L.A. CLIPPERS SEASON PREVIEW
The Los Angeles Clippers have been the lovable losers for decades in the NBA, but during the 2011-12 season, the team went all in and signed a bevy of talent to created one of the better teams in the league. In the advent of the trade for point guard Chris Paul from the New Orleans Hornets and the continued development of forward Blake Griffin. The two have turned out to create a certainly dynamic duo that resulted in the Clippers' highest winning percentage in their history with a 40-26 record, as well as an opening round win over the Memphis Grizzlies in the playoffs before they were swept by the Spurs in the semifinals. Instead of taking a step forward, the Clippers have taken a giant leap ahead and are now in the conversation among the best teams in the Western Conference.
The Clippers headed into the offseason looking to improve their depth, as they let go a variety of role players like Mo Williams, Reggie Evans, Nick Young and Kenyon Martin. As a result, the team went out and signed for NBA Sixth Man of the Year Lamar Odom at forward, at ageless Grant Hill at forward and Jamal Crawford at shooting guard. Each of these players brings starting experience to the table and should also be boosted by the arrival of point guard Chauncey Billups, who will provide superior depth behind Paul.
Looking at the rest of the Clippers' roster, it's easy to see that the point guard position is far more solid than it was a year ago, with players like Billups and Eric Bledsoe providing depth behind Paul. At shooting guard, the team signed Willie Green in the offseason to provide a boost off the bench, but the guard position will rely mainly on a Crawford, Paul and Billups trio. At the power forward position, Blake Griffin is obviously the strongest starter of the bunch, but the Clippers could receive a huge boost from Lamar Odom if he can return to his form when he played with the Los Angeles Lakers. At small forward, Caron Butler has emerged as a solid starter, and the team improved its depth at the position by signing Matt Barnes. At center, DeAndre Jordan is one of the best in the game, and his backups, Ronny Turiaf and Ryan Hollins, have the size and ability to move to forward in a pinch.
A top seed in the postseason is not out of the question for the Clippers, but they will have to receive bigger contributions from their depth players to get past the Lakers, Thunder and Spurs who are the class of the Western Conference.
LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS FRANCHISE FACTS:
Location: Los Angeles, California
Stadium: Staples Center
Conference: Western Conference
Division: Pacific Division
Rivals: Los Angeles Lakers
Dancers: Clippers Spirit Dancers
Notable Players: Bill Walton
Los Angeles Clippers Playoff tickets
Los Angeles Clippers Season Preview History
LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS EXPERIENCE:
The Los Angeles Clippers franchise joined the NBA in 1970 as an expansion team along with the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Portland Trail Blazers, but began their tenure across the country as the Buffalo Braves. The Braves floundered in their first few seasons, but made the playoffs three years in a row between 1974 and 1976. The Braves also boasted the MVP of the league in 1975, center Bob McAdoo, who was one of the team's most successful draft picks. Sinking attendance numbers and subpar play on the court eventually forced the Braves to move to San Diego, where they changed their name to the Clippers.
After posting a 43-39 record in the team's first year in San Diego, the Clippers made a series of questionable personnel moves and refrained from impacting the standings for a number of years. The team signed Hall of Famer Bill Walton in 1979, but much of his Clippers tenure was unfortunately riddled by injuries. In 1984, owner Donald Sterling moved the team to Los Angeles, where they would share a market with the world-class Los Angeles Lakers.
The move to the Los Angeles area did little to improve the Clippers chances of contending in the Western Conference. The team experienced losing seasons every year until the 1991-92 season when the team hired Hall of Fame coach Larry Brown. The squad then featured a noteworthy mixture of savvy veterans such as guard Doc Rivers and center James Edwards, as well as young bucks like Gary Grant, Charles Smith and Ken Norman. In the first round of the playoffs, the Clippers went up against the Utah Jazz and looked impressive, but fell in five games. The following year, the Clippers were back in the playoffs, but experienced a similar result, this time at the hands of the Rockets in five games.
Happily, the Clippers won their first playoff series in the team's history during the 2005-2006 season against the Denver Nuggets. Nevertheless, the Clippers fanbase remains dedicated and patiently waiting for the team to put it all together on the court and bring home an NBA championship.