Despite the hype surrounding the Los Angeles Clippers since acquiring Chris Paul during the pre-season, they were really not the favorites coming into the opening of the 2012 season. Not even the two pre-season victories they had over their co-tenant Los Angeles Lakers were enough to dismiss the notion of cynicism against them. And that’s just normal, since the true test of their mettle comes when they finally face the giants on the court during the season.
After 9 games, they’re finally living up to the hype.
Just now the Clippers earned a 102-94 win over their co-tenants in Staples Center, with Chris Paul dropping 33 points on a 12-for-22 shooting, with three of them coming from the long distance area. Kobe Bryant scored for 42 points, the fourth night he’s been scoring 40+ points, but even that wasn’t enough to overtake the Clippers, who are now 6-3, goog enough for third in the standings, while the Lakers snap their five-game winning streak, earning a 9-5 win-loss card which puts them at 5th spot.
The other night, the Clippers beat the Miami Heat in overtime, 95-89, behind the performance of Paul’s 27 points, along with Blake Griffin and Chauncey Billups, who each scored 20. Their win over the defending Eastern Conference champions was the first true test of the Clippers’ credentials on paper. And then this, a win over the team that has made them for many years “the other LA team.” At least, for the time being, they’re showing the basketball world that they’re not just any other team that should be sidelined and dismissed.
Nonetheless, they still have a long way to go. This is just the Clippers’ second win over a top-contending win in any given conference. Their three previous losses have come from the hands of the Portland Trailblazers (105-97), Chicago Bulls (114-101), and their biggest loss so far, to the San Antonio Spurs (115-90), teams that are standing atop the list.
But one thing’s for sure: the Clippers are slowly finding their way up the ladder, among the great contenders of the West.
And, in the heart of their fans as well.
All of a sudden, the NBA’s perennial whipping boys for the last three decades are set to remake their image into contenders, as the LA Clippers landed a deal with the league-owned New Orleans Hornets, acquiring 4-time NBA All Star Chris Paul.
A few weeks ago, it seemed Paul was headed to the other LA Team–the Lakers–which would have pushed a deal between the Hornets and the Houston Rockets. That is, until NBA Commissioner David Stern stepped in and killed the trade for “basketball reasons.” The Clippers joined in the trading fray after the three-team deal collapsed. The Clippers sent guard Eric Gordon, big man Chris Kaman and his soon-to-expire $12.7-million contract to the Hornets, along with sophomore forward Al-Farouq Aminu and the 2012 unprotected first-round draft pick the Clippers acquired from the also-rebuilding Minnesota Timberwolves in 2005.
The Lakers, obviously, are utterly upset with the turn of events. Just recently, the Lakers let lose Lamar Odom to the Dallas Mavericks, and may lose the chance to acquire Dwight Howard from the Orlando Magic. The pressure adds up especially if you see that the team sharing the Staples Center with your team has transformed from all-time cellar-dweller to playoff contender. And, did I mention the Lakers have a new coach?
On paper, the Clips have all the reason to smile with the acquisition they’ve had in the past weeks. But to reach the playoffs–or at least to finally bolt out of the bottom of the standings–have yet to be seen when the season tips off on the 25th. And so the proverbial “wait and see.”
Nonetheless, the excitement and enthusiasm of seeing Paul wearing a jersey that looks like that of Griffin is something to be really joyous about. Brace yourselves for a lot of nifty passes and high-flying dunks as the Clippers flaunt their new line-up when the season kicks off soon.