November 15, 2012
What an exciting night, and it's all about basketball.
It's been nothing but chaos, dysfunctional management and poor public relations around here the last few days, so what a relief to spend some time with the Clippers.
It never fails to amaze how some franchises just can't get it right.
Here are the Lakers, going on their third coach in the time Vinny Del Negro has been here with the Clippers.
"I know that," says Clippers owner Donald Sterling, stability, I guess, just something you take for granted.
"We have a good coach, good staff and I love the team," says Sterling. "I feel wonderful about it."
If only the Lakers could feel the same, Los Angeles so much better off when it has two quality franchises.
I wonder if we will have a better chance of seeing Jeanie Buss at a Clippers game before another Lakers game.
With that in mind, I asked Del Negro if he was as surprised as we were the Lakers didn't hire Phil Jackson.
"I didn't really have any skin in the game and wasn't focused on it," says Del Negro.
"Come on, you're going to be competing with the Lakers — wouldn't you want the worse guy?"
"Well, Phil has a pretty good track record," says Del Negro.
"So you're OK then that the Lakers got the worst guy?"
"Mike D'Antoni is Italian," says Del Negro, which doesn't figure to help when the games begin.
"From a restaurant standpoint, that's important," says Del Negro.
And so I guess we know how the Clippers think, or as someone in the Clippers' organization noted later, "Phil's got more rings than he has toes."
Before moving into Wednesday night's dynamic clash of talent, it dawned on me no one has ever asked Del Negro what he calls his offense. And we've heard so much about the triangle, the Princeton and now seven seconds or less.
"Do you have a name for your offense?"
"Yeah," Del Negro says. "Chris Paul."
And so here we go, the crowd in Staples Center jacked, and for those at home the game on local TV.
The Clippers just seem to do things the right way, even down to hiring guys to sit on the bench who really can play.
But can they hang with the Heat, make the transformation complete and give Los Angeles a hope for championship basketball?
Memphis, which beat Oklahoma City earlier in the night, has suffered only one loss this season — to the Clippers. San Antonio, which just beat the Lakers, has only one defeat — to the Clippers.
But these are the defending champs?
The game opens with a LeBron James slam, the feeling as the first half continues that everyone is watching an Olympic tryout to determine final roster spots.
It's like a who's who of showstoppers, the talent so deep Ray Allen is coming off the Heat bench to take on the Clippers' leading scorer, Kobe Crawford, who is also coming off the bench.
With 9:45 remaining in the second quarter the fans are giving the Clippers a standing ovation after Eric Bledsoe stuffs Dwyane Wade at the rim.
I think I understand now why the Lakers wanted D'Antoni; no reason Clippers fans should be the only ones having fun in Staples Center.
The third quarter ends with Paul scoring his team's final 13 points, including a pair of three-pointers that has the crowd chanting, "C-P-3." It also gives the Clippers an 11-point lead entering the fourth quarter.
Bledsoe misses a jumper early in the fourth, follows his own shot to score and then gets a leaping body check from Paul at midcourt as the Heat calls timeout to regroup.
Bledsoe goes on to score eight-straight points, and he's a backup. The Clippers now have five players in double figures — two of them off the bench.
It's 95-76 Clippers, and did I mention the Heat are now the defending chumps? Everyone's on their feet, and the fans sure get an exercise when attending a Clippers game.
Now it's only a matter of how many points the Clippers are going to win by — 7 — and how excited the crowd is going to get with Kobe Crawford increasing the degree of difficulty with each dazzling shot.
It's the way the Lakers used to win, as I recall.
AFTER SPENDING so many years with the Clippers players as a PR guy to prepare himself for the day he had kids, Rob Raichlen is moving on to spend more time with his youngsters and work for a toy company. Thomas the Train will be in good hands.
SO ANGELS owner Angry Arte goes on the radio station he owns on Sept. 27 to say of Torii Hunter, "I'll tell you what, if we don't figure out a way to re-sign him, we're going to get hung, aren't we?"
Now I know Angry Arte isn't big on forgiveness, and if given the invite to hang, let's say a columnist who has disappointed him, he wouldn't hesitate.
But rather than dwell on the ridiculous things Angry Arte says — many of his promises ringing hollow — I prefer to wish Hunter only the best.
What a great guy, steadfastly positive, accommodating and the ultimate in class. Maybe the Angels have had better players here, but difficult to make the argument anyone has been better both on and off the field as Angels ambassador.
And as good as Mike Trout is, he will only be better in every way after getting the chance to watch Hunter operate as a professional every day while sitting a couple of lockers down from him.