47 games into the 2010-11 NBA season, the Los Angeles Clippers have won 19 and lost 28.
Sound unspectacular? Perhaps.
However, these Clippers have to be the most exciting 13th place team in the history of the league, don’t they?
Now, I’m not much of an NBA historian. I’m 24 years old, and have only been heavily NBA-conscious since 1999 or 2000.
Really, though, amongst all the 13th place teams that have ever existed, how good can the competition possibly be?
For starters, consider the difference from last season to this.
The Clips won just 29 games last season, and finished 12th in the Western Conference. They ranked a lowly 27th in the league in scoring (95.7 points per game), and 19th in opponent scoring (102.1).
Now, look at this season.
L.A. is up to 14th in scoring (99.4), and, while they’re still 19th in opponent scoring, it’s down to 101.4, and has been steadily declining since the team’s abysmal 1-13 start to the season.
The roster itself has also undergone a massive overhaul.
Rasual Butler, Chris Kaman, Marcus Camby, Al Thornton, Drew Gooden and Steve Blake were all essential cogs to that team.
This year’s team is centered around the younger core of Blake Griffin, Eric Gordon, Baron Davis and DeAndre Jordan.
While the rapid development of guys like Gordon and Jordan has obviously been essential, this thing is all about Griffin.
After missing all of last season with a knee injury suffered in the final preseason game, the 21-year-old rookie is averaging 22.8 points, 12.7 rebounds and 3.6 assists per game.
He’s recorded 39 double-doubles in 47 games, including a recently-snapped string of 28 consecutive double-doubles.
But really, it’s much more than that.
His high-flying style of play has made him a staple on nightly highlight shows, and he’s made the Clippers more relevant in Los Angeles than they ever have been. And yes, that includes the 2006 team that was one game away from reaching the Western Conference Finals.
For starters, the guy plays like Karl Malone mixed with a unicorn.
The comparisons to Malone stem from the fact that he’s a relentless beast around the basket, and has shown a better offensive repertoire in the post than originally thought upon entering the NBA out of Oklahoma.
Griffin seemingly grabs every rebound in sight, and appears to be playing at a speed twice as fast as everybody else on the floor.
He’s also shown better touch on his outside jumper than we thought he had, and has been knocking down a Tim Duncan-esque bank shot from the elbow extended with consistency.
The unicorn comes in when we get into his athleticism.
His leaping ability is so extraordinary that it seems as though he’d be able to dunk if he were 3’5″ rather than 6’10″.
Griffin handles the ball extremely well for a guy his size, and is flat-out quicker than his opponents.
His style of play has brought a winning mentality to the Clippers, and there’s a different aura around the team than there ever has been in the past.
As of February 1, the Clippers are just six games removed from the final playoff spot in the Western Conference. While there are still several teams over which they’ll have to leap, they find themselves in very good position to make a run.
He seems like an odds-on bet to make the Western Conference All-Star team ahead of guys like Kevin Love, Lamar Odom, Luis Scola, David West, LaMarcus Aldridge and other more established players.
Perhaps most importantly, he’s helped make Baron Davis look as though he cares again.
Davis signed a $65 million contract with the Clippers in the summer of 2008, and had to fight through repeated criticism of his physical playing shape and overall desire to try and play at a high level through his first two seasons in L.A.
We saw how talented he was during his time with the Golden State Warriors prior to joining the Clippers, most notably during the famed 2007 playoff run during which the Warriors became just the second No. 8 seed in league history to beat a No. 1 seed in a playoff series.
Davis (and the rest of the Warriors) played with a noticeable chip on his shoulder, and he assumed leadership responsibilities as the Warriors shocked the heavily-favored Dallas Mavericks in six games.
His numbers on paper looked fine, it was evident that he just wasn’t the same player.
However, since returning from a sore knee earlier this season, he’s looked more like the old “Boom Dizzle” than normal Baron Davis.
Davis is playing with energy, throwing lobs to Griffin and Jordan left and right, and has been smiling the entire time.
The Clippers have won nine straight games at Staples Center, and will host the Chicago Bulls Wednesday night before setting out on an 11-game road trip.
Wednesday’s game with Chicago has been sold out since Monday. When is the last time a random middle-of-the-week Clippers game (excluding the Lakers or Heat or something) sold out a couple of days beforehand?
Ah. The power of Blake.
About the Author
Written by Taylor Smith
Taylor Smith is a writer for the Los Angeles Clippers.