Clippers fans are a mostly private bunch. It’s not that they fear persecution from the hordes of Lakers fans they come across every day, it’s just that they’d rather not deal with it. It’s unfortunate, but any outward portrayal of hope by a Clippers fan is often thwarted with a simple, “It’s the Clippers.” The non-believers are quick to remind you of the team’s past and be the first ones to point out that dark cloud at the top of what might be an otherwise perfectly blue sky.
There’s enough misery involved with being a long-term Clippers fan; we don’t need outsiders to rub salt in the wound for us. Grieve alone or with the company of a like-minded community (thanks for commenting!), but don’t throw yourself to the wolves unnecessarily. You can be a masochist and a self-preservationist at the same time, believe it or not. And you know what? Car flags are stupid anyway. You don’t even want one of those.
A funny thing can happen when all your thoughts and hopes for the team are stored internally, though. Once you hear others start to repeat the things that have been bouncing around in your head, on a national stage no less, you have this weird moment of confirmation. Like maybe you aren’t crazy, and that these really are rational thoughts after all, and that this is way different from the time you talked yourself into the Dan Dickau era.
Some point during the lockout, you’ve probably thought this, basketball deprivation disorder set in or not:
Dwight Howard or Chris Paul would look great in a Clippers uniform.
And now, from ESPN.com writer Chris Broussard last night:
It should be noted that this came on the heels of David Aldridge discussing a Howard-to-the-Clippers trade on NBA TV.
If there’s a testament to the power of Blake Griffin, this is it. The Clippers were never really in the running for LeBron, but Blake Griffin’s potential bought them a face-to-face meeting. Now that Blake Griffin is a real, dunking, dominating thing, it buys you more than that. It lends legitimacy to these types of discussions. It’s no longer a pipedream for Chris Paul or Dwight Howard to be a Clipper — Blake Griffin has made even the wildest of dreams suddenly seem very tangible.
But before anyone gets too far ahead of themselves, it’s necessary to lasso things a bit and set a few items straight. I’m speculating here, but I’d be willing to stake my reputation on the following:
1. The Clippers have zero interest in trading Blake Griffin. He’s completely untouchable — even for Dwight Howard.
2. The Clippers’ ties with Baron Davis have been cut. If he’s amnestied, they won’t be a suitor.
Now that we’ve got that out of the way, we can go back to our regularly scheduled dreaming. Chris Paul. Dwight Howard. How?
Get ready to give up one thing almost definitely: Chris Kaman and his 12.7 million dollar expiring contract. New Orleans or Orlando will want the cap room, and Kaman is the only current contract big enough to make the salaries match. DeAndre might get close, but we’ll have to wait and see.
Be ready to give up this as well: Minnesota’s 2012 unprotected first round pick. If Carmelo Anthony took a first round pick and two second rounders, you can pretty much kiss Minnesota’s pick goodbye in any blockbuster trade. I’ll have to double-check this, but the Clippers should be unable to trade their own 2013 first round pick due to the Stepien Rule. Since Boston holds the rights to the Clippers 2012 pick (top 10 protected), the Clippers shouldn’t be able to deal away their 2013 selection since that would make back-t0-back years with traded first rounders. The soonest available first round pick of their own available for trade should be their 2014 pick. It’s also worth noting that the Clippers have traded (with strict stipulations) their second round picks until 2017. Long story short: That Minnesota pick would have to be gone.
The third requirement is debatable, but it’s the most polarizing one: The Clippers will have to include Eric Gordon. While it would be difficult to trade him, Gordon is the prototypical young, talented player New Orleans or Orlando would be looking for to headline the deal. Already scoring more points per game (22.3) than his age (22), Gordon is the name that will keep New Orleans and Orlando on the phone.
As for the small forward gap? Aldridge reported last night that the Clippers are interested in Caron Butler. Charlie Widdoes has discussed Butler as a free agent here before, and Butler is certainly an attractive name, despite his injury concerns. He’ll be pursued heavily, and the Clippers will have to watch their cap room to maintain flexibility. There are a host of things to consider in the whole small forward equation — cap space, minute distribution, youth development — but I, for one, can’t help but let my little secluded Clippers brain drift to this:
Who will work best with Chris Paul?