TrueHoop: Quentin Richardson
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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.
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.
Posted by Kevin Arnovitz
- In Shoals' interview of Brook Lopez, we learn that the Nets' second-year center is the rare athlete that prefers long-form non-fiction to 140 character burps: "I'm busy writing actual books and stuff like that rather than Twittering."
- Rob Mahoney of The Two Man Game sets the bar for an intriguing Mavs team. The lede: "A simple question with varied, complicated answers: what needs to happen for the Mavs' 2009-2010 season to be considered a success? Given the roster assembled, is winning the championship the only way to declare the campaign a successful one? Or, in light of relative expectations, is it enough to merely challenge the natural order?"
- Allen Iverson needs a job; The Sixers need some depth in the backcourt. Michael Kaskey-Blomain of Philadunkia wonders aloud if a second act for Iverson in Philly could work.
- Finally some semblance of a resolution to the Hawks' ownership fracas. As Bret LaGree of Hoopinion writes, the ownership group in Atlanta have gradually evolved into a relatively functional bunch. Peachtree Hoops also tackles the issue in stellar form.
- Speaking of the business of the Atlanta Hawks, Micah Hart informs us that Zaza Pachilia is diving into The A's lively restaurant scene. Also of note, "Pachulia, if you recall, participated in last summer's business seminar for NBA players at Northwestern's prestigious Kellogg School of Management."
- Basketbawful continues its "Worsties" series. Among December's lowlights: the elevator in Chris Bosh's apartment building.
- 21 Reasons to order up NBA League Pass. I'll rank #7 as the most persuasive argument -- local ads.
- Not that it hasn't been shouted from the roof tops over the past couple of years, but Leon Powe remains the most rootable player in the Association.
- Nike's footprint is all over the Michael Jordan exhibit at the Basketball Hall of Fame that the Jordan Brand -- a division of the shoe giant -- paid for. As the article rightly points out, corporate sponsorship of museum exhibitions is de rigueur these days. Furthermore, it's hard not to highlight Jordan's impact on the game without including his pivotal role in the personal branding of athletes. Still ... "Walking around the exhibit, you never feel free of Nike's vise."
- The results of NBA.com's rookie survey are out. Jonny Flynn gets much love from his classmates.
- What can Randy Foye do for the Wizards?
- Re: Quentin Richardson's twitter feed, I suppose a summer like Q's is enough to drive a person to astrology: "You may surprise someone with how you express your independence... More for Aries."
Posted by Kevin Arnovitz
- Ramona Shelburne of the Los Angeles Daily News catches up with Baron Davis. Money quote from Davis: "I sucked. I sucked last year. I admit it. What (else) should I say?"
- The Thunder have hired former Sixers and Blazers head coach Maurice Cheeks. How do the Thunder's corps of point guards measure up with Cheeks the Point Guard? Joe Newell of Daily Thunder takes a look.
- Knicks general manager Donnie Walsh gives Darko Milicic an endorsement in the New York Post: "He was a very skilled player when he was drafted ... I think the thing that's held him back is he's been thought of as a guy that has to play with his back to the basket. And everywhere he's been, people have tried to do that ... I don't think that will be the case here ... The way [coach] Mike [D'Antoni] plays, the fact that he's a skilled, fairly athletic, long big man who can run the floor and can dribble the ball, shoot the ball, pass the ball, he might fit into this system better. That's what I'm hoping."
- More than I ever thought I could know about Joel Przybilla.
- Brian Windhorst of the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports that Rob Kurz signs a non-guaranteed deal with the Cavs. I still think Kurz can be a serviceable stretch-5 in the NBA, and is a better defender than advertised.
- Zach Harper of Hardwood Paroxysm reminds us that Jamaal Magloire was once an All-Star. No joke: "And the crazy thing was he played really well in the All-Star Game. He scored 19 points and grabbed eight rebounds in 21 minutes. In fact, he took 16 shots in those 21 minutes. 16!!!! Who does he think he is -- Von Wafer?"
- Since the collective bargaining agreement necessitates that we all need advanced economics degrees to cover the NBA, Eight Points, Nine Seconds has devised a smart new feature called "Cap and Trade" to help Pacers fans.
- MSG Sports: hemorrhaging dollars.
- If your significant other happens to be traveling to Hvar, you might want to furnish him or her with a pictorial Who's Who of famous Croatian ballers.
- Will the Quentin Richardson carousel come to a complete stop in Miami? If so, how does Q fit in with the Heat?
- The Ministers of Teal are hard at work: vintage Hornets wallpaper. (Hat Tip: Hornets247)
- Don't mind the dust over at Queen City Hoops. Brett Hainline is in the process of installing some improvements that will raise the bar for smart, data-driven team sites, and he wants some help for his new player pages: "I do not have it in me to go through and come up with a witty ... one- or two-liner on every player in the NBA -- but I hope that through the power of the interwebs I can get it done ... So, here is what I am asking: Comment on this post with your player summary and you will be entered to win a $25 gift card to NBA.com."
- Know what I like about summer, other than hiking Griffith Park at twilight while listening to Vin Scully live on MLB At Bat 2009? Catching up on classic columns like Jim Murray's 1986 piece on Chick Hearn. (Hat Tip: Kamenetzky Brothers/Laker Blog). In a just universe, Clippers' broadcaster Ralph Lawler would also have a star on the Walk of Fame.
- Kevin Pelton, Ben Golliver, and Mos Def all in one place.
Posted by Kevin Arnovitz
- Mark Cuban puts the kibosh on Dirk Nowitzki playing for the Germans in the European championship.
- Dave Berri is much more bullish on the Rockets in 2009-10 than most observers, and appraises the team from -- no surprise -- a very Berrian persepctive: "... wins are about more than scoring. And when we measure these players contributions to wins (via Wins Produced), we see that Houston has fewer problems than people believe. Consequently, I think it's possible that Morey's considerable reputation is about to become further enhanced."
- Courtney Lee is still smarting over the trade from Orlando to New Jersey, says former teammate Dwight Howard.
- Kurt Helin of Forum Blue & Gold on Magic Johnson's post-Laker life in Los Angeles: "After Magic left the Lakers he did not leave Los Angeles, he invested in it. He invested in the urban, poor neighborhoods that nobody else would, and got big name companies to join him (but not without considerable work). He showed corporations they could make money in areas that before they had feared to tread, and while those floodgates have never truly opened, they are more open now than they have been."
- Brian Grant has never been to a hockey game, but he's built a strong friendship NHL lifer Brent Peterson, now the Nashville Predators head coach. Both men suffer from Parkinson's disease.
- Quentin Richardson is in perpetual motion. Somehow this no longer seems so far-fetched.
- I like this piece by Shoals on J.R. Smith and representational issues that arise when we size up ballers.
- Another senseless death, this time in Milwaukee over ... a car.
- Suns rookie Earl Clark was a big basketball card collector as a kid, and just handed down his collection to his nephew.
- Charley Rosen gives us (in alphabetical order) his best NBA defenders. Not on the list? Dwight Howard and LeBron James.
- In honor of Sunday's premiere of "Mad Men," John Krolik of Cavs the Blog puts together power rankings for the year's best ads.
- Clippers center and Texan DeAndre Jordan is an avid fan of Kornheiser and Wilbon ... and, apparently, our friends to the north. From DJ's twitter feed: "PTI! I'm waiting on the Canadian flag wave! That's my favorite part of the show!"
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:
- 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.
Two Clips passing in the night.
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 ESPN.com: 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.