Friday, November 25, 2005

A New World Order: The Clippers Are Winners

The Pistons are 9-1, the best record in the NBA. Not terribly surprising; this is a team, after all, that was minutes away from winning back-to-back championships this past June. A half-game back, at 9-2, are the San Antonio Spurs. Again, no surprise; the Spurs are the reigning NBA champs. Also a half game behind the Pistons are the Los Angeles Clippers, at 9-2.


The Los Angeles Clippers? The NBA’s version of a redheaded stepchild? The Los Angeles Clippers? The dregs of the league for so long, their very name elicits bellylaughs and jokes?

The Los Angeles Freaking Clippers? As Rip Hamilton would say, "Yessir!"

The Clippers’ 9-2 getaway is, not surprisingly, the best in franchise history. In fact, given their inglorious history, I also wouldn’t be surprised if 6-5 would have been their best 11-game start. Maybe even 5-6?

The Los Angeles Clippers are 9-2, and if this doesn’t initiate some sort of Congressional investigation, then I don’t what will. Maybe the government can send for those Roswell, New Mexico folks -- the ones who deal with aliens and UFOs? For surely there must be something celestial at work here. The Los Angeles Clippers are 9-2, and that means a life imbalanced on this planet.

But let’s get into this further. We can’t, as a people, simply accept the Clippers’ jackrabbit start without doing something like....finding out why. And it turns out that a 36 year-old point guard is a key to their success. How ironic. Where has Sam Cassell been all the Clippers’ lives?

Cassell is averaging 16.5 ppg, 8.1 assists/game, and is providing floor generalship that Clippers coach Mike Dunleavy has said is a huge part of why the Clips have turned swan-like after being the league’s ugly ducklings ever since moving to southern California in the late 1970’s from Buffalo. Cassell has worn championship rings and tasted champagne, too. His NBA career began with back-to-back titles with the Houston Rockets in ’94 and’95.

Throw Cassell in there, along with Elton Brand (23+ ppg), a Clipper holdover from last season, and free agent signee Cuttino Mobley (16+ ppg), and the "other" Los Angeles team has a formidable trio of scorers and an experienced distributor of the ball. You know, like their co-occupants in the Staples Center used to have.

(l to r): Cassell, Brand, Mobley
are a trio to be reckoned with

It may be too early to say that the Clippers are the new Lakers, but if they have ever won nine of eleven, anywhere in any season, then I want physical evidence. It’s already been determined that they’ve never shot out of the gate 9-2. Have they pulled off a 9-2 streak at all in their lifetime? Odds would say yes, in 27 seasons as Clippers, but even if they had, it was probably meaningless, because the Clippers have played mostly meaningless seasons, firmly ensconced as L.A.’s minor league squad. They’ve treated the playoffs as if the postseason was Bird Flu.

Lovable losers are shedding their skin all over the place lately. In 2004, the Red Sox won the World Series. This October, it was the White Sox. Both teams broke streaks totalling nearly 175 years. Now the Clippers look like winners -- maybe not of the whole enchilada, but a playoff berth looks viable.

Maybe Jack Nicholson will even change allegiances.

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