Oh my, Clippers could be something really special this season

It's only an exhibition, but the Clippers look like the team to beat in Los Angeles, if not the entire NBA.

December 19, 2011|T.J. Simers
  • Clippers center DeAndre Jordan celebrates after scoring a basket during an exhibition victory over the Lakers on Monday at Staples Center.
Clippers center DeAndre Jordan celebrates after scoring a basket during… (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles…)

Fasten your seat belts, gang.

Given the Clippers' euphoria around here, I thought I'd check with the broadcaster who seemed to be doomed to a lifetime of defeat, Ralph Lawler, and ask him where in Staples Center he'd now like the championship banner to hang.

Oh me oh my, he takes me seriously, and bless his soul.

"Opposite end," he says of the Lakers.

Then he looks up to the American and Canadian flags' end of the building, and while chuckling, adds, "There's really quite a bit of room for it."

PHOTOS: Lakers vs. Clippers

Bingo! Nothing but an empty wall between Sections 326 and 327, everyone turning to the flag for the national anthem and what's that up there?

"It's not beyond the realm of possibility with this group in the next couple of years of getting one of those things," Lawler says.

To dream the impossible dream, Lawler, now 73, is making the 240-mile roundtrip from his home in La Quinta most nights to work and usually be disappointed.

This summer he found himself wondering how much longer. But now he says, "Flip that 73 around; I feel 37. I feel like a rookie again."

How cool is that and how far out of touch are Chauncey Billups and Mo Williams, the party just starting and they can only think about themselves.

As they will learn, no free rides here.

Before declaring he was "all in" with the Clippers and having some fun where he will earn $14.2 million for doing so, Billups contemplated quitting to presumably drive a truck the rest of his life.

I guess that makes him no different than the rest of us, who have to wrestle daily with tough financial questions.

Contrast that to Chris Paul who arrived here embracing the Clippers' experience as if he had been traded to a perennial contender. He gushed, his enthusiasm already contagious.

He is already the Clippers all-time spokesman and has yet to play a real game or attend one of Donald Sterling's dress-in-all-white parties.

Then there's Williams, and why is he still here if he's going to pout when the Clippers are finally feeling good about themselves?

Williams took a vow of silence after the Clippers acquired Paul and Billups because what can one say when they are nowhere as good as those two, I guess.

But before Monday night's exhibition show, Coach Vinny Del Negro was telling everyone what a pro Williams has been.

"Our beat guy, [Times reporter Broderick Turner], tells me Williams hasn't been talking since Paul and Billups came to town; is that how a pro acts?" I say.

"He's been talking all the time to me," Del Negro says, everyone agreeing then that Turner must be the problem.

As for Williams, every team needs good benchwarmers. And there are so many more big name players to enjoy, although last I saw Williams he was headed to the court. Followed by Turner.

One minute to go to start the game, Randy Newman is singing he loves L.A. in Staples Center, and he might have to be a little more specific.

Clippers or Lakers?

The Clippers have already sold out every home game this season. The Lakers are still working at it. Would you pay top prices to see a team featuring Matt Barnes as one of the starting five?

Steve Blake is starting at point guard for the Lakers this night. Derek Fisher will be there to start the season, and I think that makes a difference.

As for everyone else, the Lakers have a Dodgers feel to them now, throwing the utility likes of Jason Kapono, Josh McRoberts, Troy Murphy and Devin Ebanks on the court along with Ron Artest.

Instead of changing his name, Artest might want to change his game. Cover your eyes, folks, the Lakers are down by 24 at the end of three quarters — to the Clippers.

The final outcome means nothing, but telling in so many ways if this condensed season is going to be best approached by teams with young legs. The Lakers are old and slow and look it as the game goes on and the Clippers race by them.

In the first half, the Lakers crowd is chanting MVP as Kobe steps to the free-throw line, and he better be. He's the only one who seems to bring energy to the Lakers lineup.

But as aggressive as Bryant was to the basket, and as many times as his old body hit the floor, Coach Mike Brown better start drawing up some plays for Darius Morris.

"I do like the progress our guys have made and having said that I'm real excited to see how our guys do on the court tonight," Brown was telling the media before the game.

I'll bet he's just as excited now to know how the front office is doing in its quest to secure Dwight Howard. Or, anyone with a pulse.

Andrew Bynum is healthy so far, aggressive and big and still unable to finish strongly at the rim as much as he should be this deep into his development.

Pau Gasol started unevenly, assigned the physical task of hanging with Blake Griffin before making a contribution. Four fouls sent him to the bench, and how many times this season is it going to be so obvious how the Lakers blew it when they unloaded Lamar Odom for nothing?

As for the Clippers, a DeAndre Jordan slam in the first quarter was as breathtaking as his slam in the second. Throw in a series of circus acts by Paul, and maybe the Clippers don't win every game, but when Griffin is No. 3 on the excitement meter, I worry Lawler is going to lose his voice.

"Yikes," as he would say himself, we can't have that after all these years of the Clippers playing like the Lakers did Monday night.

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