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Scott Howard-Cooper

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The high hopes and excitement surrounding the Clippers entering the season is fading away.
Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images

It's early, but things are not looking good for Clippers


Posted Nov 7 2010 12:44PM

This is not just another bad Clippers moment. The real stinging impact of being largely disinterested with, you know, playing is that it comes immediately after the front office made chemistry a summer priority in response to the sour locker room of 2009-10. It was a major factor in re-signing positive influences Craig Smith and Rasual Butler and why Ricky Davis was waived during the season. The Clips had a new coach, fresh energy with Blake Griffin healthy and Eric Gordon coming off a key role in the World Championship... and then it took all of three outings for Gordon to tell Lisa Dillman of the Los Angeles Times that opening night was "the only game where we played hard." Amazing, even for them.

• That Baron Davis is -- surprise, surprise -- the glaring individual concern is particularly troublesome for the Clippers because they are backed into a corner without a dependable option at point guard. Athletic Eric Bledsoe is a serious prospect, but he's a rookie who played off the ball last season as a freshman at Kentucky alongside John Wall. But L.A. is in win-now mode. He wasn't close to challenging for the starting job for any reason other than Davis' knee and conditioning problems. A few more nights like that 17-point, eight-assists Wednesday against Russell Westbrook and the Thunder and Bledsoe changes the perception.

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• The amazing thing is that Maurice Lucas was 220 pounds as a player. He was one of the great enforcers of the league, of his or any other generation, a crushing presence on the 1977 championship team in Portland that forever cemented a city into one of the best fan bases in the league as the Blazermaniacs, and he was lighter than a lot of today's guards. It's just that 210 of the pounds were heart, determination and muscle. Gone, but never forgotten.

All the Kevin Garnett criticisms came out during the rush to judgment after Charlie Villanueva claimed KG mockingly called him a cancer patient, a wave that did not dissipate even as Garnett and others within hearing range denied the horrible comment. Reggie Evans of the Raptors, in the common criticism of Garnett as a cheap bully, noted to Dave Feschuk of the Toronto Star that "I ain't never seen him bark up a bear. He's always being a little Chihuahua. When he's got a pit bull about to get on him, I've seen him back down." That's a strong belief around the league. But one question: Is there anyone who wouldn't want him on their team? One more: Do the Celtics win the title in 2008 and nearly another in 2010 without KG's driving personality? Didn't think so.

• Unique perspective by Sam Amick at AOL FanHouse that Ron Artest did more than bring attention to the urgent cause of improving student access to mental health workers. Artest also generated motivation to win another ring, this time to keep for himself. And what of the one he has now? He's auctioning it off in an online raffle. The deadline is Christmas morning, a few hours before the winner is selected.

Late Thursday night in Portland is exactly why the Thunder will survive the tough times, and there have definitely been some of those in the 3-2 start. Two offensive rebounds on the final Oklahoma City possession of regulation led to the Serge Ibaka basket inside that forced overtime. Jeff Green crashed into the seats to make a great save that helped the Thunder control the ball, and the clock, late in overtime. Point guard Westbrook towered in the lane for the defensive board that helped seal the victory. The bright light on Kevin Durant as a worldly star continues, but internally, the entire franchise knows the surge into the lead pack of the Western Conference is built on grit and a roster that has to be ordered away from the practice court on off days to get rest. One vote against the suggestion by the Video Charles-Kenny-Ernie postgame fun bunch on TNT that OKC won't be a serious title threat until it adds players who do the dirty work. It's a roster of players who do the dirty work.

Like there was any way Knicks-Magic being postponed at Madison Square Garden because of asbestos issues would pass without media snark. "Knicks beat writers should sue over prolonged exposure to harmful substances," Associated Press writer Tim Reynolds tweeted. "Not to mention the asbestos." From the Twitter account of salary cap expert and ESPN.com contributor Larry Coon: "I gotta say, MSG is being pretty wimpy about this. Look at Staples Center -- it has the Clippers, and you don't see them shutting down..." And when someone noted the surprise in Isiah Thomas escaping early blame for the falling particles, Howard Beck of the New York Times responded via the Twitterverse: "He paid the asbestos $56 mil /5 years". Poor Isiah. Such a classy guy.

The sudden flurry of stories about superstars committing to play in the 2012 Olympics rates somewhere between meaningless and laughable. These are a lot of the same guys who proclaimed eternal love for Team USA after the Beijing Games yet were nowhere to be found as the roster was being shaped for the World Championship last summer. The lure and marketing demands of the Olympics will undoubtedly deliver more of the big names to London than made it to Turkey in August and September, but for them to sign on now is mostly nothing but flag waving.

• Love the stories of Jerry Sloan the player, some previously known and some new even to us veteran Sloanologists, from Living and Dying by the Jazz... Zach Lowe of SI.com with a strong analysis of the surprising Mike Conley extension from the Grizzlies, with one counterclaim. Yes, Memphis has negotiated itself into a salary cap corner. But it doesn't matter if O.J. Mayo, Marc Gasol or Zach Randolph still plan to have their own contract talks and may want to use the Conley deal as a baseline. A more restrictive CBA is coming, at some point and that money won't exist anyway.

Scott Howard-Cooper has covered the NBA since 1988. You can e-mail him here and follow him on twitter.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting.

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