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Free agents, the end of the season and ugly basketball

Apr 14, 2010, 3:15 PM EDT

The Clippers are just hard to watch right now. Even in comparison to their usual hard-to-watchness, their play the last few months is just painful.

ESPN’s brilliant Kevin Arnovitz watches every Clipper game — he’s a masochist that way — but he had a very interesting explanation for this recent play since the Clippers fired Mike Dunleavy.

But one reason that players, coaches and management continue to cite is the unusual number of players on the roster with expiring contracts. After the Clippers’ 117-94 loss to Dallas, interim head coach Kim Hughes tried to account for his team’s careless play:

“In late-season scenarios when you have as many free agents as we do, human nature takes effect sometimes. They look for points instead of the team first. That bothered me tonight. We had some guys looking for points too much. That should never occur, but it did occur. It’s not right, but it did happen. It’s not the way I like to play basketball, but when you have as many free agents as we do, I think it’s going to happen at times.”

You are seeing this same phenomenon with other teams, for example every team currently or within the next few years expected to play in the New York metropolitan area.

We’re seeing more of it this year with so many teams forsaking this season in hopes of landing one of the big free agents this summer. There are a lot of guys whose contracts come to an end.

As Arnovitz points out, hard to totally blame the players. If one Clipper right now was making the right plays and giving up his okay looks to a teammate for better looks, do you think that would really help him come free agency? Studies have shown what we all knew already — score more and you get paid more in the NBA. Doing the right thing can hurt your pocket book. So guys get selfish.

If teams start paying smarter — start using more advanced metrics to evaluate players — some of this can go away. But it never will completely. We’re always going to get some selfish, ugly ball every March and April.

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