It’s rough being a Clippers fan.
I mean, lets start with the obvious, they are based out of Los Angeles. Home to the franchise with the second most NBA Championships ever. As if that wasn’t bad enough they share the same home court as the aforementioned former champs. To say the Clippers live in the Lakers shadow is like saying the sun is bright.
While the past is a clear win for the Lakers, the recent past belongs to the Clippers. They are the better team and have been for years. The Lakers haven’t won a season series against the Clippers since the 2011-12 season. In fact, their record against the Clips since the 2012-13 season is a dismal 2-19. Obviously Los Angeles is now a Clipper town, right?
Actually, not even close. Lakers fan are a committed bunch. To the Clippers credit, as a franchise they don’t seem to care. Los Angeles is very much a show-me city (apologies to Missouri) in that they love a winner. The Clippers are concerned only with improving and winning. In so doing, they have started to chip away at the fan base and actually have claimed a few real fans of their own.
This is no small feat. I started covering the Clippers before they drafted Blake Griffin and I watched their games long before that. Back then the Lakers flags were flying – literally. Fans here would buy and proudly fly Lakers flags on their cars. In general, Lakers gear was everywhere. Clippers gear was non-existent. I am not exaggerating, you couldn’t find it. Anywhere.
Today, in addition to having real fans with real gear available in real stores the Clippers are doing something even more important. They are erasing years, no decades of failure for a generation of fans. New or young fans of the NBA today think “winners” when they think of the Clippers. That, believe me, is amazing and a real win for the franchise.
Yet, they seem an after thought as we enter the 2017-18 season. This is due in part to the fact that everyone is handing the Championship to the Warriors. Sigh. But also because of the buzz around the Lakers new point guard. We are as guilty of buying into the hype as any as we have dedicated a lot of space to the Lakers and Lonzo Ball in particular.
Did you see the Lonzo Ball-ometer yet? No, go look – its cool!
Well, despite all that, It’s time to shine a light on the 2017-18 Clippers. The truth is, they look really good. After CP3 left town things were bleak and sure, it’s still early, but so far, so good. They are 3-0 and currently coming in 3rd in our amazing, non-biased, STEM inspired rankings for the Western Conference. They continue to play an entertaining brand of basketball even without the player dubbed the “point-god”. More important, they continue to win.
There are some constants. DeAndre Jordan looks as good as he has been over the last few years. Austin Rivers is, well, he is still on the team. The team is still led by Doc Rivers and Ralph Lawler is back behind the mic for his 39th season covering the team.
There is a familiar story but with a new face. Losing fan favorite and three time sixth man of the year award winner Jamal Crawford was a bummer. Replacing him with Lou Williams who has a sixth-man award in his back pocket and potential to win more, is a win for the franchise.
Finally, there are some new faces with skill-sets we haven’t seen play for this franchise in some time. In Danilo Gallinari they have the small forward they have craved for years. Additionally, Gallinari offsets, in part, the loss of three 90% free throw shooters (CP3, Crawford and J.J. Redick). In Milos Teodosic the team has a pass-first point guard with “Wow” factor. Finally, the new starting point guard gives the team something they haven’t had since Matt Barnes, an edge.
The difference between Matt Barnes and Patrick Beverly is that Beverly will start and be counted on for big minutes.
In fact, Beverly looks to be better than advertised. In Houston he was known as a tough defender who couldn’t shoot. His numbers with the Rockets were good, but uninspiring. With the Clippers that same defensive toughness is on display and so is his shooting which is actually not bad. The difference now is that he is shooting more. That may change as the season progresses, but for now he is averaging 11 field goal attempts after averaging eight last season.
That’s where things get interesting. Did you know that Beverly was a good shooter? I admit I didn’t. Last season he shot 42% from the field and 38% from three point range. That’s just a tick under the league average for FG% and above average from distance. This guy needs to shoot more.
With the Clippers, he has been.
Of course, there are other players and we will no doubt cover them all as the season transpires. These are the ones making an early impact on a very good team.
Wait, did I miss someone? Hmm, let me check the roster again. Oh ya, Blake Griffin is better than ever.
When word started to leak that he was dating someone in the Kardashian universe, I shuttered. Has that worked out well for any NBA player or team? It’s one thing to obliterate any mention of the “Clipper Curse” which was a constant mumble associated to the franchise before Griffin, but it’s another altogether to take on the Kardashians! Not only has Griffin fought and won the battle against the “Clipper Curse”, so far he seems to be not only keeping up with, but winning when it comes to his association with the reality TV family.
On the court his numbers are good, 26 ppg and 9 rpg, but that’s expected from the five time all-star. More telling is his improvement from long distance and the free throw line. His shot, which looked forced at times over his career to date, looks smooth. He is shooting like a shooter, not like someone more comfortable dunking.
Oh, he is dunking too!
This is the player, the complete player, we all assumed Griffin could be. Again, no small feat to reach your potential. The Association has a long history of players with potential and not much else. Now, we just have to hope for a full, injury free season and post season for Griffin.
The NBA season is long, probably too long. Three games into a schedule with 82 of them means very little. Of course, you would rather be winning than losing. So far, the Clippers are winning and looking good doing it.