CLIPPERS BEGIN: WHAT THE CLIPPERS & BRUCE WAYNE HAVE IN COMMON
The Clippers had a great season last year, historic in fact. They won a franchise-best 56 games and took home the Pacific Division title, something the team had never done before.
But despite the numerous accolades and milestones, they were eliminated in the first round of the Playoffs. After the bitter disappointment of last season, the team needed a change. They needed someone who could take their collection of talent and mold it into a perennial championship contender. They needed someone who could change the perception of the team from nitty-gritty-fighter to prized champion.
Now being a comic book fan, I’m always on the lookout for parallels between superheroes and athletes. Sometimes the comparisons are obvious, other times, not so much. But when I look at this year’s Clippers team, I can’t help but feel like they are is the embodiment of Bruce Wayne in Batman Begins. Let me explain.
At the beginning of Batman Begins we saw a cunning and skilled Bruce Wayne beating up a bunch of thugs in a Chinese prison. It was clear from the outset that he would not back down from a fight, even if it was 10 against one. He met every challenger head on, and wasn’t afraid to fight dirty at times. But it was clear from the way Wayne fought that he had no direction. He was fighting for the sake of fighting, but beating up malnourished inmates wasn’t going to help him in his ultimate quest, which was to protect Gotham City. He needed a mentor, which he found in Ra’s al Ghul.
The mysterious head of the League of Shadows took the young prince of Gotham under his wing and showed him the ropes and how to properly engage opponents in battle. Wayne learned the subtleties of fighting, and how to minimize his carless errors. Whereas before Wayne would fight for the sake of fighting and expend all his energy with the hope of coming out victorious, Ra’s taught him how to be patient and use his opponent’s weaknesses to his advantage. Wayne matured not only as a fighter, but also as a man. His goal of defending Gotham no longer sounded like the wishful musings of an angry, petulant child. It was finally a reality.
Like a young Bruce Wayne, the Clippers of last year had talent and skill, but also anger. The team led the league in technical fouls per game in 2012-13. They weren’t afraid to back down from a fight, and everyone around them knew it. The Clippers had a collection of talented players, but talent and potential, even seemingly limitless talent and potential, has its ceiling. After their postseason elimination, as much as the fans and media derided them for their loss to the Grizzlies, nobody felt the pain more than the guys in the locker room. They knew they had come up short, but they also knew that the goal of winning a championship was within their grasp. They just needed someone to show them the way. They needed their own Ra’s al Ghul. They needed Doc Rivers.
Now granted, Ra’s al Ghul was an eccentric megalomaniac who felt he was above society’s laws and conventions, and aside from the fact that Doc Rivers comes from the east coast rival Boston Celtics, there’s not a villainous bone in this guy’s body. But like Ra’s, Rivers possesses a vast wealth of experience and knowledge that young minds not only crave, but require, to succeed.
Rivers comes to the Clippers with a resume of success that would have any LinkedIn recruiter salivating. He left the Celtics after nine seasons where he compiled a 416-305 (.577) record, an NBA Championship (2007-08), six Atlantic Division titles, and a Playoff record of 59-47 (.557). He has established himself as one of the premier basketball coaches of the past decade. He has the clout and championship experience to get this team Clippers over the hump. He can get the best out his players, the way Ra’s al Ghul was able to get the best out of Bruce Wayne.
So while the season is still young, the potential of this Clippers team is evident to anyone watching. Sure, the expectations and pressure for postseason success looms over them, even more so than in years past. But, with Rivers coaching this team, the Clippers’ dream of winning an NBA Championship no longer sounds like a perfunctory statement uttered by every team at the beginning of every season. It’s a distinct, and realistic, possibility. So, the rest of the league better take note. The Clippers quest for a title begins.