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Will The Clippers Wilt Under The Glare Of The Spotlight?

Jose SalviatiCorrespondent IIJanuary 8, 2010

LOS ANGELES - JANUARY 6:  Baron Davis #1 of the Los Angeles Clippers stretches on the sideline during the game with the Los Angeles Lakers on January 6, 2010 at Staples Center in Los Angeles, California. 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 Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

Generally speaking, covering the LA Clippers is about finding things to write about.  I admit it's not the most glamorous assignment.

No one on the team is dating or married to a reality TV star. The team owner doesn't "date" girls that are younger than his grand kids. Guns aren't pulled in the locker room.

The Clippers are just a basketball team. No drama, little excitement and for years, few victories.

Things however are changing. A win over the Boston Celtics was nice and left the green team reeling, but a win over "big brother" has heads turning.

Hadarii Jones, featured columnist for the other basketball team in L.A., wrote a great piece about the recent Clipper victory over the Lakers. He likened it to when your little brother gets a lucky shot in on big bro.  It stings, but some piece of you is happy for lil bro's success.  Great analogy.

The Lakers' little brother is growing up, sporting some chest hair and in the middle of a growth spurt. The spotlight is on L.A. and moving in the direction of the Clippers.

When I started writing about the Clips, there were 70 members of the Clipper community. The number, as of this writing, is 83.  Four joined after the win over the Lakers.

When I started writing about the Clips, my name was plastered all over the Clippers home page. Every article, every Community Pick had me written all over it.  All Jose, all the time!

After the win over the Lakers, four articles about the Clippers showed up that weren't mine. They weren't even negative pieces!

The best kept secret in LA is turning heads.

Of course, when the spotlight is on you, every little mole is on display.  Stories that would have washed away normally are now headlines.

Michael Smith is the analyst for the Clippers. Earlier this year he was suspended for one game for his part in a mispronunciation and failed attempt at humor.  Political correctness gone horribly wrong.

Now, Smith has been charged by the Orange County District Attorney's Office with felony theft. Every indiciation is that Smith borrowed money and hasn't paid it back.  Dilemma? Sure. Felony theft? Doesn't look like it. Front page sports news? Here in L.A. it is.

I'm not saying this wouldn't have been news if the Clippers hadn't been displaying signs of life, but I am suggesting it wouldn't be a front page story. 

The spotlight changes everything.

Given the choice, of course, every team would take the glare and minor discomfort that the spotlight brings with it. For every negative, the spotlight tends to bring a positive.

Chris Kaman has been having an All-Star season. However, his name isn't on the ballot. It gets worse. The top scoring center in the NBA, who is coming off a 12 point, eight rebound season last year, isn't in any top-five list I have seen for Comeback Player of the Year! He at least belongs in the discussion.

Kaman's biggest flaw of course is that he plays for the Clippers. 

That same disadvantage is what could keep him from a deserved All-Star appearance.  Phil Jackson, however, is taking note.

"Regardless of whether he's on a winning team or not, I think that he's got stats that do say he should be nominated for that position," Jackson said.

The spotlight changes everything.

Everything up until now has been preparation. The Clippers have been in make-up, getting dolled up for their big appearance when the spotlight is directly on them. Right now, the Clippers are on the periphery, half in the light but still with a foot in the shadows.

That will all change when Blake Griffin returns. His first game will turn the spotlight directly on the team. L.A. loves a debut, and they are gearing up to do Griffin's right.

Thankfully for the Clippers, they aren't relying on him to come and be a team saviour.  Marcus Camby has done more than an admirable job at power foward. Griffin will only be expected to adapt to the NBA game while learning how to work with his teammates.  It's a perfect situation for a promising NBA player.

Wins over the NBA's elite franchises—current and former NBA champions—gives the Clippers notoriety. Inching closer to the teams goal of a .500 record at or before Griffin's return gives the Clippers momentum. 

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Having a rejuvenated point guard (Baron Davis) and All-Star center, while waiting on the upcoming debut of the league's No. 1 draft pick, gives the Clippers hope.

The spotlight changes everything, and the Clippers appear ready for their closeup.