If you are old enough to remember the Shaq-Kobe Lakers then you remember they were the most hated team in the NBA. Kobe was young, gifted and arrogant. Shaq was a bully on the court who the refs protected. Rick Fox was a pretty boy who looked like a model. Robert Horry always looked bored until he drained three point shot after three point shot to beat you in the 4th quarter. Derrick Fisher was always leveling someone with a killer screen. Phil Jackson was smug. Still, the Lakers were like rock stars and filled arenas and sold jerseys and fought among themselves, making their entire cast part of one huge soap-opera. They won three titles. So, as much as they were hated, they were revered.
It’s been over a decade since another team has filled that hate void. No one hated the Pistons or the Spurs or the Heat with Shaq on it or the Mavericks. There’s an argument to be made that the 2010-11 Heat were hated worse than the Shaq-Kobe Lakers but it wasn’t the Heat that everyone hated. They didn’t hate Dwayne Wade. They didn’t hate Chris Bosh. They didn’t waste their time thinking about Mario Chalmers or Udonis Haslem. It was LeBron James they hated and they didn’t even hate LeBron for leaving Cleveland. Star players leave all the time. It was how LeBron left, making it a spectacle, breaking the hearts of a tortured city and turning that sorrow into entertainment, and the worse part was he didn’t even know what he did wrong. The reaction seemed to stun him.
In his first year with the Heat, when LeBron returned to Cleveland, it was an ugly, vicious scene that was, frankly, an embarrassment to the city and to human decency as violent rhetoric replaced the ordinary chants of you left us, you are a loser. The level of disgust was disproportionate to the crime itself. LeBron, therefore, became the victim. When the Heat lost to the Mavericks in the Finals all was square. Good overcame evil. LeBron was punished. Everyone moved on.
But Clippers hate has been lingering for the past few seasons and has reached epic proportions right about now. It’s all so public. Mark Cuban, in town to watch the team he owns play the franchise he hates, wasn’t shy about how he feels about the Clippers.
“I don’t give a —- about the Clippers. You can change the owner, you can change the players but the Clippers are who they’ve been for the past 30 years.”
Did Cuban feel this way, say nine months ago? Or is this just some of the hangover from being rejected, from being played by DeAndre Jordan? There is something to be said for Cuban, the wonderkid who turned his internet broadcasting company into a billion dollar profit and since then has continued to market, develop and create products of value while making even more money. Was the Jordan defection the first time someone had told Cuban no?
Cuban is doing what all of us do when someone we thought liked us and then goes off with our best friend. He’s trying to make himself believe he is better off without DeAndre Jordan.
“We came out way ahead. Different people have different responsibiities and it’s better to find out when they don’t match up before you do a deal. I thought we had a great summer.”
Okay, believe that if you want. Cuban is right in one sense. It is better to know before you walk down the aisle that the person you are marrying just might have a thing for someone else. But the truth is the Mavs didn’t have a great summer. It was a disaster. This is their roster: a player that tore his Achilles last spring (Wesley Matthews), a player whose career is on the ropes (Deron Williams), a player who is near the end of his career (Dirk Nowitzki), a player who had knee surgery (Chandler Parsons), a player whose name is alwayas prececed by the word “fat” (Raymond Felton), a player no one heard of because the Hawks buried him on the bench (John Jenkins) and a bunch of spare parts not worth writing about like JaVale McGhee.
On the other hand, Jordan is the anchor for this Clippers team. His offense is pretty worthless and his free throw shooting is spectacular in how horrible it is but he is their most important piece. He had 15 rebounds last night. The Clippers will be contenders as long as Jordan is in the mix which is not to say they will win it all. They won’t. Their small forward, Lance Stephenson has scored 10 points in two games.
The Mavs hatred of the Clippers goes beyond Cuban, though. Chandler Parsons is not feeling too warm about the Clippers either. He used to be a friend of DeAndre Jordan. These days, Parsons always uses the past tense when talking about his former friend. “He was one of my really good friends so when he told me something I took his word.” Ouch.
As much as Mark Cuban hates the Clippers, he comes in second to Draymond Green, the Warriors superbly talented defender, wing player. This is what Green said about the Clippers this spring.
“They have a cocky arrogance like they won something and they haven’t done nothing. They pretty much been to the same spot in the playoffs we’ve been to. But they have this cockiness like you’re supposed to bow down to them. They ain’t proved nothing. They ain’t earned nothing. What respect have you earned?
I don’t expect anyone to bow down to me. Nor do I expect you to respect me. I’m gong to earn your respect. When it’s all said and done, you’ll respect me and our team.”
The Warriors hatred of the Clippers began with their disdain of Blake Griffin who the Warriors think is arrogant, a showboat, a crybaby and soft. But it’s all a matter of perspective. When second year Lakers player Julius Randle spun and scored on Draymond Green in the preseason, then yelled in his face, “you can’t guard me”, Green didn’t take offense. He said later, “young fella got heart.”
So what is it about Blake Griffin who never says much to an opponent in-game that is such a criminal offense? His opponents will point out Griffin’s on court theatrics when fouled, worthy of Shakespearean tragedy and a Tony Award.
This is the conundrum that surrounds the Clippers. Players don’t like them and fans are tired of a product that has never fulfilled its promise. Chris Paul is 30 years old and has never been out of the second round of the playoffs.
Warriors shooting guard, Klay Thompson, took his shot at the Clippers too.
“I wanted to play the Clippers last year but they couldn’t handle their business.”
As for the team and franchise that should hate the Clippers but doesn’t, the one they share a city and an arena with, the Lakers barely find time to yawn. To them, the Clippers don’t matter because they Clippers don’t win when it counts. It’s the universal narrative of the team Steve Ballmer bought for $3 billion dollars.
photo via llananba