The Los Angeles Clippers and Dallas Mavericks are two teams headed in different directions. The Clippers have opened the season playing at a high level as Chris Paul and Blake Griffin look to finally get the franchise into serious championship contention.
Meanwhile, the Mavericks — beset by injuries to key veterans such as Dirk Nowitzki, Deron Williams and Devin Harris — own the worst record in basketball.
It wasn't all that long ago that Mavs owner Mark Cuban had visions of Clippers center DeAndre Jordan pairing with forwards Chandler Parsons and Nowitzki and leading Dallas into a new era.
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That plan blew up in the summer of 2015 when Jordan backed out of his free-agent commitment to Dallas and returned to Los Angeles. And now Parsons is gone, too, leaving last summer for the Memphis Grizzlies.
Wednesday's matchup lines up as a mismatch for the Clippers (13-2) against the Mavs (2-11), who have lost six in a row but are at least holding out hope that Nowitzki will be ready to play after missing the last eight games because of a sore right Achilles tendon.
“We'll see how he feels in the morning,” Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said, according to the Dallas Morning News. “I certainly hope he's getting close.”
Carlisle said Williams (calf) and Harris (toe) both participated in some parts of Tuesday's practice. Williams' return date still isn't certain, and Harris will need at least another week before he sees game action.
Not much more could be going wrong for a franchise that has made the playoffs in 15 of the last 16 seasons.
For the Clippers, almost everything has been going right. They're coming off a 123-115 win over Eastern Conference contender Toronto that had Raptors coach Dwane Casey calling L.A. the best team in the league. Now the Clippers embark on a six-game trip that includes four East foes, including the defending champion Cleveland Cavaliers on Dec. 1.
Griffin has been spectacular, leading the Clippers at 21.9 points a game, shooting 52 percent and averaging 9.3 rebounds and 4.4 assists as his playmaking continues to improve.
“Blake is doing everything for us,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers told the Orange County Register. “The fact that he can bring the ball up and make decisions gives us another dimension offensively.”
Point guard Chris Paul, who has never advanced out of the second round in his career, is again putting up All-Star numbers: 18.4 points and 8.8 assists a game. Meanwhile, the 7-foot Jordan is averaging 10.8 points and 12.4 rebounds.
Guard J.J. Redick (15.4 ppg) and sixth man extraordinaire Jamal Crawford (10.9 ppg) give the Clippers five players scoring in double figures. They enter Wednesday ranked No. 2 in offensive and defensive efficiency.
“We haven't been as good in the last three games in my opinion,” Griffin, who has produced eight double-doubles in his first 15 games, told the Orange County Register. “But it's still great to start out like this.”