Trio of Clippers tower over Staples Center
On just about the entire exterior wall of the Figueroa Hotel in downtown Los Angeles, there is a mural of Blake Griffin next to Chris Paul next to DeAndre Jordan.
It looms as a huge backdrop near Staples Center, three Clippers in the town that the Lakers have ruled as the preeminent sports team in Southern California for years.
Are the Clippers ready to run with the Lakers in L.A.?
The Clipper Nation will get a first look in person when the Clippers play their regular-season home opener against the Chicago Bulls on Friday night at Staples Center.
But before the fans enter the arena, they can look to the north and see the pictures of the three young players in Clippers uniforms.
“Man, it’s an honor. It’s an honor and a privilege,” Paul said. “I haven’t seen it, but it’s very humbling.”
Paul has been in L.A. less than a month — having been acquired from the New Orleans Hornets in the most celebrated trade in Clippers history — and yet he has been embraced by the city already.
“I really didn’t know what to expect,” Paul said. “But I’d love to see it. My parents actually get here [Thursday]. I’m sure my mom will love to see it.
“But at the end of the day, we play basketball, and that’s what we’ve got to get back to doing and just hooping and worrying about that. Everybody here has one thing in mind and that’s to win.”
The Clippers won their regular-season opener, a 19-point victory over the Golden State Warriors on Christmas. But they lost their second game, a 25-point thrashing handed to them by the San Antonio Spurs on Wednesday night.
“There is only a level of excitement if we play a lot better,” Clippers Coach Vinny Del Negro said. “And we’re going to need to.”
Griffin remains the face of the franchise, but he has plenty of help now.
Besides Paul, the other newcomers are Chauncey Billups and Caron Butler.
The expectations for the Clippers — with Mo Williams going to the bench after starting last season, with an improved Jordan, and with reserves Randy Foye, Ryan Gomes and Brian Cook — are higher than ever from the media and fans.
“I don’t know what your expectations are for us,” Paul said. “We only know what our expectations are for ourselves. That’s all that matters, to tell you the truth — no offense to anybody. Those guys in that locker room and the guys that are in practice day in and day out, that’s what matters.”
And what are their expectations?
“Just to continue to get better every day,” Paul said. “Last night [in San Antonio] was hopefully a learning experience for us. We haven’t been together as long as we’d like to, but like we said in preseason, we want to learn how to play with one another and win at the same time. Last night, that was not the case.
“We’ve had one home preseason game and opened up with two road games. It’s good to come back and play in front of our home crowd for the first time.”
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