Needless to say, the Clippers have had a tough time since moving from San Diego to Los Angeles in 1984.
Since then, the franchise had made just four postseason appearances, and has advanced past the first round of the playoffs on just one occasion.
However, the 2010 season brings much hope to Clipperland.
After going 29-53 last season, the Clippers have shaken things up a bit over the summer.
Vinny Del Negro has been hired as the new head coach, Ryan Gomes and Randy Foye were brought in in free agency, and Al-Farouq Aminu, Eric Bledsoe, and Willie Warren were selected in the draft.
The biggest boost, however, may come from 2009′s No. 1 draft pick, Blake Griffin.
Griffin missed the entire 2009-10 season with a stress fracture in his left knee, and finally appears primed to make his much-anticipated NBA regular season debut.
Nobody questions his athleticism and explosiveness. If he can return from the injury at full-strength, then the Clippers appear to have themselves one of the most versatile post players in the league.
The questions regarding Griffin (assuming he’s at 100 percent) lie with his offensive repertoire.
He was a big-time scorer in college at Oklahoma, but he likely won’t be able to dunk on opposing big men at will in the NBA the way he was able to do so against Big 12 competition.
If he can develop a consistent mid-range jumper and combine that with a decent back-to-the-basket game, Griffin will become one of the most dominant offensive forces the league has to offer.
With a frontline headed by Griffin and 2009 All-Star center Chris Kaman, there should be plenty of room for the Clippers’ guards to operate, as well.
This is where Eric Gordon, entering his third NBA season, should thrive.
After flying under-the-radar a bit during his first two years (averaging over 16 points per game in each year), Gordon burst onto the national stage over the summer as he helped the United States reclaim gold at the FIBA World Championships.
The 21-year-old is a career 38 percent shooter from beyond-the-arc, but he’s starting to show more versatility with his game, often using his supreme quickness and athleticism to get into the lane and finish at the rim with authority.
First-round pick Al-Farouq Aminu, a 6’8″ forward out of Wake Forest, has been putting in tremendous work in order to get ready for his first pro season.
New head coach Vinny Del Negro has hinted that the rookie could see some time at power forward with Blake Griffin off the floor, but Aminu’s primary position will be small forward this season.
Aminu has never been regarded as a particularly strong shooter, but he possesses tremendous athleticism; a key for a wing player on both sides of the ball.
However, while the Clippers certainly have some strong young pieces, their success will ultimately come down to veteran point guard Baron Davis.
Davis, 31, will be entering his 12th NBA season, and has drawn criticism in the past for not always being completely focused on basketball. Even coming into training camp, Davis drew the ire of Del Negro for not being in what the head coach saw as “basketball shape.”
There’s no doubting his talent.
As he’s shown in the past (most notably as the centerpiece of the 2007 Warriors team that took down the heavily-favored Mavericks in the playoffs), Davis is a rare point guard with the capability of putting a team on his shoulders and carrying them by himself.
The Clippers have invested quite a bit in the Los Angeles native ($65 million to be precise), and the organization still believes that he’s the point guard that can lead the franchise to new, never-before-seen heights.
As we know, winning basketball games is about much more than just having talent.
Many are anointing the Miami Heat as the heavy favorite to take home their second NBA title in five years, just like many did the same with the 2004 Lakers after adding Karl Malone and Gary Payton to a mix that already included Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant.
However, we know what happened to those Lakers. This is why they play the games.
The Clippers have plenty of individual talent, but to win in basketball, you need contributions from everyone.
This is where guys like Randy Foye, Rasual Butler, Ryan Gomes, and Craig Smith come into the picture.
None of the four is what you’d call a “star player”, but every winning team has those guys that are willing to sacrifice personal stats and do the dirty work that will help the team succeed.
The respective roles of Foye, Butler, Gomes, and Smith are clearly defined.
Foye and Butler are shooters. Gomes and Smith can bang on the block and solidify the paint on both ends of the floor.
Sure, Gordon, Griffin, and Davis may be the headliners, but without the supporting cast, the team as a group cannot gel together.
The players can do their thing, but very much of what goes on on the floor starts with the coaching staff.
The Mike Dunleavy tenure was one of extremely limited success, outside of appearing in the playoffs in 2006.
Del Negro, on the other hand, has enjoyed good success in his first two seasons as an NBA head coach, both with the Chicago Bulls.
He was able to lead a relatively undersized (and undermanned) Bulls franchise to two consecutive playoff appearances, despite a regular season record of just 82-82.
Del Negro wants to instill a running, fast-paced offense in Los Angeles, and certainly has the necessary personnel to make this an effective system.
A new coaching staff, a new offensive centerpiece, and a new commitment to winning has Clipper Nation extremely excited about what is to come in 2010 and beyond.
The Los Angeles Clippers are out to prove that there isn’t just one team in Tinseltown with which to be reckoned.
About the Author
Written by Taylor Smith
Taylor Smith is a writer for the Los Angeles Clippers.