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It started with Blake Griffin. (Yes, it almost ended with Blake Griffin too…Only the Clippers could find a savior in a player who missed his entire rookie season)
Then came Chris Paul – you know, greatest point guard alive, NBD. (Wasn’t it fitting that the Clippers only landed such a star after David Stern vetoed a similar trade in which the player landed on the Lakers?)
In the first year of Paul-Griffin, the supporting cast simply wasn’t there. Depending on the likes of Nick Young and a well-past-his-prime Kenyon Martin for both big minutes and scoring on a nightly basis? Not exactly a recipe for success.
This offseason, however, even after the loss of Nick Olshey (the main architect of the trade that netted Chris Paul, mind you) the Clips actually managed to build a contender. Griffin was resigned (to a max contract), an easy decision for the Clippers, but a huge show of faith from the soon-to-be-gold-medalist to the formerly second-tier L.A. franchise.
In came the upgrades. They signed Chauncey Billups (who, in all fairness, the Clips actually claimed off the waiver wire last year, only to have him tear his achilles 20 games into the season) to a 1-year deal, with the general thinking being that Billups could be an effective spot-up-shooting 2-guard when on the court with Paul, while providing serviceable (offensive) play in spells relieving him at the point.
Then they landed NBA-journeyman Grant Hill (still rocking an 80 overall rating in NBA 2K, for nerd-reference) in free agency; no small achievement for a franchise still owned by Donald Sterling. Hill will serve as a more than capable defensive-minded small forward; willing and (mostly) able to check the best of the best in the league.
And that’s not it! Let’s not forget the addition of Jamal Crawford, who is coming off a down year in Portland, but remains one of, if not the most dangerous microwave-guards in the league.
Oh RIGHT – and they landed the 2011 NBA sixth-man-of-the-year Lamar Odom. Yes, he appeared entirely washed up last season; but a return to L.A. is clearly the remedy for what ails Odom, and the upside is absolutely tantalizing. If he can return to 70% of his 2011 form, he would provide the Clips with a serviceable backup big man capable of carrying the 2nd team along with Crawford.
Then there’s (the kinda sorta addition of) Eric Bledsoe, the lanky, athletic 3rd-year point guard, who is set to return from an injury to fill out the guard rotation.
Plus Caron Butler should be entirely healthy after playing through a broken hand for much of the 2012 post-season.
Somehow the Clippers 2nd team includes Eric Bledsoe, Jamal Crawford, Caron Butler and Lamar Odom…you said WHAT?
For the first time in a long time (forever?) it seems Clippers fans have not only reason to be optimistic, but to be downright excited. Though the likes of Oklahoma City and San Antonio still rightfully hold the “favorites” designations, the Clippers have officially moved into the “up and comers” class, and have every opportunity to compete for a title-shot next year.
By Michael Levkowitz (@mikelevkowitz)
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Welcome to Not Your Father’s Water Cooler!
You know those mind-numbing water cooler discussions about weather, pets and weekend activities? That soul-crushing small talk would be far less demoralizing if it included something you actually cared about.
Founded by two hoops addicts, NYFWC brings you the kind of water cooler chatter we dreamed of: a dialogue centered on hypothetical trades, basketball debates and of course, humor.
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