Marques is a former 5-Time NBA All-Star, College Player of the Year and currently serves as lead college basketball analyst for Fox Sports’ Pac-12 coverage. For more wisdom regarding sports and life, follow him @olskool888
Cedric “Cornbread” Maxwell used to say there was the Ozone, the Twilight Zone, and then there was the Clipper Zone, being the most eerily unpredictable of all.
This franchise, for so long steeped in abject futility, has been the brunt of many a late night comics abuse. And who could blame Jay or Dave or even Chris Spencer (yeah I went there) for piling on the perennially woebegone Clips.
So what I am about to proclaim, which would be deemed basketball blasphemy in years past, may be the new reality of the L.A. professional hoops scene — The Clippers will be the best team playing at the Staples Center this season…[MORE]
“Slow down Olskool, are you back on that stuff,” you probably ask yourself. Not to worry, my clarity has never been better.
Then what about the history of the two franchises, the way they treat, or mistreat the players that have donned their respective jerseys? Or the fact the Clips haven’t made consecutive playoff appearances since the early 90’s under Larry Brown.
History is something that if you don’t learn from you are doomed to repeat.
And it is accurate to suggest that this is an organization that has had a tough time digesting this valuable lesson. The poor handling of the Elgin Baylor fiasco being the most recent example.
But I sense something new and vibrant with the way the Clippers are doing business these days.
Look no further than their off season acquisitions to bear this truth out. All time Good Guy Grant Hill can still play meaningful minutes at 40 years old.
Lamar Odom, destined for basketball’s scrap heap after his abysmal experience in the Big D, gets his chance at redemption with the team where he began his career. And for good measure, those Kute and Krazy Kardashians come with.
Other valuable pieces were signed like Jamal Crawford, Ronny Turiaf, and energizers supreme Matt Barnes and Ryan Hollins.
Invoking the steel sharpens steel template, the battles between the starters and second unit in practice should make for spirited sessions that will make everyone better.
It will be up to as of now lame duck coach Vinny Del Negro to help coalesce these players into a smooth functioning unit.
Speaking of the starters, Chris Paul and Chauncey Billups’ productive return from their respective injuries will be an obvious key.
But the biggest difference maker could be a name that is not familiar, Bob Thate. He has been hired as the shooting coach whose main responsibility is to develop a mid range game for the sublimely talented Blake Griffin.
And if he can get DeAndre Jordan up to sixty percent from the free throw line, he would then be classified as a bona fide miracle worker.
Toss in naming personable and classy Gerald Madkins to a key front office position and this is a team headed in the right direction.
Across the hall, the Lakers have had a busy off season themselves. But Steve Nash has logged a lot of minutes in his illustrious NBA career, as has Kobe “Bean”.
Because of other summer time commitments, Bryant was not able to take his pilgrimage to Germany to get his knees worked on by his own Dr. Frankenstein.
Dwight Howard’s recovery from offseason back surgery has gone better than expected. He’s already participating in limited contact drills in practice and plans to play in the exhibition season.
But this is still a team with suspect three point shooting, assistant coach Chuck Person being the tops in that area. Jodie Meeks will help, but can he guard anybody?
The Lakers are a squad chock full of flaws that in his younger days Kobe could overcome.
New assistant coach Eddie Jordan will implement the Pete Carrill, Princeton style offense. But how that will mesh with the tempermental Metta World Peace and straight “back to the basket” guy Howard remains a major question mark.
Steve Blake, their most reliable three point threat, steps on a parking lot tire spike and will miss the first part of the season.
Can Chris Duhon, and to a lesser degree neophyte Darius Morris, spell Nash enough as to not put more wear and tear on his body than is needed early on?
And Pau Gasol, coming off a long Summer Olympics experience will need time to regenerate.
Can Mike Brown command the respect of this very veteran crew and coerce them to execute at both ends of the floor to his satisfaction?
And if he doesn’t, there are two very capable men with NBA head coaching experience waiting in the wings as replacement possibilities.
The aforementioned Jordan, and the newly hired Reggie Theus, the shot caller for the team’s NBDL Defenders.
This should do wonders for Brown’s feelings about his job security While both teams have their issues, the Clippers are poised to make the leap from also rans, to “Head Seraph” in the city of Angels.
And in the process I suspect Clipper Darrell will go from slightly way over the top to obnoxiously unbearable.
After all, lest we forget ,this is still the Clipper Zone…