Why can’t we be friends?: The NBA’s Clippers hate runs deep
“I hate them. Honestly, I do. I hate them,” said Sacramento Kings center Demarcus Cousins after a close loss to the Los Angeles Clippers in the season opener. Cousins is not the only NBA player to harbor disdain for the “Lob City” Clippers. Over the last five seasons, the Clippers have transformed from a perennial NBA punching bag into the league’s most hated team and basketball’s unofficial villain.
From the 1999-2000 NBA season to the 2010-2011 season, the Clippers managed only one playoff appearance and one season with an above .500 record. In the 2009 draft, the Clippers used the first pick to select Blake Griffin. Then in 2011, they spun a blockbuster trade to land superstar point guard Chris Paul. Since 2011, the Clippers have made four straight post-season appearances.
The style of play the Clippers have adopted during their successful run has not helped them make any friends. The “Lob City” nickname refers to their high-flying, dunk-driven attack. Paul is an expert at putting his big men, Griffin and Deandre Jordan, in position for highly entertaining, acrobatic finishes at the rim. No matter the outcome of the game or how well their opponents play, the Clippers are going to dominate the highlight reel on SportsCenter the next day.
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Flopping, referee baiting, and the general perception of a lack of toughness have caused players around the league to voice their frustration with the Clippers. In a 2014 radio interview, Warriors shooting guard Klay Thompson asked in reference to the Clippers’ Griffin: “How can a guy that big and strong flop so much?”
Paul has become infamous for taking cheap shots at opponents and yelling at referees. He even went so far as to speak out about the NBA’s first female referee, Lauren Holtkamp, after she gave him a technical foul for arguing her decision during a game: “This might not be for her.”
The way the Clippers handled Jordan’s free agent situation did not help their popularity around the league. Jordan agreed in principle to a deal with the Dallas Mavericks this past off-season. Jordan then went back on his word to join Dallas and decided to return to Los Angeles. The controversial incident included Clippers teammates and coaches making a house call to Jordan to convince him to come back. Although the Clippers did not officially break any rules, many around the NBA believe their conduct was inappropriate and unsportsmanlike.
No matter how much the rest of the league may hate them, the Clippers are not going anywhere. The core four of Chris Paul, J.J. Reddick, Blake Griffin, and Deandre Jordan are back for the season, and they are joined by new signees Paul Pierce and Lance Stephenson. This year’s team might be the deepest and most talented group L.A.’s “other team” has ever put together. Their villain status should make for a highly entertaining postseason in the NBA’s western conference.
Do the Clippers catch an unfair amount of hatred because of the way they play? Does Chris Paul cross the line between competitiveness and playing dirty? Feel free to leave a comment or find me on Twitter @Andrew_Morse4