The NBA’s most contentious rivalry, one that is filled with venom, animosity, technical fouls and explosive shot making, is dissected by Oakland writer C.J. Hampshire and L.A. writer Valerie Morales (before the Clips-Warriors first meeting in L.A.)
VM: Let’s cut to the chase. What should Kerr have done with Klay? We experienced this with Phil and Kobe. Kobe wanted to come out. The game was over. He saw no other point to stay in.
C.J.: The fans want to see something special. It’s hard for them to understand that coaches don’t give a rat’s a__ about the fan experience. They want to win games and keep everyone healthy and not disrespect the game.
VM: Like when Doc talked the other day about humility.
C.J.: Right. Respect the game. I don’t really think it matters what Klay wanted. He is not the coach. Klay will get there though. I think he has the quickness to get to 70 or better in the near future.
VM: That says everything you need to know about the Warriors. Their third best scorer can drop 70 points on you. This is a special offensive team. They couldn’t finish the biggest series of their careers so maybe they really needed to go out and steal Durant. I feel like the Clippers are always coming up short and they have this latent desperation just beneath the surface. It’s crazy to say a NBA team has to win but don’t they have to win?
CJ: Yeah. This may be it. Personally, I think this team may just be the anomaly. Players love to throw around the word family. But I think Blake, CP, DJ, Redick, Crawford just may ride or die until the end. I am not really buying someone going elsewhere. Like where?
VM: Blake is the one everyone wants. Pat Riley would love to replace Chris Bosh with Blake.
C.J.: Why would he want to go to a lottery team when he has a championship level team. Not that they can get there as long as the Warriors have those four guys.
VM: Those four guys are pretty special but at some point you are trusting Ian Clark and JaVale McGhee.
C.J.: The Clips are trusting Wesley Johnson.
VM: The Clippers have this vibe of less is more so Wesley Johnson fits. They have never been about glamour. That’s the Doc appeal. He takes ordinary and makes it special. He came here as the heroic cult figure going to save Rome from burning. As a theology, it sells tickets. But what it has really turned into is the Twelve Labors of Hercules. Some fire is always being lit that he has to put out. No one wants to say it’s been a failure in the Doc power regime because of his stature in the game and the Clips do make the playoffs as a top seed every year. On the surface, the Clippers, Doc included, come at you with that swag.
C.J.: The Warriors are cocky too but you know how this works- nothing is ever equal. The Clippers arrogance is perceived as who do they think they are and the Warriors arrogance is good for them. Every hero needs a villain and the NBA plays right into the Warriors hands. I think the Clippers hate the Warriors as much as the Warriors hate them but the Clippers can play the entitlement card. Everything was all set up for the Clippers to rule the league, didn’t Stern tip the deck for the Clippers? And then the Warriors snuck in and stole it from the Clippers.
VM: That’s kind of the desperation vibe I feel. Now that the Warriors have Durant, they are going to be at the top of the West for the next five years. What happens to Chris Paul?
C.J.: He is the best point guard in the game. Still. But it’s about the other pieces. I don’t like how they just sleepwalk through games. That Pacer game was a disaster. Same with the Nets in the 4th quarter. The Warriors just don’t have games like that. Who do you blame? CP, the leader? Or, Doc?
VM: Both. Neither. Things happen. Doc likens it to their injury situation. Chris had never had a backup and I think that is relevant. This is the year that the Clippers can actually taste the Western Conference Finals. They had this unbelievable start and their defense is the best it has been in a long time. They are a top-10 defense in points allowed and percentage. So there are no excuses.
C.J.: The Warriors are a top-10 three point defense.
VM: But do you trust that bench? The Warriors have so much offensive talent they are going to smoke 80% of the league. But when they play teams that contest shots with success and you need role guys to come up big who can they trust? Their bench gives them 30 points. In the old days that would be enough. Not anymore.
C.J.: We’re doomed. Girly basketball…
VM: That was stupid and sexist. This is a three point shooting league. The research I am waiting for is the impact of three point shooting on the body so it is the sole reason for player fatigue. The Warriors being tired in the Finals had less to do with jump shots and more to do with being in the Finals for two straight years, playing the last game of the season to get the record, coming back from a 3-1 hole against OKC.
.C.J.: It’s not just the jumpshots. It’s the moving without the ball.
VM: As far as the Clippers go, if they win tonight I think they are in the driver’s seat for the West.
C.J.: First, the Clips ain’t winning tonight. They don’t have a small forward. Durant is going to jam them up. Remember preseason? Steph dominates CP although Chris will get his. Redick and Klay may go toe-to-toe and that leaves Mboute on Durant? Stop it. The Clips bench has an advantage but because DJ doesn’t score, it is a game about the starters.
VM: What about Blake? Dray is going to shut him down ? Pachulia on DJ? That’s a joke.
C.J.: This is my problem with Blake. He’s fake to me. Don’t act like he didn’t change his team’s season by punching the equipment dude in the face. The Clippers prospects turned on that one move. I think it has changed the complexion of everything that happens this year. He is going to come out strong, playing off of remorse. But he still is Blake Griffin. Great for three quarters. Not really special in the fourth. He may get the best of Dray at times. But this is the thing with the Pachulia matchup. Yes he will get burned on some lobs to DJ. He’ll get lost in pick and roll and may have an illegal screen. He definitely can’t compete on the boards with Jordan. But he and D.J. may have the same point total. Jordan not being a scorer hurts the Clips because the Warriors added one more scorer and they didn’t. They didn’t keep up.
VM: I think the biggest thing to skew the rivalry was the Warriors losing in the Finals and the way they lost. They are not invincible. They can be shaken.
C.J.: Maybe so but not by the Clippers.
photo via llananba