At the midpoint of the Clippers’ regular season, there’s no need to fear. Why not? ESPN.com NBA writer and editor Andrew Han is here. The host of ESPN LA's Clippers Podcast dazzles as he reverses roles and answers all of our Clippers-related inquiries. Chief among those, why has a once-elite defense fallen on such hard times? In this extensive interview, Han sheds light on recent improvements to the Clippers’ front office, impactful free-agent additions Marreese Speights and Raymond Felton and Luc Mbah a Moute’s sizable improvement, among a slew of other timely topics. Of course, he also addresses whether or not either of the team’s superstars could realistically depart upon season’s end. Read on for a handful of exhilarating excerpts:
3:51-5:01: Andrew diagnoses the main cause for the Clippers’ defensive struggles that have occurred since early December: “Because he [Luc Mbah a Moute] is so versatile, the Clippers switched [on] a lot of their coverages early in the season - Blake Griffin, in particular, because even though Blake is not the best defender, he certainly has the athletic ability to stay with most players, whether they’re perimeter players or big men. And so Blake and Luc would switch a lot. And I think one of the issues that occurred is that they started to switch more and more, and there’s that balance between switching because everyone is on a string and you know what your teammates and the people behind you are thinking and switching out of laziness because it’s just easier to do that...In layman’s terms, they were being lazy and not giving enough effort on defense, and I think that contributed to a lot of the defensive decline…and then of course the injuries only made everything worse.”
11:07-12:07: He comments on the likelihood of the Clippers retaining their most prized assets next offseason: “Realistically, I don’t think Chris Paul or Blake Griffin or [J.J.] Redick frankly for that matter will leave, because just looking at the landscape of the NBA, where is the situation that can afford these players the same luxuries that they have in Los Angeles? To be able to have all the amenities of a big market and not be constantly harassed by media and fans and things like that sounds pretty good from my perspective. And then just in terms of roster composition, there’s not a lot of teams in the league that are ready to be contenders that can shed the space or have the right pieces to complement Blake Griffin and/or Chris Paul."
15:45-16:18: Our guest’s favorite player, Luc Mbah a Moute, has shown considerable improvement, thus greatly contributing to the team’s success this season. How has he grown more comfortable offensively? “This season, there’s a lot more cutting that’s involved with Luc, and there’s a lot of action for him that happens around 18 feet. And 18 feet is comfort zone for Luc in terms of shooting. He has a lot more confidence in the ability to take and make those shots. And because of that, I think that not only does Luc have a better understanding for how his teammates operate, [but also] the team in general has a better feel for how they get Luc in the best spots for him to succeed offensively.”
25:24-27:21: The coach’s son is much better than casual NBA fans would have you believe. Andrew shares a critical adjustment Austin Rivers has made in recent years: “I think, at times, he was trying to do things that were too fast for his body to execute…A lot of that inefficiency in motion is trimmed down when he plays now, and even when he’s finishing around the rim you’ll see what happens is he takes these drag steps to kind of slow his momentum down so that he can kiss it off the glass and into the basket…Not to use the clichéd term that the game is slowing down for him or maybe he’s slowing down for the game.”
32:30-33:26: Our awesome guest defends J.J. Redick’s honor by explaining what makes him so darn exasperating to opposing defenses: "Now Redick, I think along with Kyle Korver, Klay Thompson, these are elite-level off-ball shooters, and they’re not just sitting around on the perimeter, waiting for the ball to be passed to them to throw it up. They’re generating so much offense and movement off the ball with cuts that they run and the flare screens and pin-downs and back-picks that teams run for them. And, well J.J. hasn’t done this in a while, but he does this floppy action that I call “Merry-Go-Round Floppy,” where he and the small forward are basically underneath the rim, and Redick will just run in circles around the small forward until he decides the direction he’s gonna go and the defender has to sit there and try to anticipate which way he’s gonna go and it’s very confusing for a defense to try to stay on a string with a player who is borderline 50-40-90 annually trying to muck up their defense in that fashion."
Music: "Who Likes to Party" by Kevin MacLeod