L.A. Clippers: From Sideshow To Showtime

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    Updated: February 27, 2014
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    For years the Los Angeles Clippers were the NBA’s laughing stock and the little brother the town’s real star team, the Los Angeles Lakers.

    Clippers owner Donald Sterling had no idea what he was doing with the team and it showed on the court.

    The team was hopeless and no one cared. Then in 2009 the team’s fortunes started to change with the drafting of high-flyer Blake Griffin out of Oklahoma. 

    The 6’10 power forward was a highlight reel player and brought the spark to an uninspired and unentertaining franchise.

    courtesy of losangelesinspiration.com

    Blake was the first step towards the Clippers actually becoming a decent franchise.

    But no matter what they would never be in a position to compete with the Lakers, no way.

    The Lakers still had an all-time great player in Kobe Bryant, they were winning championships with Phil Jackson as their coach, and all was right with the world in Los Angeles. 

    That was until then commissioner David Stern took it upon himself to royally screw the Lakers and not allow them to trade for one of the best point guards in the game, Chris Paul.

    In the ultimate slap in the face to the Lakers, Chris Paul eventually ended up in Los Angeles anyway, but with the Clippers.

    All of a sudden the Clippers were trending up, but still who cares, they’re the Clippers, they aren’t used to success. The Lakers would be just fine. Unfortunately, the Lakers were wrong. 

    If the moment for the Clippers that propelled them to real stardom was the signing of Chris Paul, the Lakers moment that started them in the opposite direction was the unfortunate passing of Lakers owner and basketball legend Dr. Jerry Buss.

    The Lakers patriarch was the architect of the ShowTime Lakers and built the Lakers Empire that it is today. 

    Once Dr. Buss passed, Lakers nation as a whole knew the team was in trouble.

    Reason being was that it was Dr. Buss’s son Jim Buss that would now take the reigns of the organization, and far all intents and purposes Jim was not going to be the best person for the job.

    Meanwhile while the Lakers were in turmoil the Clippers were quietly winning games and letting Chris Paul and Blake Griffin start building their chemistry together. 

    Courtesy of Larry Brown

    It all culminated in the Clippers winning the Pacific division title during the 2012-2013 season and finishing with 56 wins. But although the Clippers were trending upward, no one cares about the regular season.

    The Clippers couldn’t get it done in the playoffs and in the 2013 playoffs they were ousted in the first round 4-2 against the Memphis Grizzlies. Someone had to be the fall guy and it’s never the players that are held accountable, but rather a coach or someone in the front office.

    The Clipper decided to part ways with head coach Vinny Del Negro because not only did the team not get it done in the playoffs, but also Chris Paul didn’t seem to be a fan of Del Negro and there was no question who was going to win that battle. 

    Once Del Negro was gone the Clippers needed a coach to make CP3 happy, and they went after proven winner and champion Doc Rivers from the Boston Celtics. The Clippers traded an unprotected first round pick in the 2015 for one of the best coaches in basketball, and since then it’s been a completely different culture for half of Los Angeles.

    His first act as coach was covering up the Lakers banners during Clippers games, the message he was sending: this is our house also. Because it’s true, the Clippers share the Staples Center with the Lakers so what they want to do during their home games isn’t the Lakers business, and he wanted to send the Lakers that message.

    But the one thing that Rivers has done the most to help the Clippers is getting Blake Griffin to play basketball at a level that I didn’t think he would be able to reach.

    I have been very critical in my past pieces of Blake Griffin. I didn’t think he was anything more than an And 1 player that made it to the highest stage. Once Chris Paul went down with a shoulder injury earlier this season and would miss six weeks recovering, I was sure the Clippers were doomed…I couldn’t have been more wrong.

    Blake Griffin took advantage of the opportunity of leading this team in CP3’s absence and shined. He was scoring 25 points and 12 rebounds per game while Paul was out and he was carrying the team in the incredibly tough Western Conference.

    He made a believer out of me and Doc Rivers made him believe he was as good as advertised. 

    Once Paul returned it was like clockwork and they’ve continued on their winning ways. But Doc wasn’t done there, looking at the roster he felt he needed more, more punch, more strength, more girth, so he went out and got an NBA champion and one of his former players, Glen “Big Baby” Davis. 

    Davis was part of the sinking ship that is the Orlando Magic, but he was averaging good numbers at 13 points and 6 assists a game.

    As much as the league has become a guard driven Association, big men in the playoffs that can rebound and play defense are still vital.

    Davis can come off the bench and give the second unit a boost, and he knows Doc’s system and he wants to win another ring. It was a win-win for both sides. 

    The Clippers also signed Danny Granger for the rest of the season and that might be the ultimate game changer.

    The Granger signing is brilliant because there is nothing better than a pissed off NBA veteran with a chip on his shoulder and a point to prove.

    Everyone knows Granger is upset that the Pacers traded him in the season he had the best chance of winning a championship. He had a list of contenders that wanted his services including the OKC Thunder, the Miami Heat and the San Antonio Spurs, but Doc and Clippers won out.

    If Doc Rivers is able to get him fired up over what happened in Indiana, then Doc might have just hit the bench player lotto getting Granger and Davis so close to playoff time.

    In just a matter of 3 years the Clippers went from an NBA joke to an actual contender every season.

    Part of it has to be attributed to the caliber of players they were able to acquire and the next part of it was getting the right man to help lead them to the promised land.

    Doc Rivers has been an NBA Champion before, so he knows what it takes to get there, and only time will tell if he has the magic touch everywhere he goes.

    If he does, then the balance of power will shift dramatically in LA for the time being. Look on the bright side Laker fans, you still have 36-year-old Kobe Bryant…at 48 million dollars…for two more years. Fun. 

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