The Other Side: Los Angeles Clippers
In the midst of another dreadful, frustrating and forgettable season in Clipper Land, Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling decided to shake up his team earlier this month with a profanity-laced, post-game outburst, following a 28-point loss to the San Antonio Spurs. Sterling ripped his players, expressed his support for General Manager and Coach Mike Dunleavy (the man responsible for all of those bumbling players) and reportedly called second-year forward Al Thornton the most selfish player he had ever seen (and we're talking about the Clippers here).
The rant was meant to motivate his team to play better. Instead, it backfired as the Clippers lost their next four games before finally snapping a seven-game losing streak on Sunday, when they defeated the New Jersey Nets, 107-105, as Steve Novak hit a buzzer-beating three-pointer. The celebration afterward was priceless, as Novak gleefully hugged his teammates, who had no clue what to do. But the happy times also were shortlived as the Clippers lost to Golden State, 127-120, last night in Oakland.
The Clippers (16-51) have the second-worst record in the Western Conference and will miss the playoffs for the 21st time in 25 seasons in Los Angeles. They have received a top three pick in the NBA draft lottery seven times and they have used those selections on Benoit Benjamin, Danny Manning, Danny Ferry (who was later traded to Cleveland for Ron Harper), Antonio McDyess (who was later traded to Denver for Rodney Rogers and Brent Barry), Michael Olowokandi, Darius Miles and Tyson Chandler (who was later traded to Chicago for Elton Brand). Manning is the only one of those players to make the all-star team as a Clipper. You don't need to wonder why the franchise has been so terrible for so long.
This season was supposed to be different but the expected Davis-Elton Brand union never came to fruition after Brand bolted for Philadelphia. Davis, Chris Kaman, Zach Randolph and Marcus Camby have missed significant time because of injuries. Sterling has been involved in a legal dispute with former General Manager Elgin Baylor. And Dunleavy joins Don Nelson on the list of coaches with unbelievable job security.
The Washington Wizards defeated the Clippers, 106-94, on Jan. 31 and have won three in a row overall against them. But here's what else you should know about the Clippers as they prepare to host the Wizards tonight at Staples Center:
1. Baron Davis Is Still Sulking
Baron Davis recently told the Los Angeles Times that this season has been the "worst year of my NBA career." The statement shouldn't come as a surprise since Davis is shooting a career-low 36.8 percent and averaging just 15.6 points, his lowest scoring average since his second season in the NBA. Davis's season has supported the old adage that you can't go home again. He left Golden State to sign a five-year, $65 million contract in July and has been miserable ever since. First, Elton Brand ditched him, then he had to actually be a Clipper. He disclosed his frustrations in ESPN The Magazine, when he sounded disappointed that the Clippers were unable to move him at the trade deadline. He also had a sad reminder of what he left behind in Oakland last night.
2. Mike Dunleavy Is Accumulating Doubters
The Clippers need two more wins to avoid matching the second-worst record in francise history, but they are likely to continue a downward spiral that has occurred since they advanced to the conference semifinals three years ago. After winning 47 games in 2005-06, the Clippers have won 40, 23 and now 16 games. Mike Dunleavy has had just one winning season since becoming head coach of the Clippers in 2003, and likely would've been fired under any other circumstances. But since Dunleavy is also the general manager, he won't fire himself. After a recent loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers, when the Clippers blew a 19-point fourth-quarter lead, Clippers season-ticket holder and ESPN columnist Bill Simmons wrote that the man he calls "Dumbleavy" has to go. Although the Clippers will get a high lottery pick, Dunleavy is committed to coaching the mess of a team he created for the rest of the season rather than scout the NCAA Tournament.
3. The Clippers Never Really Got to Know Each Other
Eric Gordon has been one of the few bright spots of this lost season. He has been the highest scoring rookie since Jan. 1, averaging 20.3 points. Injuries have given Gordon scoring opportunities he likely wouldn't have received if the Clippers had been able to rely more on their interior players. Dunleavy acquired Marcus Camby and later Zach Randolph to make up for Elton Brand's defection, but the Clippers have seen Camby, Randolph and Chris Kaman on the floor together for just three games this season -- and one since Nov. 26. Kaman is averaging just eight points and four rebounds in limited minutes since returning after missing 48 games with plantar fasciitis. Camby has struggled since the all-star break and nearly got traded at the deadline. Randolph returned on Tuesday after missing two games to attend to his gravely ill father in Indianapolis.
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