"I try to make it through my life. In my way, there's you." -Apocalyptica "I Don't Care."
The Los Angeles Clippers may have been the saddest franchise in professional sports at one time. (And still might be.) The Clippers have been singing the above lyric to their bullying stepbrother, the Los Angeles Lakers, since the Clippers moved from San Diego at the behest of their owner.
While the Lakers were "Showtime" the Clippers were "Blowtime." At the Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena, where Gargamel...I mean, Donald Sterling, had this team playing, the Clippers were playing to mostly half-full houses. Their first season in L.A, they won 31 games.
It wouldn't get any better.
For perspective, in 1986-87, the Clippers went 12-70 . Try to imagine that for a second. By about loss number 38, would you be still giving your all, knowing your teammates could give a flaming bag of dog crap?
Had the internet been around at this point, would anyone have went "lol clippers"? It was sadness all down the line. While Magic and Kareem were leading the Lakers at the Forum, at the LAMSA, it was funeral time nearly every night.
Bad drafting also kept spirits low. As just one example, the 1987 NBA draft. The Clippers, after the 1986 debacle that ended up with Cleveland having the first overall pick that they traded away, had the fourth overall pick.
The Clippers knew they had no chance at David Robinson, and Phoenix and New Jersey took two more players, Armon Gilliam and Dennis Hopson, that the Clippers had been eyeing. Needing a small forward, they took Georgetown's Reggie Williams, a good role player but not really one who was going to be a star.
Here's some hindsight for you: Scottie Pippen was taken with the very next pick . Reggie Miller went 11th to Indiana. Not only that, future Boston great Reggie Lewis was picked 22nd in this exact same draft.
With drafting like that, the Clippers seemed willing to play Ed Leslie to the Lakers' Hulk Hogan, and while Jack Nicholson was the flag carrier for the celebrity Laker fans, the Clippers were content with Billy Crystal.
Finally the Clippers managed to hold on to the top pick in the 88 NBA draft. With Ken Norman outplaying Reggie Williams, the Clips took Danny Manning with the first overall pick. And everyone, seeing that Manning was an amazing college player, dropped to their knees. The Clippers won 6 NBA titles. And everyone lived happily ever after.
Then the alarm went off, and Elgin Baylor was forced to wake up from a dream he wanted to stay in. Manning did in fact breathe life into the moribund Clipper offense and even played some defense, though not in his rookie season because, a recurring annoyance, he was injured.
But the Clippers didn't see the post-season for the first time in L.A. until 1991, when they ran into Karl Malone and the Utah Jazz. (Speaking of that, has anyone EVER played jazz in Utah? Even badly?)
Manning began to wear down, the first cracks in his armor showing during the 1993 playoff series against the Houston Rockets. Manning was traded to Atlanta, and the Clippers stumbled and fell down. When the Lakers got back up, the Clippers didn't.
The franchise hit a nadir in 1998. An admittedly weak draft that year saw the Clippers have the number one overall pick.
I want to take this time to say that when you have the number 1 pick overall in any sporting draft, you have your pick of the best players available. This means whoever you feel is the player that best suits your abilities.
Or, as some have said, and I think they have a point, you take the best player you can. So, who did the Clippers take, with players such as Antawn Jamison, Dirk Nowitzki, and others on the board?
Future Bellanotte super-fan Michael Olowokandi.
That sound was the entire Clipper fan base going with one collective facepalm to show their displeasure. Hindsight, but at least the Clippers weren't handing the pick off to other teams.
Things began to improve with the next year, when they took Rhode Island man-child Lamar Odom. Odom played well, but the Clippers, who had acquired Elton Brand (and ballhog Corey Maggette) refused to match an offer for him.
So, to compensate, the next year, with the Clippers in the lottery again, they chose Darius Miles in the snakebitten 2000 NBA draft.
This wasn't going to end well. Rather than focus on that, I want to move up to last year's free agency period.
Brand promised the Clippers he'd re-sign with them, after giving up his final year at 16 million plus to provide them with flexibility. The Clippers signed Baron Davis. Brand then intentionally lost the game of chicken he was playing with the Clippers by signing with the 76ers.
This put the Clippers in a really bad spot, as their lineup would be Davis, the high-flying Al Thornton, rook Eric Gordon, a washed-up Marcus Camby, and Chris Kaman. Unsurprisingly, the Clippers were unremittingly bad in the loaded West at 19-63.
Currently, Brand's betrayal has the Clippers in a really tight spot. Without a real frontcourt scorer because of the injury to 1st overall pick Blake Griffin, the Clippers will probably be in the lottery once more. And if they get John Wall, there will be trouble. Mostly for Wall.
The point of the L.A. stories was to show that in two-team cities in major sports, there'll always be one team that gets the short end of the stick. But if you shoot yourself in the foot enough, you'll assist yourself into that fate.
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