Clippers power forward Blake Griffin (32) and point guard Chris Paul react… (Andy Lyons / Getty Images )
MEMPHIS, Tenn. — I've put my life on the line to be here in this rathole with our Clippers.
And so I expect more than what I got from them Thursday in a rather flat 12-point loss to Memphis in Game 3.
The Clippers played a step slow, as if hesitant to go on the attack, even though that's just a way of life here if you want to survive.
True story, and I shouldn't be trashed for reporting the facts:
They just put up billboards at the Memphis city limits that read: "Danger: Enter at Your Own Risk. This city does not support public safety."
They were paid for by the Memphis Police Assn.
I hope you're not planning your next vacation here without a body guard.
"This is one of the most dangerous cities in the nation," Michael Williams, president of the Memphis Police Assn., told a TV reporter. And I've got to walk back to my hotel.
It's so violent here they showed a fan dressed in a Clippers T-shirt on the Jumbotron trying to buy a ticket, only to be slapped hard in the face when confronted by the Grizzlies' mascot.
A fan held up a sign inside the arena: "Welcome home Grizz, we got your backs," and I guess folks here are even worried about the safety of the Memphis players.
When the Grizzlies faithful arrived they were given "growl towels," which read "Believe Memphis." You know, as in believe there just have to be better days ahead, Memphis.
Or, as the local columnist who wrote about the towels, and that's what they write about here, put it: "In Memphis the towels have become a symbol of something larger, of belief in the broader community."
I thought it was just a basketball game and a towel just a towel. But I guess it's Memphis' hope the towels will somehow make this a better place to live, although I might suggest handing out bulletproof vests for the next game.
Whatever the decision, we know this: The towels worked in stopping the Clippers cold.
If you want to insist on remaining positive, this game proved only one thing: The value of the home-court advantage. And the Clippers still have it.
OK, so maybe it also demonstrated what a difference former Clipper Zach Randolph can make when he's aggressive and free of early foul trouble.
Randolph scored 27 points and had 11 rebounds, while his wrestling mate Blake Griffin had 16 points but only two rebounds.
"It was probably my fault," said Chris Paul when asked what went wrong. And no reason to argue.
He had eight points but also five turnovers, and the other Clippers followed his lead.
"I think [the Grizzlies] played desperate," said Chauncey Billups, after the announcement that for their own security, all players must take the bus to the hotel, which is located across the street from the arena.
"Their season was on the line tonight, and it took us too long to adjust to that physicality," Billups said. "It's time for us to show a little urgency."
Amen. And does he understand a loss Saturday means the Clippers will definitely have to return to this crime-infested city?
"We do understand that," said Billups. And I sure wish I could walk faster.
JUST WHEN it appeared the Clippers had turned the corner, we get a reminder of just how dysfunctional management remains.
The other day the Wallflower spoke.
The so-called general manager of the Clippers, and until I see a picture of Gary Sacks I refuse to believe he exists, called The Times' beat guy to vent.
Sacks said the media should be talking about the first round of the playoffs and no longer speculate about the Clippers' future of Vinny Del Negro.
Sounds like the Sheriff, as Kevin Malone liked to call himself, when he came to town as Dodger GM and laid down the media law. And how did that go?
"That this is a distraction, bothers me," said the Wallflower.
If the Clippers want to kill speculation, how come Sacks didn't just say, "Of course Vinny will return?"
Instead he chose to mislead everyone. "We're all on the same page right now," he said.
Tell that to Eric Miller, Donald Sterling's son-in-law.
ESPN's Chris Broussard reported the Clippers already have an interest in Phil Jackson as a replacement for Del Negro, a source telling him that's who Miller likes.
That makes Miller either a comedian or clueless; as if Jackson would consider such a thing.
Miller is being groomed to be Sterling's successor. He must be feeling the power, but like everyone else, apparently, paying no attention to anything Sacks has to say.
It might take Sterling to clear things up, and I haven't written many funnier lines.