Los Angeles Clippers Have the Best Locker Room in the NBA

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Los Angeles Clippers Have the Best Locker Room in the NBA
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In just over a year, the Los Angeles Clippers have gone from being one of the most dysfunctional teams in the NBA to having one of the best locker rooms in the league.

A team that once featured underachievers like Baron Davis and draft busts like Michael Olowokandi has made the jump to a legitimate franchise in serious contention for a championship.

The team has the perfect blend of young talent and veteran leadership.

Young guys like Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan and Eric Bledsoe are now flanked by vets Chauncey Billups, Jamal Crawford and Grant Hill.

Don't forget Chris Paul.

As the undisputed leader of the team, the third-place finisher in MVP votes in 2011-12 should be credited with helping turn this franchise around.

10 years ago, the Clippers featuring this many talented and respected guys would be inconceivable.

Taking a quick look at the roster articulates the strengths of this team on and off the court.

 

The Bench Mob

Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Despite receiving offers to pair up with Suns teammate Steve Nash on the Lakers, Grant Hill, somewhat surprisingly, decided to sign with LA's other team this offseason.

Although Hill would have had a better shot at winning a title with the Lakers, his signing with the Clippers indicates that this team has made the jump to respectable franchise.

Hill has the battle wounds and war stories to be quite a mentor to the Clippers' younger guys. From long-term injuries to frustrating playoff experiences, Hill has seen it all.

Pursuing that ever-elusive first ring, Hill now has the opportunity to chase a title on a team loaded with young athleticism and veteran savvy.

Beyond Hill, the Clippers made a bold play and signed high-scoring Jamal Crawford this summer.

Crawford has bounced around in the league, enjoying his best season a couple years ago for the Atlanta Hawks, when he won the Sixth Man Award. Given the strength of the Clips' starting five, Crawford will likely join Hill on one of the deepest benches in the league.

While his scoring explosions and facilitating skills have fans salivating, his leadership will be critical in helping to mold young guns like Eric Bledsoe.

Look for Crawford to be the ideal mentor for the combo guard, helping him pick his spots and turn into a more complete player.

Aside from Hill and Crawford, the most versatile player on the roster happens to be making his second stint in red, white and blue.

Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

The front office's acquisition of the enigmatic Lamar Odom was lauded by the Clipper faithful as an efficient move to grab that stretch 4 that coach Vinny Del Negro so desperately sought.

Odom will be able to play any frontcourt position and double as a point forward in spacing the floor.

However, Odom will make the greatest impact in the huddle.

As a much more mature player, Odom became the heart and soul of the Lakers' championship teams in 2009 and 2010. Along with Kobe Bryant and Derek Fisher, Odom was the rallying guy that led on and off the court.

The consequences of his trade to the Dallas Mavericks were unsurprising.

Feeling betrayed and depressed playing in Dallas, Odom was a shell of the prolific player that he once was for the Lakers.

On the other side, the Lakers' locker room seemed to unravel last spring. Fittingly, the Lake Show bowed out in five quick games to the Oklahoma City Thunder in the second round of the playoffs.

Add in the best cheerleader in basketball, Ronny Turiaf, and suddenly Lob City features some of the most respected and well-liked players in the NBA. The result should equal more team chemistry and better overall play this season.

Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

 

Starters

If the bench wasn't enough, the Clippers' starting lineup features a duo of veteran leaders with championship rings.

The star of the Detroit Pistons championship team in 2004, Chauncey Billups has returned to the Clippers searching for his second ring.

When the Clippers picked up the amnestied Billups last season, he seemed rather disappointed to join Clipper Nation. Experiencing everything the franchise had to offer last season demonstrated the tremendous turnaround in Lob City. 

Addressing the media during his re-signing press conference, Billups said (via ESPN.com):

All I knew before I came in through amnesty was the reputation that the Clippers once had...It was something that I didn’t really want to be a part of at the time. But me being here, being able to meet the people here and seeing how they do business here and how they treat the players and how the team is received in the public here, it’s just different.

A turnaround this huge is rare in sports and speaks volumes about the team's commitment to success.

Billups was crucial for the team on and off the court last season.

Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

When he went down with an Achilles injury in Orlando in early February, the team never really returned to its early-season form. 

That the team dressed Billups' locker for every home and road game is a testament to the impact he has had. Once Billups returned from surgery, he was key to the team's success as a player-coach on the bench.

Nonetheless, the organization's turnaround really started when the Clippers signed Caron Butler last offseason.

Despite missing the entire playoffs during the Mavericks' championship season in 2010-11, Butler spurned other suitors in order to play with the electrifying Blake Griffin.

Off the court, Butler's leadership was heralded by the Clippers' young guys.

Although Butler broke his hand in the team's first playoff game against the Memphis Grizzlies, he remarkably returned for Game 2 and played through the rest of the playoffs. 

Butler's resilience added even more credibility to his nickname, "Tough Juice," and boosted his already impressive reputation.

Furthermore, Butler's decision to return to play demonstrated the warrior attitude that the Clippers played with throughout the playoffs.

Even with nagging injuries to Chris Paul and Blake Griffin, neither even considered missing a game last postseason.

Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Butler's return was inspiring enough to keep these guys running.

 

CP3

This team starts and finishes with the play and leadership of Chris Paul.

CP3 is one of the few players in the game who can elevate the play of all of his teammates. He consistently imbues his team with confidence and a swagger unmatched in Clipper Country since the days of Sam Cassell.

Game 1 of the playoffs against the Grizzlies is a microcosm of the impact that Paul has had in Lob City.

Down 27 points late in the third quarter and on the road, coach Del Negro was all but ready to throw in the towel before Paul literally begged him to give his guys one more chance.

Appeasing his leader, Paul took the court with bench players Reggie Evans, Kenyon Martin, Eric Bledsoe and Nick Young.

The team got going, and the rest is history. The Clippers completed the greatest playoff comeback ever.

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Fittingly, it was Paul who delivered the coup de grace to the stunned Grizzlies.

A dump pass to Evans for a layup gave the Clips the go-ahead lead late in the fourth. Two free throws by CP3 at the end sealed a 99-98 victory.

Paul's perseverance in the Miracle in Memphis demonstrated his leadership skills in a nutshell.

After the game, Paul told reporters (via ESPN.com):

At the end of the third quarter Coach took me out and I went nuts...I said, 'Coach give us a chance! Give us a chance!' He puts us back in there and [Eric] Bledsoe got going, Nick Young was amazing and Reggie Evans gets the game ball, he was unreal.

Paul's will to win is wholly indicative of the impact that he has had on the team's culture, and the entire Clippers organization.

He is the team's heart, leader and motivational focal point.

Talent-wise, the West is stacked with contenders, from the Lakers, to the Thunder, to the Spurs. Throw in the guys in Lob City, and it wouldn't be too surprising to see this team make a push into the league's upper echelon next spring.

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