Sam Cassell's OnionsWhen two-time Super Bowl winning coach Bill Parcells fought to have more control over personnel decisions he memorably reasoned that if he was going to cook the dinner then he wanted to buy the groceries. It turns out that onions are the ingredient that the Los Angeles Clippers have been missing for years. Broadcaster Bill Raftery is found of exclaiming "Onions!" after a player makes a key play that requires a lot of heart--only he is actually referring to a different body part. He was once asked why he uses the word "onions" and he explained that he wanted to keep his job. Sam Cassell is "onions" personified and after he makes a big shot he sometimes makes a gesture to let everyone know it--Sam, kids are watching and your track record as a crunch time performer is well documented, so the theatrics are not necessary. Cassell is fearless in the clutch, as he showed as a young guard on two Houston Rockets championship teams; he also hit many big shots during Minnesota's run to the Western Conference Finals in 2004. So, the discerning reader may ask, why didn't I pick the Clippers to be a playoff team? I never doubted Cassell's skills, but he only played in 59 games last year, averaging 13.5 ppg--his worst output since 1994-95, his second year in the league. I thought that the 36 year old Cassell's body had broken down, but so far he has appeared in every game and his numbers are back to their usual level. Through 15 games, Cassell ranks third on the Clippers with 16.3 ppg and leads the team in assists (7.4 apg), steals (1.13 spg) and free throw percentage (.906; bench warmer James Singleton is shooting .929 but only has 14 attempts compared to Cassell's 64 FTA). Whether or not the Clippers are "for real" hinges greatly on Cassell staying healthy for the whole season.
posted by David Friedman @ 8:40 PM