The Clippers have never had an opening day lineup that didn’t warrant some of those obligatory, self-deprecating jokes that are more a means of coping with the prospects of another losing season than any true light-heartedness. It goes without saying that for the past decade (and the decades preceding my years as a Clippers season ticket holder), the ride home from every preseason scrimmage was, “At least the Clippers posted a victory today.” Ha. But jokes aside, and no matter how awful the team may look, Clippers scrimmage has always meant that basketball season was upon us.
At this year’s Clippers scrimmage, there was a different tone, a rare optimism floating through the air, as if the recent addition of Chris Paul and Blake’s subsequent coinage of Lob City (if you haven’t seen it yet, check the link we posted previously) were poised to bring the hope that the 2008 and election of B.H. Obama, sadly, did not deliver. Scrimmage jokes weren’t easing the pain of another losing year, but instead directed at the Lakers’ dismal off season, the Clipper dunks that were sure to demoralize other teams and make Sportscenter’s Top 10 every night, and how our tickets are finally worth as much or more than what we paid for them.
While this year’s event was open to season ticket holders, with each ticket-bearing fan guaranteed priority admission and a photo-op with selected Clippers after the game, every Clipper and coach chose to attend the post-game event. And, to truly signal the changing of the nothing-to-guard, there was a huge line down Figueroa for the non season ticket holders waiting to catch a first glimpse of Lob City.
The growth of the Greater Lob City Metropolitan Area was in full effect by 2 PM, the arena quickly filling with anxious and excited fans. However, it wasn’t Blake, but Deandre Jordan who opened the gates to The Land of Lobness with the first alley-oop from Paul during a fast break drill. Immediately following, Clipper fans were treated to a loud Clipper Darrell who may have sounded like he has been out of commission for a year, but was definitely excited about the new-look Clipps. The fast break drill capped off a practice session that ended at around 2:30 where Clipper broadcasting legend and fan favorite Ralph Lawler introduced head coach Vinny Del Negro and the players. Chris Paul took the microphone and thanked everyone for making him feel welcome in Los Angeles. At 3pm, the scrimmage began.
The favorites in the scrimmage were the Blue Team; projected Starting team (Jordan, Griffin, Paul, Caron Butler, and Chauncey Billups) were joined by two players who I will bet a beer at the game (or $10,000 if I’m at a GOP debate) will not be on the Clippers’ roster in a week. The team was Coached by Del Negro who would have really looked bad if the starters were upset. He almost did, as the White Team broke off an early lead.
At halftime Del Negro’s squad was down 21-15. The White Team, which had the rest of the team, was coached by head assistant Mike Ivoroni. Lead by the demoted Mo Williams, the team was running more effective offense, not trying to please the population of Lobville. Despite being as effective a post defender as my grandmother, Brian Cook was scoring in a variety of ways. Ryan Gomes and Randy Foye looked like they were in great shape and ready to contribute on both ends of the court. With a minute to go, CP3 and Blake ran some effective pick and rolls and Blue Team tied the game to send the scrimmage to one minute overtime where the starters prevailed winning 35-32.
Having watched Paul and Billups play in playoff games and all-star games for years, I was expecting a lot from the point guards, and they definitely delivered. What came as a surprise was how great Caron Butler looked. Butler‘s shot seemed as smooth as it’s ever been from all over the floor. The swingman was creating some nice mid-range shots, racked up the most playing time on the Blue team and looked like he was in great regular season shape. Rookie 2nd rounder, Trey Tompkins, from Georgia, looked like he may be ready to contribute if the Clippers don’t sign a free agent backup center. He was rebounding effectively against Griffin and showed off his shooting ability from the perimeter. With Tompkins’ inexperience and Cook’s softness, the Clippers should be on the look out to sign a solid back-up big man. The best available free agents are Joel Pryzbilla who may retire, Sam Dalembert who may ask for more than the Clippers are offering, and Kris Humphries, who is hated by everyone in the world.
Another great season ticket holder event made Clipper Nation more excited for this season than ever before. Let’s just hope now that the organization that doesn’t need to sell anyone on buying ticket anymore, as every package and season ticket sold out Friday, doesn’t forget how to treat the fans who have been loyal since the Stallin/Mike Dunlevey era or even since the Kieth Closs/Sports Arena days. It looks like one taste of Lob City can make the bad memories go away.