As a fan of the game of basketball and, in particular, the National Basketball Association, there are a handful of things I have come to accept as truths:

  • * To win an NBA title, you typically need a superstar.
  • *To win an NBA title, you need a serviceable post player who can score, rebound, and protect the rim.
  • *Big cities attract the best players
  • * The Los Angeles Clippers suck.
  • As of right now, all of those ‘truths’ remain truths- except the last one. By acquiring Chris Paul from the Hornets, the Clippers transformed themselves into title contenders! Remember the Cuttino Mobley, Tim Thomas, Corey Maggette Clippers? Exactly.

No longer are the Clippers the laughing stock of the NBA. For too long they have been the subject to jokes, poor players, and annual ass kickings by the Lakers. Not just basketball-wise, but revenue wise. People didn’t really like the Clippers. They were the little brother of the juggernaut Lakers- winners of five of the last ten NBA titles. They played in the Staples Center, sure, but it was almost like they didn’t belong there.  Let’s put it this way: Jack Nicholson didn’t sit court-side for Clipper games.

The Lakers tried to get Paul. When the Lakers want something, they generally get it. Think Chamberlain, Abdul-Jabbar, and Shaq. This time they struck out. Who was there to grab the rebound? Donald Sterling, Blake Griffin, and the Los Angeles Clippers! It’s exciting, isn’t it?

This all started two seasons ago when the Clippers drafted a 6’11 athletic freak outta Oklahoma with the first pick in the 2009 draft. Nobody knew Blake Griffin was going to turn out to be this good. He averaged 22.7 points and 14.4 rebounds in his final season in college and 22.5 and 12.1 in his first season in the NBA. He won Rookie of the Year honors in a landslide, became a youtube celebrity after the Slam Dunk Contest, and basically sent fresh blood through the pulse of Clipper Nation.

So the Clippers have a player who’s on pace to be the next Moses Malone. That’s a good start. Their next move was to do whatever it took to surround him with competence. Mo Williams was shipped into town. Eric Gordon blossomed into a fine young player. Deandre Jordan flashed signs that he could be that serviceable low block presence we talked about earlier. Next thing you know, the Clippers were a 32 win team with hope.

Enter Chris Paul.

Paul is entering his 7th season. As we can tell from the history of the league, the 7th year is usually when point guards begin to level off. That’s not to say that they decline in production, they have simply lost that extra bounce in their step. John Stockton and Isaiah Thomas both experienced this:

Stockton 6th season: 17.2 points, 14.5 assists, 2.7 steals, 51% field goal shooting

Stockton 7th season: 17.2 points, 14.2 assists, 2.9 steals, 50% field goal shooting

Thomas 6th season: 20.6 points, 10.0 assists, 1.9 steals, 46% field goal shooting

Thomas 7th season: 19.5 points, 8.4 assists, 1.7 steals, 46% field goal shooting

See? We know what we are going to get from Paul. He’s gonna give the Clippers somewhere in the ballpark of 17-18 points, 9-10 assists, a couple steals, and 49-50% field goal shooting. He is going to improve the level of play of everyone around him and, on a especially young Clippers squad, provide a veteran attitude. Remember, this isn’t the Mo Williams show anymore.

With a squad of Paul, Griffin, Jordan, Mo Williams, Caron Butler, Eric Bledsoe, Randy Foye, Ryan Gomes, Chauncey Billups, and Jamario Moon- it’s not implausible to think the Clippers could seriously contend for the 1st seed in the West. In a 66 game schedule designed for young teams with fresh legs, the Clippers are that much more dangerous.

And what do Lakers fans say? We didn’t get Paul. We probably won’t get Dwight Howard. We shipped away Lamar Odom for next to nothing. Our marquee free agent signings have been Jason Kapono and Josh McRoberts. Ladies and gentlemen, your 2011-2012 Los Angeles Lakers! The only thread of hope we cling to is the idea that the Clippers season hinges on the knees of Chris Paul (already been operated on twice) and the leadership of Vinny Del Negro.

Before I wrap this up, let’s take a peak at those “truths” I listed a the beginning of this blog and see how the Clippers stack up:

Do they have a superstar? Yes.

Do they have a post player? Yes.

Are they a big city? Yes.

The Clippers have become the hot ticket in town. The image of Blake Griffin slamming home a perfectly thrown Chris Paul lob is making me excited.

No, the Clippers don’t suck.

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