Lingering Questions Following Bizarre Chris Paul-Clippers Locker Room Fiasco

Dan Favale@@danfavaleFeatured ColumnistJanuary 17, 2018

LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 15:  Blake Griffin #32 of the LA Clippers reacts to a missed pass in front of Tarik Black #28 and Chris Paul #3 of the Houston Rockets during a 113-102 Clipper win at Staples Center on January 15, 2018 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Harry How/Getty Images

Things took a turn for the hostile during the Los Angeles Clippers' Monday night victory over the Houston Rockets, with tensions spilling over into a wild postgame confrontation involving secret passageways, a Swiss Trojan Horse, language not suited for people under the age of 76 and imitation tough-guy threats.

ESPN.com's Adrian Wojnarowski detailed all the weirdo happenings. Sam Amick of USA Today delivered some additional context as well. And we'll be addressing all the nitty-gritty deets in a moment.

Except, this is not a recap. No, no, no. That would imply this early-week kerfuffle is in the past—that some sort of resolution has been reached. It hasn't. The league is still wading through the fallout from this middle school melee, per Wojnarowski—just like the rest of us.

Knowing this, it is our civic duty to lay bare the most pressing questions that remain in the aftermath of the Clippers-Rockets brouhaha.

     

Was Clint Capela Really the Best Decoy?

LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 15:  Clint Capela #15 of the Houston Rockets looks at the basket as he is guarded by Blake Griffin #32 of the LA Clippers during the first half at Staples Center on January 15, 2018 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Harry Ho
Harry How/Getty Images

League sources told Wojnarowski that, after the game, Clint Capela "walked down the main corridor and banged on the front entrance to the Clippers' locker room" only to have the door slammed in his face. 

First up: Did this happen while Trevor Ariza, Gerald Green, James Harden and Chris Paul were sneaking into Los Angeles' changing quarters? Like, was the 23-year-old Swiss an actual decoy?

We're going to assume so, because the alternative kind of stinks. A handful of Rockets sent him to distract the Clippers' attention while they mission impossible-d their way into the room. That's the preferred story, and we're religiously sticking to it.

And assuming this was the case, did Houston's cast of stowaways choose the best diversion? They needed someone who does more than walk away upon being rebuffed at the door so they could maximize the success of their infiltration. Anyone who read the Capela profile penned by ESPN.com's Tim MacMahon knows the spindly skyscraper is pure of heart and unlikely to prolong the Escape from Alcatrisitors Locker Room with warring words or resistance at the gate.

Sending someone who traffics in physicality, such as PJ Tucker, would have made more sense. Maybe Eric Gordon could have sweet-talked his way into the locker room, claiming he only wanted a selfie of him and Lou Williams reenacting the Spider-Man meme.

Perhaps the Rockets' stealthy quartet didn't need to sacrifice one of their own at all. Instructing Chinanu Onuaku to order a post-victory concession-stand spread to the Clippers locker room surely would've invited a warmer greeting at the entrance.

    

How Much of a Secret Is This Secret Corridor CP3 and Crew Used?

Please consider the fantabulous absurdity of this lede from Woj's piece:

"In the aftermath of a cantankerous loss, Houston Rockets forward Trevor Ariza and stars Chris Paul and James Harden marched through a back corridor and into the LA Clippers' locker room late Monday night, suggesting that they wanted to confront Clippers players Austin Rivers and Blake Griffin, league sources told ESPN."

Other people know about this cloak-and-dagger passageway, so you can color me disappointed. I was naturally, and reasonably, hoping Paul and friends tunneled their way into Los Angeles' showers using Gerald Green's goatee brush and R.J. Hunter's electric toothbrush.

Even a pre-existing, relatively unknown ingress between the walls would have sufficed. Heck, give me a regular private basement or hallway—something, anything, that allows this recount to retain its Spectre-meets-Die Hard vibe.

Buuut no. Apparently neither I nor any other NBA Twitter-er can have awesomely secret things. 

People know about the entranceway into Los Angeles' locker room. Members of the 2013-14 Golden State Warriors, including Stephen Curry, used it to confront the Clippers following their Game 7 loss in the first round of the playoffs.

So is this corridor just a known fact among players, coaches, agents, security personnel, league officials, relatives and Drake? Is it like a partial-secret known only to a select few, namely those who have spent ample time in Staples Center?

And, finally, is nothing sacred anymore?

     

Will We Get JJ Redick's Oral History of Rogue Steph?

Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

Look, JJ. Buddy. Pal. Complete stranger. We won't say no to this podcast:

We'd really, really, really like to hear this podcast:

Our innocent illusions of trap doors, facade bookcases and underground road systems have been just about shattered. Give us this. Please.

     

How Many Other (Poorly Kept) Secret Tunnels Does the NBA Have?

RICH SCHULTZ/Associated Press

Last tunnel-related question. Promise. 

Plenty of other arenas must have these locker room workarounds. We need to know which. 

This has nothing to do with party-crashing player safe havens. We just need an idea of when to fire up the "Meet me in the subterranean underpass" signal following mid-game squabbles. 

Laugh if you must, but the NBA is quickly becoming a nightly host to cash-me-ousside dustups. Kyle Lowry and Rookie of the Year favorite Ben Simmons got into it just before the Rockets-Clippers spat:

Arron Afflalo and Nemanja Bjelica—yes, them—exchanged unpleasantries the next night:

And don't forget, just last Tuesday, James Johnson and Serge Ibaka were ejected—and subsequently suspended—for trading swings:

Violence is never the answer. Professional athletes should be able to exhibit grown-adult self-control. But if NBA players are going to engage in petty tiffs that seem like they could leak beyond the margins, we must know when it's appropriate to crack tunnel jokes.

    

Did Blake Griffin Hit Mike D'Antoni?

Michael Wyke/Associated Press

Almost everything about Monday's scuffle tracks with what we watched unfold. 

Led by Patrick Beverley and Austin Rivers, the Clippers bench spent a majority of the game hooting and hollering at their team's slightest success and reveling in the Rockets' tiniest misfortune. Ariza and Griffin were getting physical on the court. Paul expressed crybaby disdain for his former All-Star teammate under his breath (but on camera):

Again: This all makes sense. We saw it all, from the build-ups, to the climax, to the falling action. But what in the world did Griffin do to set off Rockets head coach Mike D'Antoni? Was it his physical play? His whining over calls?

Yes, D'Antoni said Griffin intentionally hit him, but we need a more thorough backstory on this encounter. D'Antoni hasn't looked this mad since he found out Kellogg's wouldn't be mass-producing clean-shaven Pringles mascots.

      

Is DeAndre Jordan a Double-Agent?

LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 15: DeAndre Jordan #6 of the LA Clippers and Chris Paul #3 of the Houston Rockets talk before the game on January 15, 2018 at STAPLES Center in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, b
Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images

DeAndre Jordan is playing a duplicitous game.

He first came off looking squeaky clean—heroic, even. Amick heard he was "the first to respond to the unwelcome visitors when he stood up from his nearby locker." He was obviously ready to protect Los Angeles' changing room and all its inhabitants. What a guy.

Well that, or he was signaling "Take me with you" to Paul in morse code. 

Speaking on ESPN's First Take, Stephen A. Smith said that Jordan wants to switch sides of this rivalry:

Brothers-in-arms my you-know-what. 

Maybe Jordan doesn't want to join the Rockets. This could all be typical mid-January noise. But his field-goal percentage has plummeted without Paul, and he's not getting as much action out of the pick-and-roll. Plus, despite their recent turnaround, the Clippers are tracking toward, at best, a first-round playoff exit. And they don't have a clear path to being anything more than a postseason steppingstone in the near future.

With the trade deadline (Feb. 8), free agency (July 1) and his 30th birthday (July 21) all on the horizon, is it that hard to believe he wants to play for a contender chock-full of familiar faces?

Can we really rule out that he'd tweet Ryan Anderson-and-Clint Capela-for-himself trade-machine screenshots from Kevin Durant's burner account?

    

Is LeBron James Digging His Own Tunnel?

It turns out I lied about there being no more low-hanging tunnel cracks. Forgive me.

     

Can Feb. 28 Get Here Already?

We thankfully don't have to wait for Ariza's birthday party in June for the next gripping installment of this rivalry. The Clippers host the Rockets again on Feb. 28, and the two teams will meet in Houston once more on March 15.

Hopefully, one of these two clashes will answer whatever questions still remain. To present a few:

Will Jordan be wearing a Clippers or Rockets jersey? Did Ariza buy Griffin a new pair of leggings? Will Rivers be back in Los Angeles' rotation? How about Harden? And what about Luc Mbah a Moute? Will Griffin and Paul butt heads or feign a lovey-dovey bromance? 

Should D'Antoni spill some Diet Coke in Griffin's path, Jason Kidd-style, as retaliation for the forward's purported hit on him? Should Gordon seek retribution for Griffin's end-of-game dodgeball peg?

And, most important of all, will the Clippers have boarded up the not-so-secret hallway into the locker room in favor of a more covert setup? Or will we all be left as we are now: heartbroken and longing for more creative arena blueprints?

Please, oh please, hurry up and get here, Feb. 28.

     

Dan Favale covers the NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter (@danfavale) and listen to his Hardwood Knocks podcast, co-hosted by B/R's Andrew Bailey.

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