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Griffin and Gordon help solidify Clippers in a shortened season

A healthy Blake Griffin, on the edge of superstardom, and guard Eric Gordon give the L.A. Clippers a foundation on which to perform well in a lockout-shortened season. But there's unfinished business before they can land a playoff spot.

November 26, 2011|By Broderick Turner
  • Power forward Blake Griffin (32) and shooting guard Eric Gordon give Coach Vinny Del Negro and the Clippers a solid one-two punch to build around this season.
Power forward Blake Griffin (32) and shooting guard Eric Gordon give Coach… (BarbaraDavidson / Los Angeles…)

The Clippers may have missed the playoffs again last season, as they finished with a 32-50 record and with the third-worst record in the Western Conference, but there is hope in Clipperland for the 2011-12 campaign.

Why?

Because they have an All-Star in Blake Griffin, a 6-foot-10 highlight and dunking machine who many think is on the verge of superstardom.

The Clippers also have a solid shooting guard in Eric Gordon.

They hope to get a healthier season from center Chris Kaman. And they will probably resign restricted free agent center DeAndre Jordan, giving the Clippers a quality trio of big men in their rotation.

They will have a young, athletic team, one that can fare well in the shortened 66-game regular season.

But for the Clippers to land one of the eight playoff spots in the tough Western Conference, they have a lot of business to take care of first.

-- The Clippers must use some of the money they have available to sign a quality player because they are under the salary cap. They have 10 players signed to contracts for about $44 million, meaning the Clippers probably will have $12 million to $14 million to spend – not that they will use it all. The salary cap for the 2010-11 season was $58 million, but it is expected to be higher for the 2011-12 season. That would give the Clippers a lot of cash to play with before reaching the luxury-tax threshold.

-- They have to give Eric Gordon a contract extension. He's due to earn $3.8 million this season, and his qualifying offer would be $5.1 million for next season. Gordon, who is 6-3 and 215 pounds, is considered one of the better young shooting guards in the NBA. He averaged 22.3 points per game last season despite missing 24 games with a right wrist injury. Gordon, who turns 23 on Christmas Day, shot 45% from the field, and 36.4% from three-point range.

-- The Clippers are expected to match any qualifying offer Jordan gets from another team. He earned $854,389 last season and could get a deal worth up to $10 million a season. That's a lot for a player who averaged just 7.1 points and 7.2 rebounds last season. But with the lack of quality centers in the NBA, Jordan will be in demand. He played in 80 games last season, 66 as a starter.

-- They need to sign a veteran, small forward. That was a hole for the Clippers last season that they need to fill. Dallas' Caron Butler, coming off right knee surgery, will be available. Detroit's Tayshaun Prince, 30, who averaged 14.1 points last season, is an unrestricted free agent, as is Shane Battier, who finished last season in Memphis. The Clippers also can wait to see what players are released by other teams under the amnesty clause. One potential candidate is Washington Wizards small forward Rashard Lewis, who still has two years and almost $44 million left on his deal. Lewis, 32, however, might not be a viable option for the Clippers because of a bothersome right knee that he refused to have surgery on this summer.

-- Kaman's name came up in trade talks before the NBA draft. But the Clippers are inclined to keep the 7-foot center because he can be a solid contributor and is in the last year of a contract that pays him $12.7 million this season. He played in just 32 games last season because of a left ankle injury.

-- Looking ahead, the Clippers also have the Minnesota Timberwolves' unprotected No. 1 choice for the 2012 draft. That puts the Clippers in position to get another good player because that draft class is considered a good one.

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Clippers 2011-12 Roster

Player…………..Position…PPG…RPG…APG….

Al-Farouq Aminu…F………5.6…..3.0……0.7……

Eric Bledose………G………6.7…..2.8……3.6……

Brian Cook…………F………4.8…..2.4……0.4…..

Randy Foye………..G………9.8…..1.6…….2.7….

Ryan Gomes……….F………7.2…..3.3…….1.6….

Eric Gordon………..G………22.3…2.9…….4.4….

Blake Griffin………..F………22.5…12.0……3.8…

Chris Kaman……….C………12.4….7.0…….1.4…

Willie Warren……….G……..1.9…..(.6)……..1.4…

Mo Williams………..G……14.0…2.6………6.6…

Unsigned:

DeAndre Jordan………C…….7.1….7.2…….0.5……

Trey Thompkins……..F….(Rookie second-round draft pick).

Travis Leslie………….G….(Rookie second-round draft pick).

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