That "Other" L.A. Team: 5 Reasons The Los Angeles Clippers Are Playoff Bound
It's that time again!
With the 2010-2011 season fast approaching, teams and their fans are gearing up for the 82 game grind that is the physical and emotional roller-coaster known as the regular season.
All franchises and their fans have delusions of glory and grandeur but teams generally fall one of three categories.
First there are the championship teams. Teams like the Los Angeles Lakers, Boston Celtics, Orlando Magic, and Miami Heat that have one mission. A championship.
Anything less than raising a banner for these teams is considered a colossal failure.
The second type of teams are the contenders. These teams include the Portland Trail Blazers, Chicago Bulls, Dallas Mavericks, and Atlanta Hawks among others.
These are the playoff teams. Their players and fans will hope and pray for a championship run but realistically, they aren't yet championship material and have very little hope of knocking off the top teams in their respective conferences.
And finally, there is the third type of team. I'll just call them the "other" teams. These teams are years of drafting and trades away from having a glimmer of hope at winning the Larry O'Brien championship trophy.
Most teams fall into this category. The Cleveland Cavaliers, Minnesota Timberwolves, New Jersey Nets, and the Golden State Warriors, these are the teams whose fans will celebrate if they manage to even claim winning seasons this year.
Normally the Los Angeles Clippers would belong to the third category of teams.
With the infamously incompetent ownership of Donald Sterling and second rate status in their own city, the Clippers have been down and out for a long time. But not for long.
All of that is about to change. And here are five reasons why.
Eric Gordon's FIBA Experience
The FIBA World Championships.
Teams from all over the world sending their best players in hopes of capturing world class bragging rights.
Eric Gordon was on the team that represented the USA and captured the gold medal.
Kevin Durant scoring in bunches and Lamar Odom holding down the paint got all the hype, but Gordon was truly an integral piece of the team and a huge reason that the USA brought home the gold.
In the beginning, during the formation of the team, it was uncertain if Gordon was even going to make the final cut.
Not only did he make the final cut, he helped Team USA bring home the gold by providing them with a weapon that they were sorely lacking.
Gordon lit it up from long range, shooting over 45 percent from three throughout the tournament, providing a much needed deep threat.
He gave the other players a reliable outlet on the arc when they were pressured. His accuracy forced the opposing teams to play honest defense which opened up passing lanes and freed post players to operate.
Playing with the some of the best talent the world has to offer undoubtedly made Gordon a better player. Also, one cannot underestimate the importance of building confidence by excelling on a world-wide stage.
Combine that with the natural progression of a young talented player like Gordon and seeing first-hand what it takes to be a winner,and it's easily seen that Gordon's summer's experience has been invaluable.
If he can bring that winning mentality to the Clippers locker room and replicate his summer success on a consistent basis this upcoming season, it will make the Clippers playoff push that much easier.
Front Court Reinforcement
Griffin Doin' Work On Both Sides Of The Court
Those two words alone are enough to make even casual Clippers fans giddy.
He's 6'10" 250 pounds and athleticism that has been compared to Amar'e Stoudemire and even LeBron James.
On his way to setting several collegiate records, Blake Griffin dominated college basketball in a way that very few have.
An injury kept him out of the lineup last year but he still has the benefit of a full season taking in the culture of the NBA .
Bynum/Gasol, Noah/Boozer, O'Neal/Garnett, and all the other elite front court tandems should watch out.
With Griffin combining forces with Chris Kaman, an all-star who averaged 18.5 ppg and 9.3 rpg for the season last year, the Clippers now have a one-two punch down low that will, without a doubt, allow them to compete with the best teams down in the post area.
If Kaman can duplicate his production from last year and Blake Griffin can have a rookie of the year worthy season, the Clippers have a great chance of making a push for a postseason birth.
With Mike Dunleavy ousted as head coach, there was a vacancy in the head coaching position for the Clippers organization.
Enter Vinny Del Negro.
Del Negro is a former NBA player turned head coach of the Chicago Bulls. He did wonders for the Chicago Bulls in his two seasons with them.
Not only did he lead the Bulls to two consecutive playoff berths, he also did an excellent job developing the young talent they had in Derrick Rose, Taj Gibson and Joakim Noah.
The Clippers just happen to have six players under the age of 21. If Del Negro can do for them what he did for Chicago's youngsters, then the Clippers may have a real shot at improving exponentially over the next few months.
Look for the Clippers to be a much more efficient team with Del Negro at the helm.
I wouldn't get my hopes up for Phil Jackson-esque motivation and coaching prowess but surely he is an upgrade over Dunleavy.
Baron Davis: The Wild Card
True fans of the NBA know how good Baron Davis was just a very short time ago, as he excelled while playing for the Golden State Warriors. Although he is a few years removed from his glory years, we have a good idea of how good he can still be, but will he ever focus enough to prove us right?
In short, yes.
Davis is an enigma to some. He is known more for his unkempt facial hair than he is for his playing ability nowadays and that is truly a shame.
Capable of getting hot like very few can in the NBA, he has been reduced to an early shot-clock heave artist thanks to a lack of focus and competitive drive in recent seasons.
All that should change this season.
With new and improved Eric Gordon, an all-star in Chris Kaman, and the addition of Blake Griffin, Davis will have plenty of quality options to distribute the ball to this upcoming season. If they can manage to get off to a hot start, you can bet that Davis will dial in and do what's best for the team.
Yes, even if it means giving up his own touches for better shots that could be taken by teammates.
The theory on Davis is that he excelled in Golden State because they were a playoff team, and a contender. He had something to be excited about, something to work for. His last few years with the Clippers have been anything but gratifying from a competitor's perspective.
Frankly, he's been bored.
No reason to act as a true point guard when your options are perceived as less than reliable. No reason to push through injury when your team sucks anyway, right?
Well, not anymore.
Now B. Diddy has what he has (hopefully) been waiting for.
A fighting chance.
If this season doesn't show a colossal difference in his performance and the way he approaches the game, nothing ever will.
NBA Summer Player Movement
With the dust finally settling from all the free agency moves made this year, one can finally get a good look at the NBA landscape.
There were several marquee free agents up for grabs this summer.
Players like LeBron James, Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade, Joe Johnson, Amare Stoudemire and Carlos Boozer were among the more prominent names that had the NBA in a frenzy during the offseason.
It seems that the NBA landscape has changed for the next few years, and from the Clippers point of view, this can only be seen as a plus.
LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh decided to form a three headed monster down in South Beach. All three could have possibly migrated west but chose to stay in the eastern conference.
Joe Johnson was given a max deal (to the dismay of many), and has been locked up by the Atlanta Hawks for the next several years.
Amare Stoudemire chose to leave the Phoenix Suns for the bright lights of New York City. His five-year/$100 million deal strengthened the New York Knicks down low, while crippling the Phoenix Suns who have been playoff regulars in the western conference.
Carlos Boozer chose to leave the Utah Jazz for the Windy City. Joining Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah and Luol Deng, he will suit up for the Bulls this year in hopes making a playoff run.
All these big names either stayed in or moved to the Eastern Conference, making the Western Conference considerably weaker in star power.
But wait, surely some standout free agents came west right?
Yes, if you want to count David Lee. Don't forget Hedo Turkoglu. I'm sure they both have you trembling as we speak.
Don't count out more player movement either.
With almost daily rumors of Carmelo Anthony and Chris Paul packing up and heading east, the western conference would be even more devoid of star power.
With a newly shaken up west getting the very short end of the stick as far as player migration this summer, it seems that this may be the year where it may not take the usual 50+ games for that seventh or eighth Western Conference playoff seed.