When the L.A. Clippers lost Elton Brand to free agency, there front court took a major hit. But their recent trade for the Denver Nuggets' starting center, Marcus Camby, beefed up the Clipper's front court in a big way.
For those of you who may not know Camby, rest assured that he is a major defensive presence under the boards. He is known for rebounding and shot blocking. He will generally score about 8 to 12 points a game as well. He is not Brand's equal as a scorer, but he will definitely force opposing teams to change their offensive game plans.
The Clippers will apparently utilize Camby as a Power Forward, with Chris Kaman starting at center. Kaman heated up last year after playing lousy the year before. He currently is starting on the German team that recently qualified for the upcoming Summer Olympics. Kaman is playing on a front court that includes the Dallas Mavericks' longtime start, Dirk Nowitzki.
The Clippers' front court will also feature last year's hot rookie, Al Thornton. He played well, for the most part, last year but was inconsistent at times. This year he will be a year older, and wiser, and will definitely benefit from playing alongside Camby and Kaman as the team's starting small forward.
The Clippers also added a new starting point guard, free agent Baron Davis, who is returning to his old haunting grounds. He starred years ago for the UCLA Bruins. Davis will no doubt involve all of his front court but will also do what he does best - score.
The Lakers will return their young starting center Andrew Bynum, who was out most of the second half last year with a knee injury. Bynum will play up front alongside Lamar Odom at small Forward and Pau Gasol at Power Forward.
So how will the Lakers' big men match up with the new Clippers' front court? Bynum is a real talent - but Kaman is no slouch. If Bynum is healthy once more, I would give him the advantage, but he is still working on his offensive game. Kaman on the other hand is now a seasoned veteran - and he will be coming off an emotional high from participating in the Summer Olympics. I would say this position is a push for these teams.
Odom will take advantage of Thornton, due to his experience, but Odom is just as inconsistent as the young Clipper. There are times when Odom disappears for entire quarters. He needs to man up and keep up the pressure on Thornton on the offensive end. Odom should own him most nights. But watch out! Thornton has the talent and ability to go off for twenty five points anytime.
At power forward, Camby will dominate Gasol at the defensive end. But the wily Spaniard has the ability to step back and hit outside shots. Camby doesn't score enough to have a huge advantage on the offensive end. Gasol should outscore him most nights. But Camby will force the Lakers to redirect many of their plays. He and Kaman will be major obstacles - and if Davis can run the pick and roll with them the Lakers might have their hands full.
So what started out to be an awful front court for the Clippers has suddenly turned into a unit that the Lakers will have their hands full contending with most nights. However, Camby is injury prone. Both the Clippers and the Lakers lack front court depth. If they can keep their big men healthy, the match-ups between these two L.A. teams will be entertaining and competitive most of the time.
By Art Pedroza
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