The Western Conference might be flush with only one thing more than good teams:
Teams that dislike the Clippers.
Golden State and the Clippers probably don’t have a prayer of getting along considering they once refused to attend pregame chapel together.
Memphis and Oklahoma City have developed disdain for the Clippers as a result of physical playoff series that involved nearly as many elbows as points.
Into the caldron of contempt add the Sacramento Kings, who declined to mask their loathing after a season-opening loss to the Clippers on their home court.
“I hate ‘em,” Kings center DeMarcus Cousins said Wednesday. “Honestly I do. I hate ‘em.”
The Clippers’ recent regular-season success is at least partially responsible for making them so unpopular among their peers. They have won Pacific Division titles in two of the last three seasons while regularly beating up on the likes of the Kings, whom they had defeated in 17 of the last 20 meetings before Saturday.
“I don’t think he hates us as people,” Clippers forward Lance Stephenson said earlier in the day when asked about Cousins’ comments. “He just hates the team and hates losing to us.”
Late in the second quarter Saturday, Cousins wrapped up Blake Griffin on a drive to the basket but held him in an apparent attempt to keep Griffin from falling as he stumbled backward on top of Cousins, who even gave him a good-natured pat on the chest.
Kings Coach George Karl backed his All-Star center’s less friendly sentiment toward the Clippers before the game.
“I like passion,” Karl said. “I like anything that keeps you having the edge of competition. I think it’s important. People don’t understand that competitive mentality is a talent in this league. Everybody says it’s an attitude — it’s a talent.”
There was certainly not much friendly banter earlier in the day when Karl and Clippers counterpart Doc Rivers rode on the same plane back from the funeral of longtime NBA coach Flip Saunders.
The coaches agreed not to watch game footage of each other’s team while working on their scouting reports. That became more difficult when Dallas Mavericks Coach Rick Carlisle, also a passenger on the plane, started watching film of the Kings playing the Lakers, his team’s next opponent.
“It was pretty interesting,” Karl said of the scene on the plane. “It might have never happened before in the NBA and it will probably never happen again.”
Some dislike of teams is to be expected among players trying to beat each other. Clippers forward Josh Smith said Kings point guard Rajon Rondo is one of his best friends when they’re not playing each other. Otherwise, well . . .
“When I’m on the court with him,” Smith said, “I don’t like him. ... I feel like an opponent is not supposed to like another opponent, so I think we should come out and keep giving them reasons not to like us.”
Stephenson, who spent his first five NBA seasons with the Indiana Pacers and Charlotte Hornets, said the Clippers weren’t widely disliked in the Eastern Conference. He’s noticed a difference among the teams the Clippers play most.
“Now that I’m in the West,” Stephenson said, “it seems a little different.”