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The Clippers?!?

May 10th, 2015 · No Comments · Abu Dhabi, Basketball, Clippers, Lakers, NBA

When we left Southern California for Abu Dhabi, in October of 2009, the Los Angeles Clippers sucked.

They had always sucked. They would always suck. It was in the stars.

They were poorly run, under slum lord Donald Sterling, and unlucky as well, as the injury to their top draft pick of 2009, Blake Griffin, demonstrated.

Griffin suffered a broken bone in his leg in the final preseason game, and missed the whole of the 2009-2010 season — as the Lakers won another NBA championship. Of course. The Clippers? They went 29-53.

So, here we are, nearly six full seasons later, and the Clippers, the longest-running joke in North American sports, are one victory away from defeating the Houston Rockets and advancing to the Western Conference finals — for the first time.

On the other side of the world, we still have trouble wrapping our minds around this.

Wha’ happened?

Pretty much what happens to other teams who find themselves to be contenders. They have lucked or schemed their way into having three elite players.

While Griffin was out, in 2009-10, a second-round pick from 2008, center DeAndre Jordan, got another year of experience and began to look more like a player than a project.

Griffin finally made his NBA debut in 2010-11 and immediately was a star, averaging 22 points and 12 rebounds a game. He was so explosive around the hoop that people began watching the Clippers. Just to see him. They went 32-50, but there was a sense they may have turned a corner.

The final major piece came in December of 2011.

The New Orleans Hornets decided they should trade guard Chris Paul, one of the top point guards in the game but a pending free agent who wanted out of New Orleans, for lots of pieces.

The Lakers made a perfectly good deal that would have brought them Paul for, basically, Pau Gasol. In a decision that has yet to be really explained, commissioner David Stern voided the deal in the interest of the league, or some such nonsense.

The Hornets tried again, and they sent Paul to the Clippers four days later for a bag of magic beans. (OK, Eric Gordon, Chris Kaman and a first-round draft pick.)

With Paul getting the ball inside to Griffin and Jordan, the Clippers became “Lob City”. Known for spectacular play, if not quite great team play, under the often confused coach Vinny Del Negro.

And now, now that they have a real coach, in Doc Rivers, they are an elite team.

They knocked out the defending champion San Antonio Spurs in a marvelous, seven-game first-round series, and they have a 3-1 lead over the Rockets after a 128-95 rout today, with Jordan punking Dwight Howard.

The Clippers have two acceptable starters in J.J. Redick, a three-point specialist and fine defensive player, and Matt Barnes. Jamal Crawford and Austin Rivers provide spark off the bench, and there you go.

The Clippers, NBA title contender.

Still hard to grasp, for someone who has been half a world away from their climb to competence, not seeing it build up, incrementally.

I wake up, look at the NBA scores, see the Clippers up 3-1 over the Rockets and say, again:

The Clippers?!?


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