Right now in Los Angeles it is all about the Clippers, as Blake Griffin and other young players are running their opponents off of the court. Photo by Jason Lewis
Chris Paul (right) was supposed to be with the Lakers, but instead he is lighting the league up with the Clippers. The Lakers ended up with Steve Nash (left), who finally looks like he is past his prime. The Clippers came out way ahead on that one. Photo by Jason Lewis
Long suffering Clipper fans are finally being repaid for their loyalty.
By Jason Lewis
Sentinel Sports Editor
Clipper fans have taken their lumps. Not just here and there, but for the better part of the past 30 years. Since moving to Los Angeles the Clippers have never won a division title and they have only made the playoffs five times, advancing to the second round only twice.
But for Clipper fans it is not about the past, because today is a new day, and they are finally being rewarded with one of the best teams in the NBA. For the first time ever, the Clippers are NBA Finals contenders.
Clipper fans Jeffery Jett, Quincey Strange, and Yul Plummer have struggled through the bad seasons, and now they are on top of the world, as they never jumped ship.
"It's gratifying to see the team play at such a high level and with great team chemistry," said Jett, who is a long time Clipper season ticket holder. "It more than just 'Lob City.' All the pieces are coming together. It's been lots of hard work for the team and organization."
Strange has seen a lot of players come and go, and he has seen many draft picks flop. For him, this season is about new beginnings.
"As long as a healthy Chris Paul is running the point with supporting talent, we will be contenders," Strange said. "Since Andre Miller was traded we have lacked a long term solution at point. Sam Cassell was nice but we all knew that was a short term fix. We did go to the playoffs with Sam!"
The Clippers or their fans have never had the type of expectations that this current team has.
"Our expectations are very high," Jett said. "The team is definitely playing at playoff level and should exceed last year's playoff run."
"My expectations for the rest of the season would be to have the highest win total in team history," Plummer said. "To win the Pacific division and to reach the Finals of the Western Conference, once there anything can happen."
Last year the Clippers made great strides by getting out of the first round for only the second time since they moved to Los Angeles. That was nice, but now fans are hungry for more. What are the expectations?
"NBA Finals," Strange said. "We got some payback for San Antonio if healthy, and OKC can be beat in a series now with Harden gone. Westbrook's decision making is killing them!"
As excited as Strange is, he is still a realistic fan.
"Let's be real, nobody is beating the Heat in 7," Strange said.
Even if they fall short of a title, this team has fans buzzing.
"The team is exciting and fun to watch," Lett said. "Everyone seems to focus on winning and encouraging each other. The bench is strong and takes pride in their contributions. To have a month like they did in December shows their focus and how determined they are to keep winning."
This is by far the best roster that the Clippers have ever put together, as they have two All-Star players in Chris Paul and Blake Griffin, and they are surrounded by other talented palyers.
"The youth on the squad has big boy game! We need to keep them and find affordable plug in players," Strange said. "I would trade players like Butler, Barnes, Odom, before DeAndre, Bledsoe, or Hollins."
"What do I enjoy most about the team is the mix of experience and youth, the teams depth and the teams character," Plummer said. "The Clippers bench is what separates them from other teams, you have players like Jamal Crawford, Matt Barnes, Lamar Odom, Eric Bledsoe and Grant Hill, this gives you the ability to sustain injuries as well as to maintain and build upon a lead. I also mention the teams character because its a pleasure to not read about problems off the court, they are a lot of fun to watch."
Interesting enough, these three Clipper fans are not rooting against the Lakers, or enjoying their struggles.
"Not a Laker hater," Strange said. "I like that Los Angeles is relevant in the sports world. I would rather have the Lakers killing it also so we get some good local smack talk going. Laker fans are a shell of their former swag. I only take pride in being better than East Coast squads."
"This year it's really not about the Lakers, who are struggling, but striving to be the best team in the West," Lett said. "Oklahoma is still the defending (Western Conference) champion and San Antonio is having a solid year. Those are the teams we must beat to get to the Finals."
"To be drastically better than the Lakers is fun," Plummer said. "To play the Lakers and to convincingly beat them is special, but the fact they are having a down year takes away from it just a little bit. You want to beat the best when they are at full strength, but that said to be the best team in LA is a good thing!"
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