Clippers Generate Buzz at Media Day

December 14, 2011

Blake Griffin at Media Day
Tri Le / The Daily Sports Herald
Playa Vista, CA -- Despite the presence of emerging superstar Blake Griffin and free agent acquisition Caron Butler, much of the attention at Tuesday's Clippers Media Day was focused on a non-Clipper nearly 2000 miles away -- New Orleans Hornets point guard Chris Paul.

For the past several days, sources have reported that the Clippers and Hornets have been in trade talks for Paul, with the Hornets' asking price apparently consisting of center Chris Kaman, guard Eric Gordon, an unprotected first round pick, and second-year players Eric Bledsoe and Al-Farouq Aminu.

Such rumors have left many of the current Clippers uncertain about who might be on the team when the season opens on Christmas.

When asked about the Paul rumors, Griffin stated, "obviously we'd love to have him. But if it doesn't work out, everybody on this team knows that we're ready to roll with this team."

Indeed, as presently constituted the Clippers roster has depth, size, experience, and athletic talent.

And with Los Angeles acquiring former All-Star point guard Chauncey Billups off waivers, Paul has become more luxury than necessity, on the court at least.  Off the court, however, many feel that Paul will be needed to convince Griffin to sign with the team long term.

Were the season to begin today, the Clippers starting lineup would likely consist of the veteran Billups at the point, the explosive Gordon at the 2, Butler at the 3, Griffin at the 4, and either Kaman or the recently re-signed DeAndre Jordan at center.

The Clippers also would boast an impressive second unit coming off their pine, with Mo Williams, Bledsoe, Aminu, Ryan Gomes, Randy Foye, and the Jordan-Kaman tandem, all getting their share of rotation minutes.

DeAndre Jordan at Media Day
Tri Le / The Daily Sports Herald

More importantly, there is an energy and excitement in Clipper Land that has not been seen in a long time.

Griffin and Gordon are two athletic and skilled players at their respective positions, each coming off solid seasons.  Moreover, the surrounding cast is good and complements the team's two stars.

But the real change with the Clippers is coming from the top down, as the front office -- for the second-year in a row -- is aggressively trying to acquire a franchise-caliber player.  Such aggression is a departure from the days when the team would let its stars walk away to other franchises, or fail to build around those stars.

Current GM Neil Olshey has either changed the culture or convinced owner Donald Sterling to spend because right now the Clips are showing a never-before-seen activism within the front office. And that is a refreshing, exciting change for the better.

"We think we've got a product on the floor right now that's giving a lot of people in the Western Conference pause," Olshey said. "We're as big and as deep as any team in the league right now. We think we're a threat already."

Clippers Media Day
Tri Le / The Daily Sports Herald

Chris Paul may never wind up in a Clipper uniform, but at least there appears to be a rational approach to the team's moves.

Olshey's signing of Jordan -- Griffin's close friend -- not only makes Kaman expendable, but also gains Griffin's trust in the franchise.  Moreover, the Billups acquisition provides LA with a little leverage for a Paul deal because Billups is more than capable of running the point for the next two seasons.

Now when the Clippers talk about the playoffs, this team can be taken seriously.  For LA, the regular "wait till next year" mantra has become so last year.

By Mike Elliott
Staff Editor for The Daily Sports Herald

Photographs by Tri Le
Photography Editor for The Daily Sports Herald

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