I really want to see the Harlem Globetrotters live. I grew up watching the 'Trotters on Saturday morning TV. Sometimes, they would be special guest stars on Fat Albert! Good times.
Even as a kid, I knew the games were fixed. The 'Trotters were all about entertainment, and that was okay by me. I watched in awe as Curly would lay on his side and dribble the ball while the Washington Generals flailed away haplessly.
Maybe it's because I was groomed at such a young age to accept phony basketball as entertainment that I can watch the Clippers play today. I'm happy the team is playing well, glad to see some passion on the court, and the three wins in a row are nice, but let's not kid ourselves: this is phony basketball.
By trading away Marcus Camby, Al Thornton, and Sebastian Telfair the Clippers went all-in. They showed their hand and confidently winked at the others around the table. What's in the pot isn't clear, but we all know what, or who, they have their eye on.
We won't know for a few months, however, if they played their cards right. So, between now and then we are left to watch the Clippers play the part of Harlem Globetrotters. Let's call them the West Coast Wannabees.
The Wannabees are a team tossed together for the balance of the year. Everyone on this team understands that. They play not for any real long-term purpose but for the love of the game.
There are worse places to play the game you love than in Los Angeles. It's no wonder the team has played with passion recently, wouldn't you if you were being paid very well to play a game of pickup ball?
In the role of the Washington Generals have been the Kings, Bobcats, and Pistons. It was against the Pistons that I noticed things not seen in Clipper games for some time. There were bench players pounding the floor to encourage their teammates. I saw smiles, enthusiastic high-fives, and general passion from a team that has been about as passionate as Tiger holding a news conference.
Of course, it's easier to play with passion when you have nothing to play for but the passion. The mark of a great team, not to mention a great player, is when they can excel in a pressure situation. Playing with passion when everything is on the line separates the ordinary from the extraordinary.
Clearly, there is nothing on the line for the Clippers.
"...We want to go into each game trying to win, but I also want them to have fun. We have banter in practice and stuff I think is refreshing. I think basketball should be fun." Lame-duck, I mean Interim, Coach Kim Hughes said recently.
That's what's left for the Clippers this year. In a year that started with playoff aspirations, excitement around Blake Griffin, and what looked to be a solid core of players, the season is winding down as an entertainment piece.
Of course, the team could have continued down the road they were on and played passionless boring basketball (see game result 2/10/10 against the Warriors). Given the option, of course I would rather see them play with a little energy. It's a welcome change, but it's temporary.
This is still a lame-duck team led by a lame-duck coach and very possibly a lame-duck G.M. I can hear you screaming Clipper fan, no the owner is no lame-duck, he remains firmly entrenched.
I feel bad for pointing out that the emperor has no clothes. I should be happy that Steve Blake is an assist machine, that Drew Gooden is pulling off an impressive Marcus Camby impersonation, and that Bo Outlaw is most likely an improvement over Al Thornton, but the Clippers are parading around Figueroa Avenue with their ding-a-ling showing, and someone has to point it out.
Maybe they can sign Meadowlark Lemon to a 10-day contract.