BLEDSOE'S PLAYS VS KINGS GO BEYOND HIGHLIGHT REEL
When Eric Bledsoe threw down Chris Paul’s lob in the waning seconds of the Clippers’ 12-point victory over the Sacramento Kings Friday, not a single member of the team’s bench remained in their seat.
DeAndre Jordan and Ronny Turiaf interlocked arms and bounded into each other, as if they were dancing to some unheard tune. Caron Butler scowled seeming to say “wow” with his eyebrows. Willie Green raised his right arm. Jamal Crawford smiled Ryan Hollins and Trey Thompkins, who was wearing a dark blazer and denim pants, spread their arms imitating airplanes in flight.
The dunk was one of two spectacular plays from Bledsoe on the night; the second, a blocked shot in which he stalked rookie Thomas Robinson from behind, launched himself with impeccable timing and swatted the ball off the backboard so violently it caromed nearly 45 feet to half court.
But while both plays were etched into the upper echelon of Friday’s highlight shows and became instant fodder for the following morning’s blogosphere, the reaction of Bledsoe’s teammates likely says more about the Clippers than anything.
“I think we’re all genuinely happy for each other when we do the things we’re supposed to do and somebody makes a big play,” said superstar Blake Griffin, who was among those waving a towel on the sideline after Bledsoe’s rejection of Robinson . “Even though we’re kind of accustomed to seeing Eric make plays like that, it’s still, when we see him do stuff like that or [Lamar Odom] do something or Ronny [Turiaf], you want to jump up and celebrate because that gets us going as a team.”
The highlight plays are a major part of the Clippers’ repertoire, and have been since Griffin burst on the scene in Oct. 2010. Phoenix head coach Alvin Gentry, whose Suns face the Clippers for the second time this season on Sunday, has long suggested that his team must limit opportunities for lob dunks because they are figuratively worth more than two points. They are an energy boost, a way of obtaining instant momentum.
“Obviously, it’s worth two points,” Bledsoe said after Saturday morning’s practice. “But it [also] gets our team going.”
It was evident in the reaction to Bledsoe’s alley-oop from Paul Friday or a two-handed dunk by Turiaf off a nifty pass from Crawford earlier in the game. It helps, as well, that the chemistry between the members of the roster seems as genuine and deeply rooted as any Clippers team in recent memory.
Eric Bledsoe's block on Thomas Robinson was one of several highlight rejections this year by the athletic point guard, including a right-handed swat of Dwyane Wade of the Miami Heat. Here is what Bledsoe and Griffin had to say about it after Saturday's practice:
Griffin: "The Wade one was pretty nasty. It's up there. I don't know if I can rate either one."
Bledsoe: "[The block on Robinson] is up there. I have no clue [where to rate it] right now."
“It’s weird,” Griffin said. “It was from the day before camp even started, on media day. That was the first time we’d really been around each other and it was like everybody just clicked. It was easy. Everybody was excited and everybody was kind of on the same page, so that’s been huge. The more we spend time with each other, it’s like every road trip we’re just hanging out getting closer and closer. It’s been good for us.”
Bledsoe concurred, saying a number of off-the-court activities such as card games, dinners, trips to the movies and “hanging out” have helped build a bond.
Of course, winning strengthens that bond even more. That, and a few plays that bring the entire bench onto their feet.