The Clippers are L.A.'s basketball team. They actually play their home games in Los Angeles unlike the baseball team from Anaheim that only pretends to play here. Los Angeles's Clippers have called LA home since 1984, that's 25 years! Twenty-five long and storied years filled with success and wins. Ok, well maybe not so much success and wins but 25 years, nonetheless.
The truth is the Clippers have been working to shake off the "Jan-stigma" since they arrived in the City of Angels. In much the same way that Jan was never quite as good as Marcia, the Clippers were never quite as good as this other basketball team that calls LA home. Marcia was prettier, smarter, funnier; Marcia-Marcia-Marcia!!!
2006 has been the high water mark for the Clippers thus far. In what was a magical year they had a franchise best 47 wins, won their first playoff series in LA, went to a seventh game in the Western Conference semifinals and regularly dominated Marcia, um—I mean that other LA basketball team, in their regular season matchups.
Elton Brand said after one drubbing of the blonde hair, blue-eyeded other LA team, "We are supposed to beat teams like that." It was a classic dig, and it was true. The Clippers were prettier, smarter and funnier than that other team.
It turns out that 2006 was simply the year that Jan got attention because of the afro wig. It was fake, an illusion and the team couldn't maintain it. It was a fun ride and it proved that Los Angeles will get behind a winner. It proved that there is no Clipper curse that wins can't exorcise. Win and fans will come. Win consistently and fans will stay!
Sadly, the wins stopped coming after that magical season. Forty-seven wins were followed by win totals of 40, 23, and 19. Ouch. When a team is down they can stay down by making bad decisions (poor trades, bad draft picks, etc) or it can make good decisions, no matter how small.
Good, quality decisions is how any team starts the long road up in the standings. Which leads me to the Allen Iverson connection.
The Clippers like the Memphis Grizzlies courted A.I. this offseason. Coming off a 19 win season the interest was understandable. Los Angelenos love their celebrities and A.I. fit the mold. The Clippers had signed their No. 1 overall draft pick Blake Griffin and expectations were high.
They imagined A.I. bringing energy off the bench solidifying the second unit. The Grizzlies envisioned the same thing, but apparently never bothered to tell Iverson.
"We've never talked to each other, " Iverson said about Coach Lionel Hollins. "We've never even had a conversation ." Inexplicably, the Grizzlies left-hand made a decision without informing the right-hand. When a team is down it can stay there by making bad decisions, remember? File this one under "bad decision" by Memphis.
Of course, A.I. is to blame as well. How do you sign a contract without a firm understanding of what your role will be? If Playboy were to offer me a job I'd want to know if I'm guy who delivers the magazines at 3 AM or the guy who adjusts the tripods during the photo-shoots. Makes a difference.
Michael Wilbon recently wrote in the Washington Post about the Clippers approach to dealing with A.I. this offseason. He wrote that "...the Clippers had the good sense to actually talk to Iverson about his perceived role, only to find out Iverson saw himself as the star of the team and they saw him coming off the bench. "
Clippers and good sense in the same sentence. I know its not much, but to me its just another indication that this team is turning away from its recent past. Where the Grizzlies swung and missed and where A.I. balked, the Clippers hit a home-run.
Imagine what people would be saying if it was them left holding A.I.'s 3-game-worn Clipper jersey. If it were the Clippers forced to sign NBA flotsam and jetsam that is Jamaal Tinsley the outcries would have been persistent.
"Here we go again," "Same old Clippers," "The Clipper Curse lives." Instead the Clippers push towards erasing the past on the heels of a good sense decision.
Somewhere, Jan is smiling!