THE CLIPPERS PAID THE PRICE TO BE RELEVANT (AND IT WAS WORTH EVERY PENNY)

Let’s put this in the proper perspective, shall we?

After all that has happened, all the likely scrutiny to follow the blockbuster trade for Chris Paul, there is one undeniable fact that cannot, must not be lost in this equation.

These are the Clippers.


As in, these are the same Clippers that have made the playoffs a grand total of  FOUR TIMES in their 31 year history. The same team that sports a 923-1750 (that means they lost 2 out of every 3 games, folks) in that span. The team with the loathesome owner. The team that’s been a perennial graveyard for coaches, a perpetual laughing stock, the punch line to every joke.

Not any more.

I’ve been a Clipper fan my whole life. Well, let me clarify. I’m a Laker fan at heart, but I root for the Clippers in the same way you root for the dorky, awkward kid to get the girl in the high school movie, or the wimp to fight back against the bully. I’ve watched 25 years of bad teams, seen every bad draft pick from Bo Kimble to Terry Dehere to Michael Olowokandi to Yari Korolev. I’ve watched more 30 point blowout losses than any other sane man could possibly endure, often just to listen to Ralph Lawler call the game with grace, dignity and humor. Ahhh, how I miss the days when Ralph and Bill Walton would kill time with arguments about Antoine Carr’s post moves (Walton-“if you don’t double him, he WILL score!”) or whether what Sam Perkins was wearing on his head was a bandana or a doo-rag.

Yeah, that really happened, I swear.

OK, so to be fair, every so often they managed to put a team together that was just un-shitty (as opposed to actually good) enough to get my hopes up. In 1992, Larry Brown coached Danny Manning, Ron Harper and Loy Vaught to back-to-back playoff appearances for the first (and last) time in franchise history, but Brown left after the second season and the team’s fortunes left with him. In somewhat of a minor miracle, the 1997 team managed to make the playoffs with a 36-46 record, but they went right back to being the Clippers in ’98, winning a lousy 17 games.

But the best Clipper team yet was the 2006 version, the one that was about one or two clutch plays away from the Western Conference Finals. That roster, featuring Baron Davis (not to be confused with Evil, fat Baron), Elton Brand, Sam Cassell, Chris Kaman and Cuttino Mobley looked like the closest thing to an actual legitimate basketball team we’ve ever seen in Clipper uniforms. Alas, that one self-destructed in short order, just like all the rest. In every case I was hopelessly optimistic about the Clips’ chances, and every time I’ve been made to look the fool. Hell, last year I was frustrated enough to write them a “dear John” letter.

Still, the emergence as Blake was enough to suck me back in. I mean, what else can a downtrodden, do-no-right team sell to their fans but hope, especially when expectations are forever set so rock-bottom low? Blind hope is all Clippers fans have ever had. Until Now, that is.

That’s what really happened last night, when the Clippers pulled off the biggest deal of the off-season (and when has that ever been said before now?) and beat the Lakers in the Chris Paul sweepstakes.Truth is, Blake Griffin is already the greatest Clipper of all-time, and it took him all of one year to earn that distinction. Just the promise of Griffin alone was enough to make the Clippers matter. Now, with this move, the Clippers have become something they have never been in their Los Angeles history.

Relevant.

Seriously, this team matters now. All you had to do was turn on the TV last night and listen to all the experts calling them a lock for the playoffs to know something strange and new was afoot. Hell, most everywhere you turned there was actually debate as to whether they had overtaken the Lakers.

I mean, that’s just crazy.

Now, I’m not ready to make that kind of bold statement just yet, by the fact that this is even up for discussion says everything about what the Clips have accomplished here. For once, this joke of a franchise has managed to have the last laugh.

So yeah, anyone wasting their time arguing about whether they gave up too much is missing the point. Don’ give me that nonsense. Eric Gordon is a great player, and trading a potential top 5 pick in next years loaded draft hurts, for sure. Doesn’t matter though. You can spend time worrying about tomorrow or you can do something today, and as of today this is the best team they’ve ever had, hands down.The Clippers didn’t just trade for Paul last night, they traded for legitimacy.

You can’t put a price on that.

-John Hathwell

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