequitable trade -- the 20/10 in Randolph for gimpy, marginal Richardson -- until you look beneath the surface: 

    Richardson & Randolph 

    Two Clips passing in the night.
    (Ray Amati via NBAE/Getty Images)

  • The player that matters most in this trade is neither Randolph nor Richardson, but the Clippers' No. 1 pick, Blake Griffin. Randolph is a single-minded post scorer who likes to work on the right block -- precisely where Blake Griffin is slated to build his NBA career as a monstrous big man. For the Clippers, moving Randolph clears the way for Griffin, where he'll play alongside Marcus Camby, Chris Kaman and Griffin's pal, the intriguing DeAndre Jordan.

  • For the Clippers, moving Randolph isn't just about clearing minutes -- it allows the franchise to press rewind on what was a disastrous cultural acquisition in Randolph. Although Randolph's selfishness, disinterest on defense, and questionable off-court character were no secret, Mike Dunleavy felt he had to find a frontcourt scorer after the Clippers lost Brand to Philadelphia. He pushed all in on Randolph, absorbing three years and approximately $45 million in exchange for a couple of 2010 expiring contracts (Tim Thomas and Cuttino Mobley). Randolph put up his usual solid offensive numbers, but the Clippers still finished the season with a horrendous 19-63 record.

    Worse, the team descended into a lazy funk. Though the blame can't be attributed solely to Randolph, the Clippers had to endure Randolph's sucker punch to Louis Amundson (resulting in suspension) and a drunk driving arrest (also resulting in suspension). For an organization that did an admirable job reshaping its image the preceding half-dozen years or so, 2008-09 was a disheartening setback -- and Randolph was at the crime scene.

  • By shipping Z-Bo out of town, the Clippers move the remaining two years and $33.3 million of his contract. Richardson stands to earn only $9.35 million in 2009-10, and his contract expires at the end of the season. He might get some burn on the wing. With his bad back, he might not. For the Clips, it's of little import. The move gives them significant cap room for the summer of 2010, when both Marcus Camby and Ricky Davis will also come off the books -- nearly $20 million.

  • That brings us to the obvious question: If Randolph is so inimical to an NBA team's rebuilding effort -- as determined by the Clippers, and New York and Portland before them -- why does Memphis want him? The answer, as it was for the Clippers in November of last year, is that there aren't a lot of available power forwards who can score and rebound the way Randolph can, and the Grizz need some production down low.

    If you want to take a glass-half-full approach, you can look at a couple of mitigating factors in Memphis. Randolph's worst qualities on the court are his ineffectual interior defense and his tendency to become a black hole in the offense. With Hasheem Thabeet, Memphis has a big man who can protect the rim and compensate for Randolph. And in Marc Gasol, they have a complementary big who knows how to move the ball out of the high post. In addition, if there's one team in the NBA without cap concerns, it's Memphis, which has only $17 million committed in salaries after next season. 
The NBA's salary cap structure is usually unforgiving of teams that made the kind of miscalculation the Clippers did on Randolph last season. But the Clippers have been leading a charmed existence over the past six weeks. First Blake Griffin lands in their lap, and now they find a willing sucker for Zach Randolph.

Tomorrow, Tuesday, at 6:30, at the New York City ESPN Zone on Broadway at 42nd street will be TrueHoop's first ever real public get together.

If you go the ESPN Zone website you can, until some point late tonight, make a reservation for a table, or you can mix and mingle at the bar. At that website, you can also learn where to park to get a substantial discount.

As described earlier, the format will be much like Oprah or Letterman, only without the professional staff and kickin' backstage buffet.

The previously announced guests include superstars of statistical expert John Hollinger and analyst David Thorpe.

I just confirmed that New York Knick Quentin Richardson will be the third guest, which I am thrilled about.

When I first figured out the date of this event, I looked at which NBA teams would be in the area and not playing. Of those players -- the Knicks and Sixers really qualify -- Quentin Richardson was my first thought, because he has something to say.

I'm on something of a mission to get across what the NBA is really like, as sometimes distinct from how it's portrayed through all the t-shirt cannons and fireworks.

Quentin? Yes, his life has been full of all kinds of NBA success, riches, and super fancy rims. But he could not have a more sobering and real story, having lost not one, but two brothers to violence. He has been gracious enough to talk about the easy and hard parts of being Quentin Richardson.