Don’t ‘Clipper’ this up

Chris Paul and Blake Griffin looking ahead. Photo from Slam online

Chris Paul and Blake Griffin looking ahead. Photo from Slam online

By Leandre C. Ochoa

April 27, 2016

Tonight, the Los Angeles Clippers will continue their series against the Portland Trailblazers in Game 5 of their first-round playoff matchup. This pivotal game 5 will take place at Staples Center in Los Angeles in the wake of what most people may argue was the worst day in Clippers history.

Today, Clipper fans, is your opportunity. It’s been 46 years since your beloved franchise’s inception, first beginning as a Buffalo Braves – 38 years since moving to San Diego and changed names to the Clippers – and now 32 years since moving to Los Angeles as the at-the-time, Lakers little brother, dubbed LA’s “other” basketball team. It is time to rise up, seize the moment, and take what has been given to you.

No. Chris Paul isn’t miraculously coming back to play in tonight’s Game 5. Two days prior, during Game 4, Paul suffered a fractured metacarpal bone in his right hand during the 3rd quarter while guarding Gerald Henderson.

Even the ever-so competitive, feisty competitor that IS Chris Paul will not be able to muster up the strength to play. That road was cut off after his Tuesday morning surgery on his fractured hand.
No. Blake Griffin isn’t going to come back to play tonight either. Moments after Paul broke his hand, Griffin suffered his own injury.

After re-aggravating a left quadriceps injury that was first aggravated in a Christmas Day victory over the Lakers back in December, Griffin’s decision to be ruled out for the rest of the playoffs came shortly after, and was probably predicated by Paul’s season ending injury.

All you Clipper fans at Clipper Nation, Lob City, or whatever you call yourselves these days might be feeling down in the dumps. Waking up yesterday morning to hear your two best players, and arguably 2 of the top 10 desired players in the league, are no longer at your service during the most crucial time of the year. The ultimate nightmare as a Clipper-Head living in Lob Town.

Some may argue that the news of CP3 and Blake Griffin being injured for the rest of these years’ playoffs was the worst thing that’s ever happened to the Clippers. That’s an astonishing fact considering the history of the Clippers’ organization. Throughout the years of playing second fiddle to the Lakers, the Clippers have had their fair share of mediocrity and shameful moments. From being a constant cellar-dwelling member of the Pacific Division to their substandard basketball decisions, to their former slumlord owner Donald Sterling, the similarities of the Clippers and that crusty part of your bathtub were uncanny.

The Clippers struggled mightily during the late 80’s due to injuries to key players and unmotivated attitude, which included a Clipper team that went 12-70 in 1987. Between 1989 -1994, the Clippers were able to develop into a playoff contender with players like Danny Manning, Loy Vaught and Ron Harper running the show. Those teams made the playoffs twice, but ultimately losing to the Jazz and Rockets respectively. In the 1998 NBA Draft, the Clippers brass took 7’0 Nigerian center, Michael Olowokandi, 1st overall, who was widely regarded as one the biggest draft busts in NBA history.

Clipper household names such as “Pooh” Richardson, Erik Piatkowski, Darius Miles, became that of Clipper lore (or un-lore depending how you look at it), which contributed to what felt like a shuffling of mediocre talent that has rouletted its way into Clipper history.

More positive moments for the team during the late 90’s and into the 2000s were the Elton Brand and Sam Cassell led teams that developed into what was their most recent success prior to the Blake Griffin/CP3 era. In 2005-06 the Clippers won their first playoff series since they moved from Buffalo. A time when Bob McAdoo donned the Brave’s jersey in the 70’s. More than 40 years ago. That’s a while since their last playoff victory, let alone series clincher. Although there was some success between the late 90’s to the early 00s, the Clippers always seemed to gravitate toward a losing culture. From Lamond Murray to Lamar Odom, and from Corey Maggette to Ralph Lawler, these names hold a special place for Klipper-Kingdom. That is until the ultimate rebuilding phase of the Clippers began.

The drafting of Blake Griffin in 2009, acquiring Chris Paul in 2011, and hiring Doc Rivers as their head coach were main bullet points of the Clippers positive overhaul. The addition of draft pick Deandre Jordan solidified their frontcourt, and labeled the Clippers as not only playoff contenders, but as a team that can finally make it out of the 2nd round and into the Western Conference Finals.

Coinciding with the fall of Donald Sterling in 2014 and the hiring of Steve Ballmer, Blob City seemed to finally be considered a championship contender. Or so they thought.

Although having 4 straight 50-win seasons and an above average win percentage, the Clippers still managed to underachieve. Even with the core of Jordan, Paul, Griffin, and Doc at the helm, the Clippers have never made it out of the 2nd round of the playoffs. Last year saw the Clippers with their best chance at making it to the Western Conference Finals, by beating perennial championship contender the San Antonio Spurs in 7 games, and then by going up 3 – 1 in their series with the Houston Rockets in the 2nd round.

The Clippers ended up losing Game 5 in Houston, but in game 6, at home, blew a 19-point lead to lose the game, and then lose in an uncompetitive Game 7 on the road. The wavering moments of that series, particularly in the 3rd quarter of Game 6 saw the Clippers seemingly cruising into the Western Conference Finals.

On Sunday, the news of Stephen Curry’s injury to his knee was revealed to be a mild sprain and to be sidelined for at least 2 weeks. Although many would relish in a Curry-led Warriors team verses a CP3-led Clippers squad in the 2nd round, Clipper Nation definitely saw Curry’s injury as a door swinging open to the Western Conference Finals just a smidge more, finally catching a break.

Coincidentally, the injuries sustained to both Paul and Griffin the following day saw that door slamming shut. With the season looming to end earlier than expected, the fate of the Clippers is much to be discussed after these playoffs. It’s hard to stomach for Clipper fans, but that may have been the last time Chris Paul put on a Clipper jersey.

chris paul blake griffin

I couldn’t help but feel sorry for the Clipper Belibers. Going through years and years of turmoil then flirting with having a championship contender, to being at the cusp Western Conference Finals and then blowing it, and then having to tell yourselves that the greatest of teams have to grow through the worst of moments to reach the pinnacle of the association.

I proceeded to listen in the local hip-hop radio station in Los Angeles and listened in on their sports segment as they discussed some details of Game 5. One of the radio jockeys claimed that it wasn’t even worth it to watch because Chris Paul and Blake Griffin were out, and they had no chance to win. On top of listening in on that, I’ve seen it on many news outlets, and social media in particular saying that these next few games are going to be the end of the Clippers as we know it.

Listen, I know the views and remarks said by 1 or 2 people don’t reflect the entire Clipper fan base, but tonight is a perfect night for the Clipper allegiance to stand strong. I know the Clipper fan base is real, just don’t let the dumb portion of your fan base make a bad name for yourselves.

As the biggest Lakers apologist, I think what contributed to rubbing the Lakers fan base wrong was the fact that Clipper fans were coming out of the woodworks to claim superiority over the Lakers as the number one team in Los Angeles and the premier basketball team in the Staples Center. The biggest factor to the Lakers/Clipper beef is that the Clippers have truly been the better team within the past few years, something most Lakers fans will not admit. That and of course the covering of the Lakers banners for Clipper home games is just another reason for the hate. Every year at the beginning of training camp, Clipper fans have proclaimed that this is “the year” or that it’s their time, or that the Staples Center is their arena, especially now since the last remnants of the past 2 decades of Laker dominance has ended with Kobe Bryant’s retirement.

Even though the task at hand seems rough without your leaders, any Doc Rivers squad can overcome obstacles to muster out 2 more wins against Portland, and who knows what can happen further on.

Yes, Chris Paul and Blake Griffin not being able to play lessens your chance at competing for a championship, but as any proud Bulls, Celtics, or Lakers apologists would say is to stick with your team through thick and thin. As a fan base, don’t “Clipper” this up by turning your back against the remaining players on your roster for tonight’s game 5, as Sterling clipped up his tenure as owner. Don’t clipper this up the way Donald Sterling clipped former Clipper General Manager Elgin Baylor. Don’t clipper this up like how they botched the idea of Chuck the Condor. Don’t clipper this up like the Clippers did last year against the Rockets. Don’t clipper this up like they did with rebranding their logo and uniforms. Don’t clipper this moment like how the Clipper organization usually gets things wrong. Take this moment and watch the team who you proclaimed was their year. The team that spawned the thousands of self-proclaimed die hard Clipper fans. A team that banished their previous slumlord of an owner. A team that covers up Laker banners and jerseys. The team that was supposed to go all the way. Don’t Clipper this up like how the Clippers clipped Clipper Darrell.

The “moment” I speak of is not to place hope on Jamal Crawford to raise his 6th man skills to superstar level, or for Paul Pierce to recapture his gritty Boston all-star years and sluggishly bruise his way to the basket at negative 2 miles-per-hour, chuck up planted 3 pointers, and regain his former self’s Celtic pride.

The moment I speak of is to sit in front of your TV at 7:00 pm, and root your ass off. The contents of this article may come way after the events of the first round. Whether this gets published during game 5 or after the fact, root nonetheless. Beg and plead and scream at your TV. Scream at the refs. Scream at every non-remorseful 3-point attempt Wesley Johnson shoots unguarded. Cringe gingerly as you watch J.J. Reddick, star of “J.J. Reddick Better Basketball” and “Better Basketball 2” instructional DVDs unequivocally runs around the perimeter, then proceeds to strangely attack the rack only to fall into the lap of Portland’s mascot, Blaze the Trail Cat. Listen in on Doc Rivers motivating his troops with his loudest, yet still inaudible rasp as he is wired for sound. Keeping your head up as your team fights on, as Paul Allen offers Steve Ballmer a slice of his Sizzle Pie he had droned-delivered from Oregon.

Who knows, maybe Deandre Jordan takes the reigns of the team, rallies his teammates and dominates the paint with dunk after dunk, going 14-20 at the free throw line. Maybe J-Crossover drops CJ McCollum to his feet, before bombing rainbow 3 pointer after 3 pointer. Maybe Paul Pierce DOES squeeze out another brilliant offensive performance from his arsenal.
Well, maybe not.

There isn’t enough strength left in those 38-year-old legs to perform such a feat. Even the sturdiest of wheelchairs found inside Staples Center wouldn’t be able to withstand another faux injury by Pierce, a feat he once carried out at the Boston Garden lightyears ago.
Moments that led up to Game 5 aren’t a reminder of the Clippers being the Clippers again, or about Ballmer sweating profusely through his dress shirt. Tonight may be the beginning of the end for this current Clipper team as constructed, but it is the most important night for the Clipper faithful. This is a moment for a current clipper die-hard fan to thrive, and a moment for a true clipper fan to be born. Live and die with your team.

Do not Michael Olowokandi this up.

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