Lately I’ve been questioning reality. Everything is upside down. I keep pinching myself, but I can’t seem to wake up from this new world. A new world where the little brother kicks his big brother's ass. A new world where the bully gets the swirly. A new world where the nerd gets the pretty girl. A new world I don’t want to live in. A new world… excuse me but this is really hard to type… a new world where the Los Angeles Clippers are the best team in the Staples Center. The best team in Los Angeles. The best team in the NBA and far and away, the NBA’s most entertaining team to watch. Damn, that physically hurt to type.
|The Clips are winning and they're having fun doing it.|
A few weeks ago, I wrote about my unfaltering love for the LA Lakers and my belief that they could get it together. (As of December 26, 2012, the Lakers are now 14-14 but they’ve won five games in row, including victories over the Knicks and Warriors, two teams that have played pretty good so far this season. I won’t mention that the “streak” includes a victory over the Bobcats by one point and they needed a comeback to do that… at home.) In that same post I wrote the following: “The Lakers said all they had to say about winning the championship this year when they hired Mike D’Antoni. The Clippers are the Clippers so the Lakers stranglehold on LA is safe. (An all-time winning percentage of .363, 8 playoff berths in 40 years and one was with a LOSING RECORD, 30 years between playoff victories, zero titles and Donald Sterling as an owner insures that. Really I mean come on son! A couple of nice seasons ain’t fooling anyone. The Clipper logo makes me think losers the same way white and red on a soda can makes me think Coca-Cola. It’s branded loserness. (And yes, that is not a word!))” Now don’t get it twisted, I still believe 90% of what I wrote, but it'd be foolish not to recognize what the usually lowly Clippers are doing. They’ve won a league high, and franchise high, 14 straight games and they’re the owners of the NBA’s best record at 22-6.
|It's okay DeJuan Blair, this happens to everyone and a lot no less.|
At first glance, you’d think it’s all “Lob City”, high flying dunks and alley oops, but the Clippers are one of the, if not the NBA’s most, balanced and unselfish teams. The Clips are 4th in opponent points per game allowed, 9th in points scored per game, 2nd in team assists per game, 2nd in opponent field goal percentage and 1st in opponent turnovers per game. They’re playing championship level basketball on both ends of the court, they’re winning games and it’s not really close, as the Clippers also own the NBA’s best point per game differential at +9.7. (During the 14 game win streak, they’re allowing just 88.2 points per game, and the ppg differential is up to 15.4.) It’s very rare that a team can play defense THAT well and still be THIS fun to watch. (San Antonio Spurs, we’re looking at you. For the years of boring defensive basketball while not being fun to watch. Not boring to me because I like basketball, but for casual fans, you’ve basically been the basketball equivalent of watching paint dry.)
|Notice that this is the only place you'll see the words "Blake Griffin".|
The Clippers' real strength however, lies in their incredible depth. The Clippers lead the NBA in bench points per game at 43.8. They can literally, and legitimately, play 12 guys on their team. I’ve never seen anything like it to be honest. They’ve done a very impressive job of collecting talent and they’re making it work... so far. With all the guys they got, I just assumed they would have a complete and total lack of understanding on how to play them all. When you have a team full of guys that can play, they’re all going to want to play. But for all of their depth, there’s still one guy they’d be lost without, Chris Paul.
|Chris Paul has the Clips thinking title.|
Since Paul’s arrival to LA, the Clippers just feel different. (I love you Steve Nash, but Chris Paul should be a Laker right now. David Stern, you freaking suck.) Some guys are so good, so superiorly talented, they can just elevate and lift a team, no a franchise, to heights unseen. (Think Drew Brees in New Orleans. People seem to forget that the Saints were once the Clippers of the NFL.) Paul’s not a loser. He won’t let his team, or teammates, be losers and his "will to win" is only matched by a few guys in the NBA. Yes, Carmelo Anthony is playing at a very high-level but Chris Paul is the runaway MVP, in my eyes anyway. When you can make the Los Angeles Clippers good and make them a real contender for the NBA championship, you’re the MVP. Simple. He’s not having his best statistical season, but he’s still second in the NBA in assists per game and first in steals. He runs the Clipper offense with complete confidence and always puts everyone in the best position to succeed. Paul is one of five guys (Melo, Kevin Durant, LeBron James and Kobe Bryant are the others.) you always want to have the ball when the game’s on the line. Of those five, only Paul and James are capable of making the big pass as equally well as they are of making the big shot. If you have THAT guy on you’re team, you’re usually going to have a pretty good chance to win a lot of games.
The only real problem I see with the Clippers is their coach. Vinny Del Negro just doesn’t scream, “I’m a championship winning coach” to me. Early in the year and all of last year, he didn’t quite know how the handle the Clippers rotation. Although he’s got it figured out now, Chauncey Billups and Grant Hill are yet to return and I’ll be really interested in seeing how he works them into the team’s rotation. I’m not sure how, or when but I just feel like Del Negro is going to screw this up.
The Los Angeles Clippers are for real and they’re the only team in LA that has a real shot at winning the title right now. I’m not sure if you believe in it or not, but the devil must be freezing because hell has officially frozen over. I've just wrote a post about the LA Clippers being the best team in the NBA and I have them as slight favorites in the west. (I can safely say that, what I wrote above I mean, along with walking on the sun, getting back with my ex-wife and giving birth to a child myself was on a list of things I was 100% sure would/will never happen. At this rate, looks like anything is possible now.) In the end, the most shocking thing I heard about the Clippers came from Magic Johnson, the greatest Laker of all-time. “I’ve never thought I’d see Showtime again. I was the architect of Showtime and the Clippers are Showtime right now” Magic said. I really, really hate to admit this but he’s right and off that one, I need a drink. A really, really strong drink.
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