NBA Preview - Los Angeles Clippers
Funny how things work out. It was last December where we all thought Chris Paul was on his way to the Lakers. The deal was agreed upon in principle and just needed league approval. David Stern, however, in a very unorthodox move, decided to veto the trade after several other owners spoke out against it. Shortly thereafter, Chris Paul was again traded to Los Angeles, but not the Lakers. The Clippers stepped up and brought in the superstar PG to help lead their young and athletic team to brand new heights. CP3 became the first Clipper to be named to the All NBA' First Team in nearly three decades as the Clippers made it to the second round of the playoffs.
Lob City is looking to improve from last season as it’s another year of Chris Paul running the point for them. There isn’t a better point guard in the NBA than Chris Paul. With both the Hornets and Clippers he has gotten the very best out of his teammates. He plays smart, doesn’t turn the ball over and can contribute with some buckets when he has to. He’s the epitome of a leader on the floor and the very definition of a point guard. This team is a playoff lock simply because Chris Paul is on the roster.
That’s not to say the rest of the roster is mediocre - quite the contrary. Blake Griffin is one of the most exciting players in the Association and his dunks and alley-oops are must-see television. There’s a reason the Clippers are on national broadcast so often. They play an up-tempo offense that is a joy for all basketball fans to watch. You know Blake Griffin is going to have at least one highlight reel dunk that will lead off SportsCenter. He’s one of the few guys who has hops and athleticism so freaky that he’s become a superstar player without forming much of an offensive game outside of the dunks.
Another player greatly benefiting from the addition of Chris Paul is the team’s C DeAndre Jordan. He and Blake Griffin have given a massive amount of credibility to the Lob City nickname bestowed upon the Clippers. He’ll be at the top of the NBA’s rankings for most dunks as he rarely ever leaves the painted area. God knows there are plenty of big men who like to drift away and fool the defense with an unexpected jumper. Jordan is a guy who keeps it simple. He knows his home is in the paint on both the offensive and defensive ends.
There are some returning friends for the Clippers coming off the bench this season with some new faces as well. Chauncey Billups is attempting to return from a torn Achilles which at his age, could be a very tall task. He was invaluable for this team last year as a backup for Paul. The Clippers started out 19-9 with him playing. Caron Butler had a resurgence a season ago for the Clippers after coming off an injury riddled 2010-11 season. The former NBA Champion can be a pivotal part of the Clippers going forward.
The new guys on this team will make for some interesting stories, that’s for sure. Lamar Odom is back in L.A., this time with the Clippers after an embarrassing year in Dallas. Odom seemingly gave up while playing for the Mavericks and lost my respect. He’s shown up to training camp for the Clippers terribly out of shape and my expectations for this former Sixth Man of the Year are at an all time low. I don’t actively root against any NBA team or player – they all have earned their spot in the league, but I don’t care to see Lamar Odom succeed anymore. He’s a bum. Matt Barnes is another newcomer on this roster with a suspect attitude. The personalities on this team could certainly clash at some point, God knows the head coach Vinny Del Negro isn’t going to do anything to stop it. He’s one of the worst coaches in the league and gets by on the fact that his roster is so talented.
Now that I’m done talking about the players that make me cringe on and off the court, I’ll take one moment to sing the praises of one of the most respected players in the NBA. Grant Hill is still playing and will begin a new chapter of his career here for the Clippers. This former explosive superstar has battled through a copious amount of injuries and has established himself as a more than formidable player. His leadership is unmatched and he can still nail a midrange jumper when need be. You have to assume his career was extended a few years by playing with Steve Nash in Phoenix and we could have a similar scenario here in Los Angeles as he teams up with Chris Paul.
This is not a championship team. It’s a fun and entertaining squad that people might choose as a sexy pick, but it’s just not a group of players who can play disciplined long enough to reach the pinnacle. There’s so much depth, which is a huge advantage for them, but there’s also only one ball. Jamal Crawford coming off the bench may spark a victory or two, but his habit of chucking up shot after shot is going to hinder them as well. They’re part of the LONG list of second tier teams in the West. There’s the Thunder, Lakers and Spurs and then everyone else. The Clippers will finish with a high seed in the playoffs and probably reach the second round again, but that’s where it ends.
Season Outlook: A highly entertaining season is in store for Clipper fans, but it gets halted in the second round for the second straight year. The Clippers will be a fun team to watch as you marvel at the high flying dunks but then realize they're still down by 10 points against a good team. This team won’t compete for a championship until Vinny Del Negro is let go and management will realize this come season’s end. A new coach will be leading the way a year from now.
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