PLAYA VISTA, CA – SEPTEMBER 25: poses for a portrait during media day at the Los Angeles Clippers Training Center on September 25, 2015 in Playa Vista, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2015 NBAE (Photo by Michael Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images) Photo courtesy of brojackson.com
LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS – 2014-15 AT A GLANCE
Record: 56-26, second place in the NBA’s Pacific Division (11 games behind the Golden State Warriors), tied for second best record in the Western Conference with the Houston Rockets
* Beat the San Antonio Spurs in the Western Conference Quarterfinals, four games to three
* Lost to the Rockets in the Western Conference Semifinals, four games to three
(Note – ppg: points per game, rpg: rebounds per game, apg: assists per game)
Blake Griffin, F – 21.9 ppg (led team), 7.6 rpg
Chris Paul, PG – 19.1 apg, 10.6 apg (led team)
DeAndre Jordan, C – 11,5 ppg, 15 rpg (led league), 71% field goal percentage (led league)
I remember quite well a time when these Clippers were not only the perennial joke of the National Basketball Association, playing in an old, decrepit, dump of a Sports Arena,
Complete with an owner who was notorious for his stinginess and unwillingness to do what was necessary to improve his team (read: spend money to get and keep quality players) even before he made those racist comments and was subsequently expelled from the league,
They were chosen by Sports Illustrated as the worst franchise in North American professional sports.
I think it’s extremely safe to say that times have changed, which is certainly an understatement considering that before the 2011-12 season, as they start their 33rd year in Los Angeles after moving from San Diego in 1984,
The Clippers had made the post season just four times, and finished at .500 or better thrice.
Los Angeles Clippers: The Top Ten Plays of the 2014-15 Season
I can recall a joke my college history professor made when in the punch line he said,
“The boy said (after he stated that he didn’t want to live with his mom or dad because they both beat him), ‘I want to live with the Clippers – they don’t beat anybody!’ “
Today – especially after coach Doc Rivers, Chris Paul and Blake Griffin went to Dallas this summer to convince DeAndre Jordan to resign with them after the center had agreed to sign with the Dallas Mavericks – Clipper Nation can not only rejoice over the fact that Los Angeles and Southern California now belongs to them after having been a Lakers domain for so long (they even have the edge in the broadcast booth as Ralph Lawler begins his 32nd consecutive year at the microphone),
They can be excited over the fact that for the past four seasons, their team has been among the top teams in the West and have been on a short list of contenders for the NBA Finals.
Which largely thanks to Jordan returning to Staples Center will not change this year, though in order to get to the Promised Land they still must find a way to leap-frog several teams, including the Rockets, the Spurs, the Oklahoma City Thunder, and a team in their division that happened to win the championship for the first time in 40 years: the Golden State Warriors.
In fact, being that those Warriors and Clippers have been engaged in an intense rivalry for the past few seasons, which promises to drastically increase in its intensity this season, those are four games – two at Staples Center, two at Oakland’s Oracle Arena – that I would very much like to see.
The league’s schedule-makers apparently don’t want to waste any time in the renewal of this NorCal-SoCal rivalry either, as two of the four games scheduled between those two clubs are in November, with the first contest a week from this Wednesday on November 4th.
And of course I can’t write a piece on the Clippers without mentioning the new uniforms that made their debut this preseason.
I had posted an article about them this past spring, stating that while I liked the home whites (shown below) and alternate blues, I wasn’t too keen about the red and black jerseys.
Blake Griffin putting the Clippers’ new threads to good use. Photo courtesy of spin.ph
Suffice it to say that opinion hasn’t changed. However…
It ultimately doesn’t matter what the team’s gear – which will make their regular season debut this Wednesday when they open the season in Sacramento against the Kings – looks like as at the end of the day…
If these Clippers win the Western Conference and reach their first Finals, no one will care.
Meanwhile, here’s how I see the Clippers’ fate in 2015-2016:
It will be similar to the past three years in that they will again be strong contenders in the West, with the Pacific Division being an absolute dogfight between them and the Warriors.
As for whether or not they will go beyond the conference semis, sure. They have a very good shot of doing so.
It will not only depend on stars like Paul, Griffin, and Jordan as well as players such as guard J.J. Redick and veteran Paul Pierce – who has come home to L.A. after a stellar NBA career, mostly with the Boston Celtics – staying healthy and producing,
It will particularly depend on whether or not the stars align and this red, white and blue squad can produce where it counts most:
In the playoffs.
Chris Paul (#3) dribble-driving against Golden State during a recent preseason game at Staples Center. Photo courtesy of isportsweb.com
COMING ON WEDNESDAY: Our look at the Los Angeles Lakers and what has happened to that longtime elite basketball franchise and SoCal institution, so don’t miss it!