The Count took me to the cavernous, charm-free Staples Center for a Clippers game last night (more on that later, great 4th quarter effort sparked a comeback win vs. the Thunder), where we had floor level seats across from the Clipper bench. Great perspective, good crowd (Clippers have sold out every home game since February of last year) for a premier matchup of two youthful, energetic teams.
The highlight of the game, however – aside from the kid (Lefty’s friend?) celebrating his 21st birthday who hit a half court shot to win a jeep – was the running commentary of the fan(atic) who sat behind me. Most of the time, this behavior is not only annoying, but intrusive & detrimental to the enjoyment of a game (or anything, for that matter). This time, however, was different. The man, early 40’s and with a vast knowledge of basketball and a voice/delivery that sounded like Jay Pharoah’s Denzel, was so astute in his observations and had such panache & flair. . .
It started with references to the ground-based James Harden, who was deemed “Old Man Game,” perfect for his Wooden Center approach to the sport – an array of crafty dribbling, deft passing, and a set shot lifted from the 60’s. Continuing on to Blake Griffin and his, umm, quirky free throw method, Denzel/Pharaoh launched into a “snap your wrist at the top of your release,” clearly audible in the Staples doldrums. This of course, was followed by a howling “watch this uglyyyy freeee throowwwwww” on another clanger.
What really clinched it for me was the silly crowd-involvement games the Clippers do during timeouts, such as “fan shoots to win prizes.” In this particular case, a nattily attired Angeleno stepped to the court to attempt the usual array of shots: side bank, free throw, three pointer, half court shot for some Chumash Casino Bucks. The man, wearing pristine fat tongue Air Force Ones, was lauded by Denzel Pharoah: “my mans got his sneakers on, he’s got his game kicks.” Sure enough, the dude hit the first three shots and stepped the the three point line for his final attempt, which bricked. The 5% of the crowd that was paying attention to the shenanigans groaned softly, while my man yelled “shouldn’t have had your skinny jeans on,” inciting a small eruption of laughter.
As the Clippers drearily played like a team that had seven consecutive games – sloppy, turnover prone, disorganized, shot clock violations, forced shots – for the first three quarters, Denzel barked out:
“the good thing about these seats is the Clippers go the other way in the second half!” This was followed up by an errant alley-oop attempt, inciting a “Lob City?!?!? More like Lob Nada!!!”
For his final barb of note, during one particularly hideous outfit change by the Clipper Spirit, featuring pants like these:
the ladies ran of the court to the thundering applause of nobody, and perfectly timed, Denzel shouted: “those pants look like blake griffins free throws – UGLY!”
A fun evening for all, specifically the balanced Clippers, who shook the cobwebs in the 4th quarter, outscoring the ice cold Thunder 26-11 (Westbrook only two points post-first quarter, Durant 6 in second half) to take him a win. . .and more importantly, the sixth Playoff Berth in franchise history.
. . .has there been a player with the ferocious fearlessness of Blake Griffin.
Here are the NBA.com selections of Blake Griffin’s Top Ten Dunks of the Year. . .through only 25 games. Oh my.
The irony is that today’s L.A. Times reported this:
“My preference is to be here in L.A.,” Camby said. “It’s always good to be wanted [but] I would love to finish my career here.”
We woulda loved to have you here too, big guy. Always need a Dr. Dre lookalike with tenacious boarding & shot-blocking ability.
Wow. Just when it appeared that Sterling was ‘getting it,’ they reach out to Isiah Thomas for the head coaching gig? It’s not enough that he ruined the Knicks, Pacers, CBA, Raptors and Magic Johnson?
J.A. Adande, L.A. Times alum, reports for ESPNLosAngeles that Mike Dunleavy was (finally) fired today.
Long overdue, and kudos to Sterling and the Clippers – maybe they’ll take their robustly talented roster and pick a good leader that can make ’em mesh. Is this the first sign that the Clipper Curse may be ending?
Is Byron Scott the next coach of the Clippers? Good fit – Los Angeles second-tier hero, proven coach, good roster that can win immediately. . .
Kudos to Ramona Shelbourne on her new gig for EspnLosAngles.com, espousing on the inconsisent, difficult-to-read play of both the USC and UCLA hoops squads.
That said, folks back in the Tri-Valley of Eastern Washington are disappointed reading about the upstart Bruins defeating the Cougars, 74-62. Again, the continued scrappy play of Mustafa Abdul-Hamid provided a constant spark. The Bruins are now one game out of first place – and two games out of last – in the Pac-10 conference standings. The conference Champion will get a bid, but will that champ be the only team from the Pac-10 to make the tourney?
I’m telling you, how can you not harken back to this guy during times such as these:
Oh yeah, that’s right.
I will tell you this, however, Kevin O’Neill is doing a helluva job in obscurity (and sanctionville) after the implosion of last year’s Trojan squad. I’ll bet even this guy is proud:
Bytheway Dodger fans – have you checked out Dylan Hernandez’s Twitter yet?
As far as the Angels are concerned, an unemotional goodbye is in order for strangely estranged Native Son Gary Matthews Jr., traded unceremoniously for Brian Stokes, another California kid. Matthews never really fit under Arte’s regime; always the fourth outfielder, sort of in a Juan Pierre-esque fashion – Matthews definitely is good enough to play centerfield wherever he wants, but his hitting just hasn’t been the same since the suspiciously successful 2006 year he had with the Rangers. The HGH accusations didn’t sit too well at home, nor with the Angels’ brass.
Also I keep saying it – don’t sleep on the Kings this year. NHL pundit Jason Sapir says they still may be too young, but with inspirational wins such as the 3-2 comeback over the Red Wings becoming commonplace, don’t be surprised if they ride young goalie Jonathan Quick to a deep run in the Playoffs. With five Olympians, the squad is immensely talented. And well coached. Even with the rift between negative18er Jack Johnson and stud GM Dean Lombardi, the Kings are playing well, and holding on to the seventh seed in the West.
The Curse Continues
I really, really thought the Clips had a shot this year – with Camby, Kaman & Griffin, they’d be the only team in the League that could match the Lakers’ length inside. Add BDiddy and Gordon, and their starting five is probably the second strongest in the NBA. Thornton, Butler off the bench = Clippers in the playoffs.
Not now, though.
Blake Griffin out for Entire Season (thank you to the underrated Lisa Dillman)