Fans of the Los Angeles Clippers have plenty to be thankful for in the year we’re about to leave behind–2012–and unwavering anticipation for the upcoming year that has an insane amount of untapped potential–2013.
Of course, give your kids a kiss on the cheek and tell them 2013 is going to be awesome. Do the same to your wife, dog (family pet) and whomever else you want to embrace the new year with.
Now– with the essential people in life felt appreciated and wrapped up in a cozy figurative blanket of wisdom, hope and protection–the raging Clipper fan instilled deep within needs to be let out in a way it never has been before; literally–never before.
Has there ever been a time since 1970–when the organization was founded–in which the Los Angeles Clippers (not the Lakers) were associated with winning? The red, white and blue has only been to the playoffs eight times and has never been past the second round.
The 2012-13 version of the Clippers have won 17 consecutive games (16-0 in December–only the third team in league history to sweep an entire month), are at the top of the NBA standings at 25-6, are considered to be the deepest team in the league, have two definite All-Stars (Chris Paul and Blake Griffin) and the possible NBA regular season MVP.
These kind of facts, news and headlines are something every sports fan hopes to bring in a new year with. Well, Clippers’ fans, this is your time.
LA’s success starts with one man: Chris Paul.
We all knew when he was a top tier player and is capable of leading a team to greatness when he was traded to LA from the New Orleans Hornets. After an up and down year one–LA got to the semifinals for only the third time in team history–surrounded with key injuries and insecurities about other starters on the team, the Clippers still showed they could be something special.
When they beat the Memphis Grizzlies in the first round–it was because of Chris Paul’s brilliant play. When the Clips were swept by the San Antonio Spurs in the semifinals–it was because Chris Paul was very beat up and couldn’t play at his highest level.
Now we see what he can do with his supporting cast when he is healthy. The man is having an MVP season averaging 16.3 points per game (36th in the league), 9.6 assists (2nd), 13.7 assists per 48 minutes (2nd), 4.42 assist per turnover (1st), 2.71 steals (1st) and is shooting 4-of-4.4 free throws a game for a 90% clip (10th).
Don’t get me wrong, the Miami Heat’s LeBron James is the best player in the NBA and should win the award for the next three or four seasons. But, we all known the voters won’t let that happen and will allow a lesser, although still great, player raise the trophy high above their head before placing it in a display case or on a shelf at home.
Paul can be the next Derrick Rose or Steve Nash (times two).
Without Paul, Griffin is not having the type of impact he is having. Those easy dunks Griffin is throwing down like lightning bolts from Zeus would decrease, maybe by half. Caron Butler, Matt Barnes and Willie Green would not receive as many wide open jumpers. Paul is making the lives of everyone on his team much easier than they’ve had in previous NBA seasons. Guys who have had to create their own shot every rip, now don’t have to. The guys whose shooting percentages have been relatively low for their careers are now going up because of Paul.
He has came into LA with a cape, mask and basketball special powers with a mission to turn things around for his personal career and the team he plays for.
The point guard is doing exactly what he should do–taking advantage of his teammate’s skills, exploiting the Clippers’ opponents weaknesses and leading LA to victory. He isn’t only doing it, but at the best clip in the league.
On ESPN’s NBA Lockdown podcast hosted by Bruce Bowen, Isreal Gutierrez said Paul is having a great season but hinted the Clips’ success should be credited for the depth of the team. He went on to add, the Clippers have four guys who can score 30 points a game (Griffin, Paul, Butler and Jamal Crawford) and very few teams have this kind of fire power.
In essence, Gutierrez is saying Paul is having a great season because of the guys around him. I respect his opinion and see some merit, but at the same time, all these players are able to play their top game because of what Paul is doing.
Who remembers Crawford’s effort last season in Portland? He could score (he has always been able to) but is now playing controlled and is selecting his shot opportunities than he ever has.
How about the fact Griffin is getting the ball in easier to score possibilities than he did before Paul arrived. In his one season without Paul, Griffin shot %50 from the field. Last season it bumped up to 55% and is at 54% on this season.
The same thing can be said about Butler. He can create his own shot, but why not sit in the corner and wait for Paul to create, catch the ball and knock down an uncontested jumper? His 43% shooting from the 3-point line is the second highest of his 11-year career.
It doesn’t matter how deep the team is with talent because personal talent only gets one man so far. Ask Tracy McGrady, Vince Carter, Penny Hardaway or Carmelo Anthony how far their personal talent got them on teams, in which, they didn’t do anything else other than score. However, when one guy has the ability to make an entire group of guys gel into one crucial unit on the court with his own game play (offensively and defensively) and player-coach type basketball IQ–the team has no ceiling.
If a player makes everyone on his team better and is on course to set win-column records for a franchise, he should be a front runner for the MVP trophy. Paul is that guy, not a two month wonder, but the definition of a great player who is doing something for his team few others are accomplishing this season.
Isn’t this what you want in an MVP?