Yesterday, you may have been made aware of an assault of sorts leveled at the current Los Angeles Clippers team by Beckley Mason of HoopSpeak.com. If not, then you missed out on reading a fairly blunt and direct piece whose main idea is best summed up by its title — “Boo the Clippers.” The audacity!
Okay, actually I’m kidding. Beckley has raised some excellent points in that post, and it mirrors things I’ve heard from people I know (and also things I’ve heard from random people shouting on Twitter). The key point to the common dislike of the team seems to be personality. Or several personalities. Here’s the word on Blake’s demeanor (and even though I have some excerpts on here, definitely go and read the whole thing):
“There’s something menacing and unwelcoming in Griffin’s on-court demeanor that I didn’t detect last season. The way he jogs back down court after finishing an open layup seems self-congratulatory. The tedious way he alternates between shoving his head straight into his defender’s gut and throwing his head backward as though he was just tased on an attempted prison break. The way he takes just under 15 minutes to release a spot up 18-footer. It’s become apparent that Griffin has only four charmless facial expressions: rage, smug, aggrieved and vacant stare.”
If you can get past Blake’s “charmless facial expressions,” you’re met with Chris Paul’s obnoxious mannerisms:
“Look Chris, I know you have to play in Vinny Del Negro’s ‘offense,’ and I get that you aren’t recovering that bang it on Dwight Howard explosiveness any time soon. But dude, you are the mini-Tim Duncan of endless whining.”
And those are just the stars. Let us not forget that Reggie Evans and Kenyon Martin are two of the most dirty, overtly physical forwards in the entire NBA.
“Of course it takes more than one player to sour me on a whole franchise. Role players like Reggie ‘The Gonad Destroyer’ Evans and consummate teammate life-threatener Kenyon Martin don’t exactly endear me to the squad.”
Now, you might think all of this blockquoting and passive agreement is leading to a “but…” defense from me. But really, I’m not sure I can disagree with what Beckley (and others) have said.
The Clippers are a really annoying team.
Blake Griffin and Chris Paul both definitely scowl and complain a lot. I haven’t seen any players complaining complained about (that’s a mouthful) more in regards to referee intimidating (or whatever you want to call the constant gestures and shouts) since Kobe’s peak frustrations in the 2005 season. Reggie Evans flops and shoves and, yes, has issued a low blow to Chris Kaman that made me lose a lot of respect for Reggie when it happened. Kenyon Martin is Kenyon Martin.
But then, why didn’t we hear as much bitterness directed at Blake Griffin last season? I feel fairly sure that his attitude didn’t magically change from this season to last. I’ve seen the same amount of scowling and complaining as ever. Chris Paul certainly flopped and whined to referees more than his fair share in his time with New Orleans. The role players we mentioned have always been themselves, whether with the Clippers or not. A key difference? They’re all now on the same team, and this team is getting massive media coverage. The Clippers (especially to non-Clipper-fans), have essentially become the biggest conglomeration of complaining, flopping and general ugly on-court personality in the NBA. This is the first team since the peak Spurs that I can recall being hated almost purely for on-court action rather than off-court smugness or the like.
Making it even worse for the Clippers is the fact that, even though they produce their share of highlight reel plays, they don’t exactly play a full-throttle, exciting brand of basketball. The Clippers aren’t the run-and-gun Phoenix Suns with more obnoxious personalities. They’re more like last season’s Miami Heat, but with on-court annoyances rather than off-court media faux pas (or whatever you call Lebron’s Decision and Chris Bosh’s innate ability to be disliked). Now, I’m not saying that the Clippers go about winning the same way that the Heat did their first go around, but I think the Clippers have mirrored last season’s slower paced Heat in terms of falling short of high aesthetic expectations that have been placed on them. That makes it a lot harder to overlook the personality stuff the Clippers have going on. The Clippers (like the Heat) seem to have fallen firmly in “I admit that they’re good, but I don’t like them” territory for a lot of people.
For Clippers fans, this strange new thing called winning is likely excitement enough (and mixing in some nice putbacks and lobs, even if the team isn’t fastbreaking every other time down the floor, is still nice), and it’s easier to look past flopping and complaining when the flops are getting your team calls and the complaining is about calls you want the Clippers to get. But from an outside point-of-view, I can definitely see why this Clippers team is more heel than hero (even outside of the whole Donald Sterling ownership issue, which Beckley also mentioned in his post).
For those on the outside, Lob City has so far ended up being a misleading tourist trap rather than a neat vacation destination. But for the people on the inside of Clippers fandom, Lob City is home. And the first inhabitable home fans have had in years, at that.