The Los Angeles Clippers are finally back in the news for basketball reasons. But don’t get too excited.
In search of a fifth and final piece in the front court, the Clippers plan to work out veterans Andrew Bynum, Greg Oden, Andray Blatche and Emeka Okafor this week, according to ESPN Radio’s Jorge Sedano:
Clippers to work out back up Centers this week. Names that will come thru: Andray Blatche, Greg Oden, Andrew Bynum & Emeka Okafor
— Jorge Sedano (@SedanoESPN) August 5, 2014
Blatche’s agent has since struck down the rumor that his client will be brought in for a workout, which is a shame because he’s the best bet of the group.
Andray Blatche isn’t working out for Clippers today, per agent Andy Miller:”Neither I nor the Clippers have scheduled any workout for Dray.” — Brad Turner (@BA_Turner) August 5, 2014
Bringing in Spencer Hawes and Jordan Farmar on the non taxpayer mid-level and the bi-annual exceptions, respectively, triggered the $80.8 million hard cap. By July 6, the Clippers had just $2.2 million left to spend and only 11 roster spots filled.
Retaining Glen Davis on July 17 at the veteran’s minimum dropped that figure to $1.15 million. Until now, the only news out of the Clippers camp unrelated to the Sterling Trial had been the signing of Sam Cassell as an assistant coach and Blake Griffin pulling out of the FIBA World Cup.
And now, with a furious drumroll, Doc Rivers’ big final move of the summer may be to sign a reclamation project. He’d be better off continuing the search.
Blatche was the only player among the Clippers’ targets to make an impact in 2013-14, contributing 11.2 points and 5.1 rebounds in 73 games. Oden and Bynym played a combined 728 minutes over 49 games. Okafor sat out the entire year.
While the Ray Rice scandal made “distraction” the buzzword of the summer, Donald Sterling was a d-word from the get-go. His presence may not have dragged the team down in the playoffs, but the drama certainly hindered the team’s focus. While his official ties to the team are all but cut, the Sterling shadow will no doubt be felt for some time going forward.
So, why consider signing a 7-foot headache in Bynum when you’re trying to recover from the biggest offseason and off-court migraine in recent NBA history? The former Laker is over two years removed from playing at an All-Star level and hasn’t exactly earned himself the greatest reputation since leaving Los Angeles.
BUT, the preps-to-pros center looked like a stud in the two games he played for the Indiana Pacers in March. His per-36 minutes numbers are off the charts: 23 points and 19 rebounds. If only he had played more than 36 minutes with Indiana. Bringing in the potential for that kind of production at the veteran’s minimum should be a no-brainer.
The same goes for Oden, who in his comeback from three micro-fracture knee surgeries and a fractured patella showed some signs of life with the Miami Heat. His 11.2 points, 9.2 rebounds and 2.2 blocks per 36 minutes and .551 field-goal percentage deserve an NBA roster spot. Even at the risk of only getting him for a handful of games, Oden’s presence could one day tilt a playoff game or two.
And then there’s Emeka Okafor. Scour the Internet for an update on the status of his neck and you won’t find a shred of evidence, positive or negative. Nobody seems to know whether he will even be available for the upcoming season. If he is cleared, Okafor could provide the Clippers an interior defensive presence to pair with the more offensive-minded Spencer Hawes in the second unit.
The issue for the Clippers isn’t necessarily the basketball risk itself. And those are some enormous ifs. Most veterans signed for the minimum make more of an impact in the locker room, anyhow.
It all goes back to that $80.8 tax apron. Here is Larry Coon’s interpretation of the hard cap on CBAFAQ.com:
If a team is hard-capped, it cannot exceed the apron under any circumstance. If the team subsequently needs to sign a player (for example, to replace injured players) it must first create room under the apron by waiving player(s) with non-guaranteed salary, waiving player(s) with guaranteed salary and utilizing the stretch provision, trading downward in salary, etc. A team that is hard-capped can sign players to non-guaranteed contracts for training camp or the regular season, but must rid themselves of such players before their salary would take the team above the apron. A team subject to the hard cap can also sign players to rest-of-season contracts during the season, as long as the salary pro-ration keeps the team below the apron.
The Clippers need whoever they sign as the 13th man to at least be physically available, as they will have zero midseason wiggle room once the injury bug begins to bite. Blatche would have been the perfect remedy to this situation: a durable bench player with a guaranteed level of production. For now, Blatche feels like that kind of commodity, one that can get you 10-12 points and five rebounds, is worth more than the minimum.
Let’s hope Rivers is simply going through all of his options. Or that Okafor’s neck checks out.
Okafor will not be working out for the Clippers after all. Sedano retracted that part of his tweet.
Correction: Emeka Okafor will NOT work out for Clippers this week.
— Jorge Sedano (@SedanoESPN) August 5, 2014
Currently, it appears only Oden and Bynum will be brought in after the Clippers already showing interest in Tourè Murry and Dwight Byucks.