Chris Paul and L.A. Clippers Better off as the Underdogs

Grant Hughes@@gt_hughesNational NBA Featured ColumnistJanuary 5, 2013

LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 04:  Chris Paul #3 of the Los Angeles Clippers directs the offense during a 107-102 Clipper win over the Los Angeles Lakers at Staples Center on January 4, 2013 in Los Angeles, California.  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 Harry How/Getty Images)
Harry How/Getty Images

Despite having one of the NBA’s best records, Chris Paul and the Los Angeles Clippers have spent the 2012-13 season acting like underdogs. And that's probably for the best.

Just before Paul and his Clippers knocked off the Lakers on January 4, Kobe Bryant commented on the attitude CP3 has helped spread among his Clipper teammates:

Kobe on @cp3: "He's just a moody little dude. He's very feisty. He plays with a chip on his shoulder and that becomes infectious."

— Arash Markazi (@ArashMarkazi) January 2, 2013

It sounds strange, but even as the wins pile up for the Clippers, it's still remarkably easy for Paul and his team to retain their "nobody believes in us" attitude.

L.A.'s Forgotten Team

That's because they're basically second-class citizens in their own home town. Los Angeles is Laker territory. Always has been, always will be.

At least that's how the Clippers feel whenever they suit up against the Purple and Gold, according to Arash Markazi of

Clippers players will tell you that this game is not a rivalry game. Not yet, anyway. They'll tell you this isn't a rivalry game because it hasn't been very close in the past. It's been a lopsided affair in every way possible. All you needed to do was look up at the Lakers' championship banners and all the Lakers jerseys in the crowd Friday night to realize who has run this town for the past 50 years.

So, no matter how many wins the Clippers pile up, they've got a built-in safeguard against the sort of overconfidence that might otherwise lead to complacency down the stretch. Even if they're technically the best team in Los Angeles at the moment, the fans at their own games often remind them that "right now" doesn't really compare to the 16 Laker championship banners hanging in the rafters.

They're screaming "lets go Lakers" at a Clippers home game!!! #Lakers #Clippers

— Mike Hill (@MikeHillESPN) January 5, 2013

If fans hooting for the visiting team in their own building isn't enough to help the Clips keep their edge, the overwhelming disparity in all-time success certainly helps. Since moving to Los Angeles, the Clippers have won just 36 percent of their games.

The Lakers have won 61 percent.

Taking the Show on the Road

We've focused on the Lakers in our look at the Clips' inferiority complex because the relationship between those two teams is really the source of the Clippers' underdog mindset. But the "little brother" Clippers take the chips on their shoulders with them wherever they go.

That sustained edge, that sense of defiance, is a key reason for the Clippers' success this year. They're fighting the perception that they're just an L.A. afterthought in every city. And they're doing it in style.

When you've been a laughingstock in the NBA for nearly three decades, it's hard to shake that reputation. Going 10-5 on the road and racking up highlights this year is a good start, though.

Keeping an Edge

Because Chris Paul plays with such an edge, and because so many of the Clippers (like Matt Barnes, Jamal Crawford and Lamar Odom) have been disrespected or cast off from former teams, there's really very little danger of the Clippers losing their edge this year.

Most clubs would have to worry about success dulling their collective focus, but not these Clippers.

Driven by a desire to prove to their city and themselves that they're more than second best, the Clips are definitely happy to keep playing the role of underdogs.


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