Culver City Observer -

By Mitch Chortkoff
Sports Editor 

Clippers Seem For Real (On Some Nights)


November 7, 2012

I’m impressed by the way the Clippers built their roster for this season. Recently, I was explaining to a friend that the Clippers could be a championship contender.

I made a strong case. I pointed out the Clippers have the best set of guards in the NBA with Chris Paul, Chancey Billups and reserves Eric Bledsoe, Jamal Crawford and Willie Green. I said Blake Griffin is close to becoming a superstar, Caron Butler is a pure marksman, DeAndre Jordan has improved, Ryan Hollins is a 7-foot backup center who started for the Boston Celtics last season and Lamar Odom, Matt Barnes, Grant Hill and Ronny Turiaf bolster the reserve corps. Finally, I pointed out the Clippers gained valuable playoff experience last season by winning a first round series from Memphis without having the home court advantage. So what could go wrong?

When I was finished, my friend made the strongest rebuttal possible.

“But they’re the Clippers,” he said.

Fair enough.

Throughout their history the Clippers have endured so many disappointments that it’s been suggested the franchise is cursed.

I don’t believe that, but it’s an easy explanation for Clipper events of the past.

But last season was different. Led by Paul and Griffin, the Clippers were one of the Western Conference’s best teams, and who knows how far they may have gone had Billups not gone out with a torn Achilles tendon.

Now the Clippers look even better, and when they beat the Lakers by 10 points last week it wasn’t shocking. The Lakers spent their money on five starters but the Clippers spread out the cost to create an exceptional roster.

But then a new week started and the Clippers lost home games to Golden State and Sacrament. That’s no disgrace, but if you’re trying to reach the top you can’t keep losing consecutive games to non-playoff teams on your home court.

Coach Vinny del Negro recognized the problem.

Without saying it in these words he observed that the Clippers were still celebrating their victory over the Lakers the next night when they fell 14 points behind the Warriors. Although the Clippers came back within a point they lost.

“When you get behind like that you use up a lot of energy just to get even,” he said. Then he called the loss a learning experience.

Unfortunately, the Clippers had lost their edge and were defeated again two nights later by Sacramento.

I submit the theory that the Clippers had a good chance to win those games if Billups was playing. He’s had considerable experience in his career and was MVP of the 1994 playoffs when Detroit defeated the Lakers in the Finals.

The Clippers are good without him but they raise an important notch with him. He’ll be playing soon but needs a little more time to recover from last season’s injury. At 36 he’s not ready to retire.

So, this early in the season there’s no winner in the discussion with my friend.

We both made good points. It remains to be seen who is right.


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