Please excuse me while I remove my journo-blogger vintage sport coat and hat. Now just give me a second to change into my replica and not at all childish home-alternate Shawn Kemp jersey. It’s going to be difficult typing the rest of this with a foam finger on my hand, but bear with me—it’s fan time.
A caveat: this post has nothing to do with how good this team is, or can be. This post couldn’t care less about efficient scoring and can’t even spell utilitarenism. This post is about one thing: why I can’t stand the Clippers.
Let’s start back in December. Like everyone else on planet basketball, I was thrilled when Chris Paul was assigned by David Stern to play for the Los Angeles Clippers. Lob City, baby! A Slamstravaganza the likes of which we’ve never seen!
What could be better than the guard I find most aesthetically pleasing wielding implements as potent and dunky as Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan? It was going to be magic, it was going to be the feel good story of the year. (We didn’t know who Jeremy Lin was, or if we did we didn’t care.) Chris Paul would be on national TV all year, Blake Griffin would take that next step forward under Paul’s wing (I even predicted Blake would get more MVP votes than Kevin Durant…) and The Gentleman Chauncey would round out a cast of guys we like to root for.
But like a big piece Double Bubble, the Clippers’ initial sweetness soon departed and for the past few weeks I’ve been trying to pretend that I enjoy the basketball version of chewing on a flavorless wad of gum that any second threatens to choke me on my own saliva.
It starts with you, Blake Griffin.
Here’s a modest request: Give the scowl a rest, YOU GOT THE CALL!
There’s something menacing and unwelcoming in Griffin’s on-court demeanor that I didn’t detect last season. The way he jogs back down court after finishing an open layup seems self-congratulatory. The tedious way he alternates between shoving his head straight into his defender’s gut and throwing his head backward as though he was just tased on an attempted prison break. The way he takes just under 15 minutes to release a spot up 18-footer. It’s become apparent that Griffin has only four charmless facial expressions: rage, smug, aggrieved and vacant stare.
Griffin wants to be Billy Bad Ass and that’s fine because when you make Kendrick Perkins look like Shawn Bradley, you can kind of do what you want. But I can do without the whole WWE heel routine. Not that it isn’t working out for him; he gets TONS of calls. But he has this KG no easy buckets or sense of humor thing going that seems completely disingenuous given his witty and goofy off-court persona.
Smile a little, Blake. You’ll sell more Kias.
Of course it takes more than one player to sour me on a whole franchise. Role players like Reggie “The Gonad Destroyer” Evans and consummate teammate life-threatener Kenyon Martin don’t exactly endear me to the squad.
Even Chris Paul, a player I’ve fawned over ceaselessly since he entered the league to the point that I’m trying to convince Zach Harper that Paul has deceptively gorgeous eyes, is starting to get on my nerves. Look Chris, I know you have to play in Vinny Del Negro’s “offense,” and I get that you aren’t recovering that bang it on Dwight Howard explosiveness any time soon. But dude, you are the mini-Tim Duncan of endless whining. Just because you don’t cuss at the refs doesn’t mean you aren’t offending my soul when you incessantly badger the refs, or dribble backward into your defender to draw what passes for a foul because free throws are a smart way to score efficiently.
Paul is, of course, capable of pulling whole possessions out of his keister with a well-timed bounce-pass or his signature fall-away (AKA “The Saving Grace”). But his brilliance can’t disguise that the team, as a whole, plays with an utter lack of imagination. Excepting the random Griffin super-dunk, I feel like every play the Clipper offense will have from here on out has already happened in some earlier game.
I certainly don’t think the Clippers’ new-found chippy-ness is an act. I’ve actually seen Chris Paul sock his mother in the kidney when the two were going after a loose ball. And that was just a ball rolling toward the street when Paul was playing in his driveway. And his mom wasn’t even playing, she was just trying to bring in the groceries!
See when Mo Williams becomes your most likeable player because he dedicated himself to fitness and making every right baseline pull-up he takes, it’s saying something. And that something is not “This here is America’s team!”
Oh yea, and the owner, the guy who profits most from the Clippers sudden relevance and success, might be the most despicable man in professional sports. Just the worst.
OK, I’ve worn through the foam finger and stripped off my sweat soaked jersey (don’t worry, I have on an undershirt). It feels good to get that out of my system. I’m liberated from pretending to like the Clippers, now I can go back to appraising their role in the incredibly intriguing Western Conference, appreciating their brutal and occasionally inspired offensive efficiency and bemoaning their lack of defensive coherence.
Now hand me my blazer with the elbow patches, will you?