The Clippers bandwagon is all right
There are times when I will talk about other things in the NBA besides the Boston Celtics. The Celtics continue to play great basketball and have had two great wins this week including a playoff-esque win over the Orlando Magic on Monday night and a hard-fought win over the Detroit Pistons on Wednesday on “Shaq turns back the clock” night during the fourth quarter. Despite all this, it’s seemingly nothing new for the Boston Celtics and their fans. While last year we got to bitch and moan about the lack of energy on a seemingly nightly basis, the Boston Celtics have been relatively boring this year. Their major stories are that Kevin Garnett is (for the most part) finally healthy, Paul Pierce is turning in one of his most efficient season’s, Ray Allen is shooting the shit out of the ball, and Rajon Rondo has taken “The Leap” into the top-5 point guards in the NBA with his sick passing. Where’s the fun in that night in and night out?
So today, I will mix it up for some NBA talk. I’ve spent Winter Break in Southern California which has two basketball teams. Everyone knows about the Los Angeles Lakers and my overall hatred of their players and their franchise. I’m a Celtics fan. It is in my blood. The other basketball team is the long-time whipping boy of the NBA the Los Angeles Clippers. When I turn on a basketball game after the Celtics finish up whichever opponent they are playing on the night, I don’t turn to the team with the second best record in the Western Conference in the hope that they lose the game. I have actually been turning on the Clippers and enjoying a basketball game. Crazy I know.
Before I left the West Coast to return to Fairfax, Virginia for school, I knew I had to see the Clippers live at least once. Four years ago that would have been one of the dumbest statements about NBA basketball. Who in their right mind would consider going to see the Clippers play unless they were a displaced fan in Southern California who wanted an easy ticket to see their team play? All of a sudden, however, the Clippers have become a very fun team to watch. Not only that, they are beating legitimate competition. In the past month they have beaten the Nuggets, the Miami Heat and even the Lakers. I knew the team had arrived in the city when the LA Sports Radio stations, most notably ESPN 710, were actually talking about the Clippers, even if the conversation was mostly how the Lakers could hijack Blake Griffin three years from now. So on Wednesday night, I traveled into downtown LA to the Staples Center (while still wearing a Boston Celtics t-shirt of course) to see the Clippers take on Kevin Love and the visiting Minnesota Timberwolves. After being in the crowd and seeing this team up close and in person, I feel I can officially say this (and probably give the kiss of death to this team’s season given my luck) about the Clippers. While I may not be joining it as I am a Celtics fan, I can fully endorse and understand the Los Angeles Clippers bandwagon.
There are five main reasons why I feel I can make this statement. In descending order:
5. Deandre Jordan – Hmm, an interesting one here, but Jordan has definitely grown into a solid basketball player and understands his role perfectly. With Chris Kaman sitting on the injured reserve, Jordan has been the starting center all season and he is a physical specimen. He has a great physically built body, a solid offensive and defensive post game, and can throw it down with the best of them. Sure, the kid can barely shoot the basketball (he air-balled a free throw last night) but you always get the sense that he can make a big block or big dunk at anytime when he is on the floor. Plus, he is a physically impressive body. Those type of players always have the potential to be exciting.
4. Baron Davis and the fountain of youth – When Baron Davis came to LA three years ago, he was “betrayed” when Elton Brand left the team after pledging to stay with the Clippers and forming something with Davis. Since then, Davis hasn’t been the same. He has mostly appeared slow and uninterested on a nightly basis unless the team they are playing is one of the top teams in the league. He has not come anywhere close to earning the contract he signed that off-season. He was even heckled by his own owner, Donald Sterling, earlier this season. Finally with an infusion of young talent to the team, Baron Davis finally looks like he is enjoying playing basketball again. He is quarterbacking the offense as well as he did with Golden State and is not forcing nearly as many shots as he has in the past few seasons and his field goal percentage has come up because of it. Sure, there are still times when you wish Baron would pass the ball a little bit more and there are times (such as last night) when he falls in love with his match-up a little too much. For the most part, however, Baron Davis finally looks like he is simply enjoying the game of basketball again and it is fun to watch.I mean, how can you NOT have fun when you’re throwing alley-oops to Deandre Jordan and Blake Griffin all day?
3. The Fans – It may not fill a house every night like the Lakers do, but I can appreciate the Clippers fans a thousand times more than the Lakers fans. The fans legitimately seem to care about the basketball on the court instead of the “Showtime” that is the Lakers. They show up on time, they watch the game instead of looking around to see who is in the crowd, they get excited at the right times and they enjoy watching the game of basketball. The real fans like my sister’s boyfriend who have put up with all the shit and the struggles over the years are finally getting a product that can give them hope and they appreciate it. For the most part, the people in attendance last night were basketball fans who actually care about where this team is going and are not attending the games because it is the “cool” thing to do. That is something I can definitely appreciate.
2. Eric Gordon – He will never be a super star, he probably can’t even be a second best-guy on a championship team, but Eric Gordon is a quality basketball player. First of all, he is a dead eye shooter. He is the type of guy that pisses defenses off because he runs around in circles coming off ten different screens and then gets open and drains the three. Every time he is open, it feels like the shot is going in. Eric Gordon can also create his own shot from the mid-range and also has a sneaky ability to get to the basket. Simply put, Gordon is a scorer and a damn good one at that. If the Clippers get one more piece (Carmelo Anthony?) then Gordon can most certainly be the third cog in a deep playoff run.
1. Blake Griffin – Honestly, what else can be said about Blake Griffin? He is a physical beast, the modern-day Shawn Kemp. Everytime he touches the ball, the arena gets excited expecting what could be a life changing event. Fast breaks with Griffin whether he has the ball or is on the wing has everyone in the arena reading to explode with jubilation over the next great Griffin dunk. He’s not just a dunker either. He has a solid post game, enough of one so that teams have to respect him before he blows by them. Griffin can also finish around the rim without the dunk. There was one play last night where Blake Griffin saw his match-up and his eyes lit up. Everyone KNEW a move was coming. He got the ball in the post, made a baseline spin move and finished with a BEAUTIFUL reverse lay-up. Everyone knew something was coming, but nobody could stop him.
But my favorite part about him is the way that he plays the game. Usually when a guy comes off knee surgery, they play tentative post surgery. Not Blake Griffin. He throws his body around like a football player to get to the basket for points or rebounds. He doesn’t care. Everytime he jumps, something spectacular could happen. Either he will make an amazing play or shatter into a million pieces and hopefully it’s the former. There is something refreshing about it. There was a play last night when Blake Griffin missed a lay-up and seemingly was out of position for the rebound. The ball bounces into the air and all of a sudden, a figure rises from the other side of the basket ready to throw the ball back into the basket. Off course it was Blake Griffin and it looked almost planned, like he was trying to throw an alley-oop TO HIMSELF.
Hopefully, Blake Griffin understands what he has building here. For Clippers fans everywhere, they need him to stay. They need him to convince other players to join him and become the Clippers team to dethrone the Lakers. Sure, the Clippers poor start will probably ruin any chance they had to make the playoffs, but night in and night out they will be competitive. If you watch the Clippers, you will most likely not come away disappointed. Hell, you might have fun watching a basketball game.
Now if you will excuse me, I have to go watch the Bruins. After the Bruins finish? I’m probably going to go watch the Clippers.