Clippers shed bumbling label by landing Chris Paul
All right, NBA. What have you done with Donald Sterling?
As Los Angeles sports fans, we have a right to the security and comfort of the known. Death, taxes and Clippers incompetence are the axioms by which we live. Pretty soon, somebody will tell us that the Angels have Albert Pujols and the Dodgers’ most important player is a hard-hitting bankruptcy judge.
Nah, couldn’t happen.
The Clippers have completed a deal that brings Chris Paul into their backcourt. This guy isn’t just a point guard. He is point perfect. The position was invented for him. There was some guy named Cousy and now CP3.
Even his nickname is cool. It sounds like something out of “Star Wars,” and the Clippers’ action this season might be just as colorful.
It cannot be overstated what a huge moment this is for the Clippers. It’s not that they have never had highlights. This is the team that once drafted Benoit Benjamin, who soon reacted to booing from the stands with the ever-memorable, “I don’t give a [bleep] about the fans.”
Then there was the Danny Manning contract that included a little-known clause that demanded extra-ply toilet paper because the stuff at the Sports Arena wasn’t soft enough.
Until now, this was a Clippers team with one superman who could leap tall buildings in a single bound — OK, mid-sized cars. But after Blake Griffin, there were lots of question marks.
Now, even with steady-but-unspectacular Chris Kaman gone at center and superb shooter Eric Gordon gone at guard as part of the trade, the Clippers look tremendous. Yes, we’ll say it. Almost better than the Lakers.
Has that line ever been typed before?
Things shape up with four-time NBA All-Star Paul and his career averages of 18.7 points and 9.9 assists running the team from the point. Then, there will be veteran Chauncey Billups at off-guard, and anybody who has watched his career knows that he knows how to play and win. For years, he and Richard Hamilton drove opposing defenses crazy with their ball movement and shooting, while keeping the Detroit Pistons among the NBA elite.
Then there is DeAndre Jordan in the middle, a huge talent just growing into his limbs, and Caron Butler, a very good player and an on-any-given-night big scorer.
Oh, yes, there’s that Griffin kid. He has only begun to show fans and the rest of the league how super a star he can become.
Ponder this: Paul averaged 9.8 assists last season, meaning he is an efficient and a spectacular passer. Griffin’s athletic dunks already have the TV guys who do the highlight shows wide-eyed. Do you think we will hear the term alley-oop much?
To finish the comparison, the Lakers have an unhappy Kobe, a less-than-thrilled-over-being-trade-bait Pau Gasol and a still-young center named Andrew Bynum who excelled in sulking and tearing his shirt off last season when the going got tough.
Yes, it is always dangerous to sell Jerry Buss and the Lakers short. This has been their town as long as we can remember, certainly since shortly after Peter O’Malley sold the Dodgers. And yes, there is the Dwight Howard carrot still dangling out there.
But with one great stroke of his pen on a deal for Paul, Sterling might have painted an NBA Picasso. Maybe after all these years, it was just the law of averages. Who cares? It has happened.
Think what this could mean? With the expected success, other great players are going to want to come to Los Angeles, to play at Staples Center …for the Clippers!
Every Clippers game should be a sellout. There could be fan frenzy in Southern California. In the spring, as baseball heats up and it is NBA playoff time, Orange County fans will drive north for the Clippers and L.A. fans will drive south for the Angels. The 5 Freeway will become a daily parking lot. Well, that part won’t change.
The Clippers will play the Lakers in an exhibition game Monday night at Staples. Then they do it again Wednesday. Seldom has there been such interest. These games shouldn’t mean anything, but in the current set of circumstances, they will mean everything.
The sights of the nights could be incredible. Strap the children into their seats. Kobe, who plays second fiddle about as comfortably as Bob Knight sat in his coaching chair, may be interested in sending a message or two. Paul and Griffin will be itching to show well.
Clippers broadcaster Ralph Lawler, after so many decades of entertaining us through defeat and embarrassment, may struggle for a while. Phrases such as: “The Clippers take a five-game winning streak into tonight’s game” will not roll easily off his tongue.
All this because a guy who sat at center court, game after game, year after year, decade after decade, watching his underpaid players underperform, appears to have finally gotten it right.
Who are you again? Donald who?
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