Eric Bledsoe was right as it turns out.
I admit to being a bit put off by what the 22-year-old point guard of the Los Angeles Clippers had to say recently. It's not at all what he said, but the timing of the statement.
Coming off to losses to non-playoff teams Bledsoe said "I think we play to the level of our competition sometimes. Like we don't get up for the games we're supposed to win, but the games we play against playoff teams we bring it. It's not supposed to be like that" (via ESPN).
No, it's not supposed to be like that. Good teams play hard most nights and end up winning games against lesser teams. Great teams play hard every night and end up winning games against most teams.
For the first time in Clipper franchise history, they aren't the losing team on the end of that equation.
Sure, they were good in 2006. In fact, that team had swagger, but they didn't have a target on their back. This team is different in that a lot is expected of them. The starting five are solid, the bench is one of the deepest and best in the Association and this team has one of the best NBA pitch men ever.
I'm still not sure which Blake Griffin Kia commercial I like best. "Don't wear jean shorts. Just, trust me" or "Practice your free throws. Like, a lot!"
Lesser teams take the court against this team hoping to win. That was most evident as Cleveland was pulling away a few nights ago. Every timeout was an opportunity for the Cavaliers to hoot, holler and jump around as if they had just won a playoff game.
To lesser teams, beating a playoff-bound team, a team with a target, is their playoffs. That's what makes playing those less talented teams harder for more talented teams.
Where the mindset for the good team might lead to complacency in preparation for an easy win, the less than good team comes out with an attitude that often leads to victories.
These Clippers are clearly a good team this NBA season and have fallen into the trap of underestimating their opponent twice, against Golden State and Cleveland. Tonight's opponent came into Staples with a much different track record than either the Warriors or Cavaliers.
In addition to being undefeated, the Spurs handed the Clippers a four-game butt whooping in last season's playoffs.
With the NBA's hottest team taking the court against them Bledsoe said his team would "bring it." It sounds innocent enough, I know, but after having covered the Clippers for a few seasons, I know that the naysayers tend to jump on any and all opportunities to bash the LAC. A loss to the Spurs after making that statement would have inevitably led to less than flattering comments.
"Looks like your Clippers are losers after all."
"Eric Bledsoe needs to learn to shut his mouth."
"The Lakers rule L.A. and the Clippers just stink really bad."
That last comment had nothing to do with a possible Clipper loss, but something like that always seems to find its way into the comments. Now, I love comments, even ones like that last one, but a statement like Bledsoe's, I feared, would open up the floodgates of negativity. My point being, I kind of wished he hadn't said that.
Until of course, he backed it up.
Turns out the Clippers did bring it. In fact, they brought a lot of it and blew out the Spurs 106-84.
When I was 22 I used to say things like, "Man, I wish I could find a job" or "Wow, that girl is hot" or even "I want a job working with lots of hot girls." Eric Bledsoe however is dispensing wisdom beyond his years.
His team brought it, he was right.