Los Angeles Clippers Take a Swing at Respectablity and Miss—Again

Jose SalviatiCorrespondent IIDecember 14, 2009

LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 13: Marcus Camby #23 of the Los Angeles Clippers reacts as he leaves the game with his team trailing against the San Antonio Spurs at Staples Center on December 13, 2009 in Los Angeles, California.  The Clippers would lose 115-90.  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

Larry Bird was a master of the "dagger three." 

It wasn't just that Bird would make the field goal from beyond the arc, it was when he made it.

If the Celtics were leading by nine with a few minutes left in the quarter or a tight game was turned on its ear by an 8-0 Celtic run, Bird was looking to apply the dagger. 

There is a big difference between leaving a team with a nine-point deficit as opposed to a 12-point hill to climb. 

An 8-0 flurry that gives your team a lead is the cake; the three-point field goal that extends the lead even further is the icing.

Dagger threes kill hope in the other team.

Dagger threes get the other team's coach screaming for a timeout.

Dagger threes demoralize your opponent, while pouring fuel on the fire of momentum that your team is riding.

No player shot and made more dagger threes than Larry Bird. 

He invented the shot that was later adopted by Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan.

In today's game, I see fewer dagger threes and more heat check threes. 

Kobe is one of only a few players who I think senses the opportunity to throw up a dagger (Stu Lantz, analyst on the Lakers' broadcasts even tried to get the nickname "dagger" to stick for Bryant; it didn't).

But he doesn't do it with the regularity or feel for the moment that Bird did.

A dagger can come from any source, of course. 

A big steal, block, rebound, or layup, and, in the big sense of the word, a dagger can even come in the form of a game.

The Clippers had a chance at a dagger game yesterday. 

They shot an air ball.

Without looking at the standings, can you guess what the difference in win totals was between the San Antonio Spurs and the Los Angeles Clippers heading into last night's game at Staples Center?

Take your time.

Got a number?

Would you believe two. 

That's right. 

The mighty perennial-playoff contending, World Champion Spurs had 11 wins to the Cilpper's nine. 

After a little over 20 games, only two games in the win column separated two franchises with as much in common as Tiger Woods and the Pope.

The Spurs represent everything the Clippers want to be. 

Forget that other team in Los Angeles, the Clippers need to strive for the consistency that defines the San Antonio Spurs. 

The Clippers are on the right track.

These Spurs were built around a power forward.

The foundation of the Clippers will be a power forward (I'm as tired of writing about the future of the Clippers as you are reading about it, but until Griffin suits up, it's the burden we both have to bear).

The Spurs surrounded their power forward with All-Star quality players at guard and forward.

The Clippers have Eric Gordon, who has All-Star potential, and Al Thornton, who seems to have the work ethic to be very, very good if not All-Star material.

The Spurs surrounded their "terrific trio" with solid players and a leader as coach.

With Dunleavy on the hot seat and the bench a bit questionable, these are areas for improvement for the L.A. club. 

But if you lean back and stare at this Clippers team from just the right angle while squinting a bit, you can see the Spurs pre-David Robinson and Tim Duncan.

The Clippers had a chance to make that comparison more realistic and have it elicit less of a chuckle from those who read it with a win against the Spurs.

A win would have given the Clippers 10 wins to the Spurs' 11. 

It would have sent another message across the league to keep an eye out for this Clippers team. 

A win would have moved them closer to their team goal to be a .500 team when Griffin returns. 

A win would have added some ice cubes to Dunleavy's ever-heating warm chair. 

A win would have made them 3-2 in what I felt was a crucial home stretch.

A win would have been a dagger.

Clippers lost 115-90.

Now comes word that the team is contemplating trading Marcus Camby. 

The typical "we-can-neither-confirm-nor-deny" form comment was issued by coach and GM Dunleavy, making it all the more certain that Camby is on the trading block.

The Clippers' run with draft picks and trades has been uncharacteristically good over the last few years. 

I believe that trend will continue as it relates to Camby.

The Clippers' movement from also-ran to the team to watch out for has been bumpy. 

They took their shot on Sunday.

Sadly for the Clippers, the dagger three was wide right, hitting nothing but air.


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