BY: KWAME FISHER-JONES
No NBA franchise has filled more holes and managed to make more sound basketball decisions than the Los Angeles Clippers. The Clips most recent signing of oft-injured, but renowned NBA good guy Grant Hill, was the final jack move in a string of free agent robberies that have snatched the city of Los Angeles from the Lakers and handed it to the Clippers.
Yes, Los Angeles, the City of Angels, is no longer the land of Purple and Gold. When the Clippers spent dough to re-sign Elton Brand it was mentioned in basketball circles that owner Donald Sterling was ready to win.
When Brand escaped and the Clips signed high-priced NBA veteran point guard Baron Davis again many applauded the effort but despised the result. However, when businessman Donald Sterling laid eyes on the physical specimen that is Blake Griffin, he knew he struck gold.
The Clippers have identified a weakness in the Buss Mafia, and have used this moment of weakness to their advantage. Dr. Buss has been the gold standard in sports by building a team of stars and courageous role players. However, the new NBA has attempted to phase out this philosophy and some in the Lakers’ front office have chosen to ignore the wisdom in the corner.
This philosophy has always proven to be flawed and has never gotten a team a championship. It does keep your team in the headlines, for better or worse. The Lakers were a team who played strong interior defense, and simply needed youth and a point guard. The powers that be instead invested in a 38 year-old point and the 2000 version of Cedric Ceballos in Antawn Jamison.
Neither player has ever been mistaken for defenders and will leave gaping holes in Head Coach Mike Brown’s defense. Conversely, the Clippers added players who not only fit their philosophy but also filled a need.
The addition of guard Jamal Crawford gives the Clips a legitimate scoring threat at the two spot. Crawford has played the sixth man role well throughout his career, but will be asked to start in L.A. The explosive guard should not have a problem adjusting to the role of starter since he averages 30-minutes plus throughout his career.
The Seattle native thrives in offenses that allow him to create and should fit nicely in the Los Angeles’ transition game. The addition of small forward Grant Hill along with the return of Caron Butler will give Los Angeles two veterans who are known to play hard. Butler and Hill play the game the right way, and can be looked to for leadership.
Lastly, the Lamar Odom gives L.A. a versatile big man, who, when motivated, can be a valuable role player. You combine these players to a young group of stallions and you have a championship team. The Clippers went from a team of athletes to a team of basketball players with extremely high basketball I.Qs, which spells disaster for the western conference and specifically for their co-tenants who are headed for rough times.
Slowly and meticulously the Clippers have stolen L.A. from the Lakers. While the Laker Nation continues to willingly accept denial and refuse to believe they must get younger with the fierce urgency of now. Meanwhile Los Angeles’ other team has done just that. The Lakers offer two slow seven-footers who, while skilled, do not offer the excitement many in Los Angeles have grown accustomed to. The Clipper scouts identified this void and was handed a gift in Blake Griffin.
The Clippers have never had a problem identifying and drafting talent, it was keeping said talent that was a problem.
However, poised and assisted by a growing separation in Lakerland between father and state, the Clips were able to pounce on this void. Now young, exciting, aggressive, and arrogant this group is ready to shine in Hollywood. As hard as it is to believe, it will not be long before the Lakers are Bird and the Midnight Falcons while the Clippers are the Five Heartbeats. Upstaging is nothing new in Los Angeles, but this turn of events was so unexpected and even harder to fathom.
Yet, this disbelief does not make it less evident. In a world of unexpected but necessary change the Lakers have gone the way of MySpace, beepers, and analog cable. Much like a Laker fastbreak these items are too old and too slow to compete.