Friday, December 16, 2011

Chris Paul Trade Lifts Clippers Out of Lakers’ Shadows


It seems like everyone here in Los Angeles is talking about the Clippers, the other pro basketball franchise in town – the team in the shadows of purple and gold. The eugenicists in town are the people in the Clippers front office for building around superstar Blake Griffin to form a contender in the west as stars align in Hollywood under the shiny lights at Staples Center.

“I’m excited to be here in L.A. with this unbelievable franchise with so much history behind it,” Paul said. “Every one knows Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan signed his deal and my big brother, Chauncey Billups, who I’m excited to be playing alongside of. This is going to be an unbelievable experience.”

He’s a splashy acquisition, Chris Paul, and perhaps a ticket-seller for a franchise in competition with the town rival Lakers, who were in discussion to acquire the floor general. The folks, that is, except the diminutive Clippers faithful, were exasperated and vented on local radio stations to criticize commissioner David Stern. The owners were vindictive, stubborn and envy, and complained all night until Stern vetoed a deal that would have sent Lamar Odom, Luis Scola, Kevin Martin, Goran Dragic and a draft pick to the Hornets, and Pau Gasol to Houston.

If the NBA had not owned the Hornets, during trade talks that were handled on behalf of the league, then the deal would’ve never happened. Denied once, the co-chairman Jim Buss is making all the personnel decisions it seems, and rather than discuss a potential deal with the Magic that could have sent Andrew Bynum and Gasol to Orlando for Dwight Howard, he and general manager Mitch Kupchak pulled out of the Paul sweepstakes.

The other day, after the NBA had blocked the trade – snatching back an early Christmas present – the trade speculations veered on the Clippers side, essentially Lakers were blocked as the owners and league should be embarrassed and regretful, realizing that the people running the business screwed the high-market franchise in the entertainment capital. It was a poor choice that ruined the integrity of the game, not to mention the Lakers chances in retooling as a dominant force in the West, the favorites in a town where purple and gold is highly exalted. He is a star point guard, and had desired to contend for a championship with any team in contention.


The trade, in conjunction with a vow to solely bring a championship to Los Angeles in a Clippers uniform alongside the big man Griffin, was satisfying and the change of scenery that Paul needed to finally play for a title. With the Lakers’ failed attempt to land Paul and their much-publicized trade that sent Odom packing to Dallas, there’s no telling what direction the Lakers are going. This is a startling team, more terrifying than vampires and scary movies that give people the chills, or scarier than reading author Stephen King. The red carpet is rolled out in front of Staples Center as the Clippers have stolen the spotlight in L.A. by assembling a bona fide tandem with Griffin and now Paul on board.

“This is not my day, by the way. This is the Clippers’ day,” Paul said to a swarm of reporters. “This is a humbling experience, and I’m so grateful and thankful to be here.”

The sleepless nights, for a man who rarely had any sleep in the craziest week, have long past after the Clippers acquired Paul Wednesday in a blockbuster deal with a high price. This extreme Hollywood makeover outbid their in-town rivals, but it was a gamble dealing rising star guard Eric Gordon, center Chris Kaman, forward Al-Farouq Aminu and Minnesota’s unprotected 2012 first-round draft pick to the Hornets. It’s all part of what should be an intriguing season for the Clippers. This is enough to have Lakers’ star Kobe Bryant, who recently was upset over his team’s decision to trade Odom to the Dallas Mavericks for a first-round draft pick in 2012 and an $8.9 million trade exception, speak publicly and be petrified not sure which direction the franchise is headed right now.

Then again, he likely won’t be satisfied unless the Lakers pursue in trading for Howard but all talks are that he’ll stay in Orlando. It’s considered a gamble, but the Clippers are aiming to win NOW and they see a bright future with lobbed passes to Griffin from Paul, who contributed in the Hornets turnaround. The Clippers, a team that was in need of significant star power this offseason, finally built a team of ferocity and promise, a renewed rivalry with their neighbor’s in purple and gold.

He walked to the podium with his agent, Leon Rose, who contributed in completing the unforeseen deal, dressed in his black suit, crimson tie and matching socks at his introductory news conference in the Clippers practice facility Thursday. Odd as it sounds, the Clippers acquired Paul in a four-player trade with the Hornets, outsmarting and outmaneuvering the Lakers and other suitors involved in trade rumors.

“I believe in this organization,” Paul said. “I believe in the players here, and I want to win. I want to win now. I’m so tired of doing everything else. I want to play.”

So when the Clippers announced Wednesday evening that they had landed an All-Star player, greatly considered the NBA’s best point guard, the folks in parts of the town jumped on board and journeyed on a joyride to Clipper Nation, a campaign that swept the Southland not long ago. If there’s a believer and loyalty felt in a town, where fans of the most ridiculed franchise in basketball are minorities, it would be Darrell Bailey. The arrival of a priceless point guard purges the doom that separated the Clippers from the rest of the franchises, releases the misfortune and curses that flirted with the sentiment of torture.

This team was never worth an argument or in conversations to evenly contend or compared to the other L.A. team, out of one’s mind and neglected in a town that root like hell for purple and gold. No one screamed loud for the Clippers, unless you were Billy Crystal or Clipper Darrell. Make no mistake, this is a Lakers town. The deal, as the Clippers were suitors after bidding on a superstar when potential bidders were rejected of a proposed three-way trade, is a way for them to fight for supremacy against their crosstown rivals. The one argument which can be publicized at this point is that many of the bleak faces can turn into smiles as the Clippers are on verge of perhaps a promising future.

As in the dreadful past for many of ill-spirited fans that has had to bear with the circumstances of humiliating losses, ill-advised draft picks which became busts and the lawsuit filed by former longtime executive Elgin Baylor, the Clippers cleansed any turmoil that torn down the team’s image. The quirky owner Donald Sterling has suffered from the wrath of embarrassment by the way he ran his mismanaged business. But now, by moving aggressively in pursuing Paul, he looks like the smartest businessman as the Busses behave like egomaniacs. In other words, the Clippers are the winners, as the Lakers are losers.

The season looms in Southern California and the Lakers’ car flags on vehicles proudly waves, but Clipper Darrell is a die-hard Clippers fan and cruise the streets with his custom painted car in the team’s colors. This offseason, despite that the Clippers are the minorities in a basketball town, they are not only sharing the same building with the Lakers but they are battling for bragging rights and domination. Because the Clippers brought in an All-Star in his prime, arguably the league’s best floor general, fans of the most unsettled franchise in sports can attend every home game and witness awe-inspiring hoops from Griffin and Paul, a pair of NBA stars that changes the landscape.

He, like many players without a profound supporting cast, had planned to leave New Orleans after next season but it wasn’t certain to whether he’d be playing in a Clippers uniform, particularly when Paul wasn’t ecstatic about the league shooting down the proposed three-way deal that would have sent him to the Lakers. So the team that no one ever imagined made the biggest splash at the expense of the Lakers, the most undaunted move since the Clippers relocated to their crosstown antagonist’s backyard in 1985. The buzz is still prevalent, as few wondered after Paul and Clippers general manager Neil Olshey announced that he had made a long-term commitment to the team.

“Why did I make a long-term commitment? Because I believe in this organization,” Paul said.”

Welcome the newest member, CP3, to L.A., where he’ll be playing in the same town of two superstars Kobe and Griffin.

“He’s not here to jump on a lily pad for two seasons,” Olshey added. “He’s coming here to be a part of the future of the franchise. He wanted to know there were pieces in place that would be with him long-term and that was a part of this deal. … It gave me the confidence to know that if we get this guy here and continue to do the right things, they’re all going to be here for the future and long-term.”

The Lakers-Clippers rivalry is good for the NBA, as the Clippers might be the most exciting team in the NBA this season, an epic theater for a sport that almost lost an entire season during a chaotic lockout. The reality is, although it seems strange that the Clippers assembled vastly the most entertaining and deepest squad, they were lucky to obtain Paul when the league’s boneheaded decision to veto the trade stopped the Lakers. The first word that came out of Griffin’s mouth when Paul arrived was “Lob City!” he said excitedly, stunned as he walked off the bus on his cellphone after spending much of the afternoon touring Los Angeles.

Now the Lakers, by virtue of trading the most valuable player on the market to Dallas for nothing in return, are in need of a big-man and a point guard to retool their aging, sluggish franchise. For once, the Clippers are on the rise, ready to take the throne away from the Lakers. This team is younger, hungrier and deeper as the other team in L.A. is on decline. So, as Howard was floating in trade rumors, the Lakers failed attempt could doom a team of perplexing riddles in the end.

With little guarantee of the Clippers possibly shifting into playoff mode since Paul arrived, fans are excited and believe in red and blue. The home of the Lakers has also become the home of the Clippers. Ah, yes, they gave up their youth and future with the mentality that winning now is their intention, and were willing to send the young assassin Gordon on a one-way ticket out of town. Right now the Clippers are winners. But really, what is evident is that the Clippers have not gave away a lottery pick since trading Baron Davis to Cleveland in exchange for Mo Williams and cleared cap space.

The best argument we can think of is that the Clippers were trying to clear salary cap space again, and knew they couldn’t afford to pay Griffin, Paul and Gordon, whose rookie contract expires after the season and he will become an unrestricted free agent. And let’s face it, he would have even tested the market and signed for a long-term elsewhere had he still been with the Clippers.

The emergence is near. Paul is a Clipper. The current state of this franchise is scarier and maybe the greatest point guard/center combo in L.A. since Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabber.

Finally, Sterling can smile proudly from his Malibu home.