I had to laugh recently when I read Chris Paul's comment, as reported by the Orange County Register.
He was asked if tonight's game against the defending champion Miami Heat was a measuring stick for his upstart Clippers.
"I guess. They're the defending champs. I don't see why not," Paul said. "But we're in a pretty good position right now. It's more about us and not other teams. We're good enough to play our game and beat whoever."
Then he switched to stand-up-comedian mode and said, "(They're) obviously very talented," he said, "but we don't suck."
WE DON"T SUCK!
For decades that was the central theme coming out of Clippers headquarters. It was used in defense of poor draft picks, bad hires, odd firings and an owner that seemed a bit out of touch with reality.
"Look, we know we are bad, but it could be SO much worse. We really don't suck! Buy a 10-game mini-plan to see the Lakers and Heat now!"
It always bothered me that before the team was any good, they actually promoted visiting teams rather than their own. Commercials for the Clippers would tout the visiting team as the attraction, with only a small Clippers logo somewhere on the screen, overshadowed by a much larger image of the team they were to play against.
I was in Dallas during some lean pre-Mark Cuban days. They had gone 13-69 in the 1993-94 season, which was actually an improvement over the season before! This team was bad; on par with any lousy Clippers team of years gone by.
But instead of promoting the visiting Celtics or Hawks, Dallas was plastered with billboards promoting the "Young Guns," the nickname they had given Jason Kidd, Jamal Mashburn, Jim Jackson, etc.
Dallas embraced that team, even though they continued to lose with regularity for another few years.
In Los Angeles it was always hard to root for the Clippers, not because they were bad, but because they spent more time rooting for other teams than themselves.
They were bad, and "un-root-able," which is a very bad combination.
Some fans were able to see through the odd marketing campaign and embrace the team. Clipper Darrell famously became attached after losing his job. He connected with the team that many said would never amount to anything after he was told the same thing.
For Clipper Darrell, the teams unofficial mantra became his: I DON'T SUCK!
For others the team was easy to embrace as the "loveable losers." Rondell Sheridan, comedian and television producer who starred in the Disney Channel TV shows That's So Raven and Corey in the House once told me that he enjoyed rooting for the Clippers because of their perpetual underdog status.
The pay-off for Sheridan came on those rare occasions when the team would play well and either win a game or lose with effort.
Even a blind squirrel finds a nut every now and again, right?
Clippers teams of the past did suck. There is no better way to describe it. For fans like Clipper Darrell and Rondell Sheridan, part of the appeal was the fact that they were so lousy.
For others, they were hard to connect with because they stayed bad for so long, continued to promote other teams instead of their own and never seemed to be honest with the community, like the Dallas Mavericks were back in 1994.
Why not share a plan for the team like the Mavericks did? Why not promote the home team instead of the visitors? Why not just admit you suck? Admitting it is the first step to recovery, right?
Well, now that the team has gone through a transformation from NBA doormat to legitimate contender, it's funny to see the team's star proclaim that these Clippers don't suck.
It's nice to see that coming from a Clipper now because, for the first time in a very long time, it's actually true.
The Clippers don't suck!