Debunking Common Misconceptions About the L.A. Clippers

Oren FriedmanCorrespondent IISeptember 5, 2012

MEMPHIS, TN - MAY 13:  Chris Paul #3 of the Los Angeles Clippers walks off the court during a timeout after being called for a foul against the Memphis Grizzlies in Game Seven of the Western Conference Quarterfinals in the 2012 NBA Playoffs at FedExForum on May 13, 2012 in Memphis, Tennessee.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Considered one of the worst franchises in all of professional sports, the Los Angeles Clippers are attempting to improve a culture associated with losing and mediocrity.

From Benoit Benjamin's two left shoes to Shaun Livingston's knee, the history of LAC suggests misfortune and disappointment.

In recent years however, the Clippers have been slowly chipping away at this toxic culture.

On draft day in 2010, former GM Neil Olshey made a clever move to acquire the rights to rookie Eric Bledsoe. Late in the 2011-12 season, the team made another smart deal to send Baron Davis to the Cavaliers.

Unquestionably, the best move made by the franchise was the trade that sent All-NBA point guard Chris Paul to the Clippers last fall.

Nevertheless, altering a team's history takes time. Here is the truth about some of the most common misconceptions surrounding Lob City.


Donald Sterling Won't Spend Money

In the past, it has been especially hard to defend owner Donald Sterling's spending habits. Routinely, Sterling has let the market set a price for a player rather than going out and signing him.

Even this offseason Sterling's spending ways cost the Clips.

Instead of locking up the precocious Neil Olshey to a long-term contract, Sterling opted to pay him on a monthly basis. Consequently, Paul Allen opened up his checkbook and Olshey is now the GM of the Portland Trail Blazers.

Despite this mishap, Sterling and the front office have been rather proactive in approaching other personnel decisions.

After years of mediocrity under the highly scrutinized Mike Dunleavy, Sterling and co. fired the inept coach and general manager late in the 2009-10 season.

It was a watershed moment for a fan base that had long begged for the ousting of the underwhelming coach.

This summer began with some tough choices as well.

After reaching the second round of the playoffs last season, the Clippers faced multiple roster decisions.

Surprisingly, Lob City used its amnesty clause on forward Ryan Gomes.

Prior to the team's success last season, it was hard to imagine Sterling ever paying a player not to play. 

Winning changed things tremendously, and the Clippers looked like a reputable franchise.

Falling in line with this new culture, the three-headed monster GM of Vinny Del Negro, Andy Roeser and Gary Sacks went out and signed Blake Griffin to a massive five-year $95 million contract extension.

Throw in the Clippers new state-of-the-art practice facility in Playa Del Rey, and evidence shows that Sterling has significantly changed his spending habits over the last few years.

It is finally safe to say that winning is the top priority for this franchise.


They Fall Apart Down the Stretch

For a long period of time, the Clippers looked to be one of the best teams in the league through three quarters.

From the days of Darius Miles and Eric Piatkowski, to Lamar Odom and Elton Brand, the Clippers would often find themselves in the game before imploding down the stretch.

The problem was a referendum on the team's youth as much as it was an indictment of their poor coaching and decision making.

With one serendipitous trade in the summer of 2005, the fortunes of the franchise took a turn.

The Clippers acquired the uber-confident Sam Cassell and the team achieved an unprecedented swagger that had them on the verge of the Western Conference Finals.

Routinely, it was Cassell that stepped up and nailed the big shot down the stretch. His mid-range jumper was money, and he imbued the team and fan base with a tremendous level of confidence.

Shawn Marion still has nightmares from the beatdown Cassell laid down on him in that series.

Since then, the Clippers have enjoyed at least a semblance of the clutch factor.

Even Baron Davis could knock down the big shot, despite his other monumental deficiencies.

With Chris Paul in the fold, the Clippers are among the best crunch time teams in the NBA.

Paul averaged a whopping 6.4 PPG in the fourth quarter during the regular season in 2011-12. His clutch numbers were even more impressive, as his clutch usage rate of 36.5 percent was among the best in the game.

With Paul leading the way in a close game, Clipper fans actually believe that their team can hold on. The same could not be said ten years ago.


Just take a look at Paul's highlights from LAC's Game 4 victory over the Grizzlies last postseason.


They Are the Worst Franchise in the History of Professional Sports

Over the course of the team's history, the Clippers have seen more downfalls and disappointments than any other franchise in the NBA.

The mediocrity of the team in the 1990s and early 2000s speaks for itself. In the lockout shortened season of 1998-99, the Clippers went a pathetic 9-41.

Before 2006, the team had never even won a playoff series.

From former GM Elgin Baylor's lawsuit against Sterling and the Clippers, to the owner's heckling of Baron Davis courtside, this franchise has indeed experienced the lowest of lows.

Since the team moved from San Diego to Los Angeles in 1984, LAC has always been in the shadow of the cross-town rival Lakers.

In the rafters of Staples Center hang the Lakers' 16 championship banners, along with accolades from the Los Angeles Kings, and even some banners from the Los Angeles Sparks.

The Clippers have never won an NBA championship, let alone a Pacific Division crown. The only title that the Clippers have enjoyed in LA is repeated trips to the draft lottery.

Yet in the last 10 years the fortunes of the team and franchise have changed.

It starts in the draft, and the Clippers have repeatedly made solid picks. 

From Chris Kaman in 2003 to Eric Gordon in 2008, to Blake Griffin in 2009 and Eric Bledsoe in 2010, LAC appeared to be following the Sonics/Thunder strategy of improving organically through the draft.

Of course the trade for Chris Paul disrupted this trend, but no one in Clipper Nation harbors any resentment towards that move.

For the most part, the team's other personnel acquisitions have also been positive.

Sam Cassell was integral to the 2006 playoff run, as was the signing of Cuttino Mobley in the summer of 2005.

Last year, Kenyon Martin and Reggie Evans spurned better offers from other teams to play with Paul and Griffin in Los Angeles.

Perhaps the best demonstration of the team's turnaround happened this offseason.

Despite a season-ending Achilles injury, Chauncey Billups wanted to return to the Clips and re-signed in July. Surprisingly, the Clippers were also savvy enough to lure Grant Hill away from the Lakers and sign him to Lob City.

The past is the past, and nothing can change that. Looking forward, the Clippers have one of the most loaded rosters entering 2012-13.

Ultimately, the change in culture started before Paul agreed to come to the Clippers. It was a synthesis of all of the small things that the front office started to do in the last five to 10 years.

The case can be made that the franchise is still among the worst of all time, but things appear to be looking up for the future of Lob City.


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