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Chris Paul

Saying Goodbye to David Stern

Before we get into the legacy of David Stern, the man who has presided over the NBA since before I was born, I have to level with you: I wanted this to be a straight hit piece.
As the “Goodbye Mr. Stern” pieces have been published on the interwebs this week, I have been taken aback at how overwhelmingly positive each has been. There’s no question that Stern has been successful at creating a global marketing juggernaut, but isn’t this the same man who ripped out Seattle’s heart and forced fans to endure multiple lockouts? At the very least, I expected pundits to paint a complicated picture of a man who had presided over some of the highest highs and lowest lows of the NBA’s storied history.
Despite the NBA being a lifelong obsession, I have a strong personal distaste for the man and his decisions as commissioner. When you look around the sports world, there’s plenty of incompetence to go around: Bettman has driven hockey into the ground multiple times, Selig mishandled steroids in baseball about as poorly as one could, and Goodell’s dictatorship makes Stern look collaborative in comparison. So what’s my beef with Stern?
I’m no conspiracy theorist – I don’t believe he rigged the lottery with a frozen envelope or controlled outcomes for ratings (would he have let that Cleveland-San Antonio series happen?). I think he’s been an egotistical autocrat who’s ruthlessly bullied everyone in his path, a path focused on personal glory and serving owners over fans. He’s the definition of smug and makes intimidating and embarrassing his enemies a sport, even when it’s completely unnecessary. Who else would proclaim he knew where the bodies were buried, because he’s the one who buried them? As we say goodbye to the Commish, let’ start at the beginning.… Read more...

“The Veto” shockwaves, two years later

Almost two years ago to the day, I woke up on an air-mattress with my phone lighting up next to my head. Texts and e-mails were pouring in, unusual at 7am Eastern Time in the days following Thanksgiving. For anyone that’s received a barrage of telecommunications at that point of the morning, there is, quite frequently, a conversation of terrifying consequence on the other line.
I couldn’t have been more wrong. Friends and hoopheads from all over had let me know that the NBA Lockout was over. It was Christmas in November.
In the days that followed, my dormant Lakers fandom had sparked and sputtered like a dusty old car coming back to life. My mind raced with the thoughts of how the team–just 18 months removed from a Game 7 NBA Finals win over the Boston Celtics–would try and rebound from a tepid title defense and second round sweep at the hands of the eventual champion Dallas Mavericks. Kobe Bryant was an elite player, Pau Gasol one of the best bigs in the game and Andrew Bynum primed for a breakout season. There was no reason why the Lakers couldn’t win a title with some minor tweaks.
Minor tweaking wasn’t what GM Mitch Kupchak and the Buss family had in mind.
On Thursday, December 8th, the Los Angeles Lakers and New Orleans Hornets consummated a trade that no one saw coming. The Lakers had dismantled their three-time NBA Finalists, dealing the front court that had been on the floor when championship confetti had fallen from the rafters not once, but twice. In the agreed upon three-team deal, LA would send Gasol to the Houston Rockets and Lamar Odom, along with Kevin Martin, Goran Dragic, Luis Scola and a first-round pick would be sent to New Orleans. In return, NOLA would send Chris Paul to the Lakers. Additionally, the Show would end up saving nearly $40 million dollars in combined salary and luxury taxes for the upcoming season. It was an absolute heist, but one that was agreed upon by three general managers and two ownership groups.
(Read on at Silver Screen & Roll)

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A revolution in Downtown LA: Los Angeles Clippers Season Preview

Starting Five: PG Chris Paul, SG JJ Redick, SF Jared Dudley, PF Blake Griffin, C DeAndre Jordan
Key Bench Players: G Jamal Crawford, SF Matt Barnes, PF Antawn Jamison, PG Darren Collison, F/C BJ Mullens, G Willie Green
Offseason Additions: JJ Redick, Jared Dudley, Antawn Jamison, BJ Mullens, head coach Doc Rivers
Offseason Subtractions: PG Eric Bledsoe, G Chauncey Billups, SF Grant Hill, PF Lamar Odom, C Ronny Turiaf
FACT OR FICTION: Doc Rivers’s addition makes this team into a title contender.
FACT. So much fact. Fact all up and down those nifty new banners in STAPLES Center.
The real question is…
FACT OR FICTION: The real key to the Clippers’s championship puzzle is in the front court.
FACT. All the puzzle pieces are on the table. It’s just up to Doc Rivers to put them together…for the most part.
A multi-time All-Star and perennial MVP candidate? Check. Chris Paul, you can stand up. A cadre of shooters that will keep every opposition scattered? Check. JJ, Jared, Jamal, Jamison and Barnes, you too. A championship level coach whose whiteboard proficiency won’t be called into question late in games…or late in April? Check. Doc, stop shouting, you can leave.
But a pair of big men who can a) destroy opponents on the boards, b) punish defenses by hitting wide open spot up jumpers, c) hit free throws and d) stay on the court? That box is blank. For now. DeAndre and Blake, sit down until further notice.… Read more...

How unlikely is a Dwight Howard/Chris Paul Lakers future? Very unlikely

Grantland’s Bill Simmons has been putting out a plausible theory that could turn inevitably moribund 2013-2014 Los Angeles Lakers season into a renaissance year for the league’s most blessed franchise. From the Sports Guy’s article a couple weeks ago:

Don’t rule out Chris Paul becoming a Laker next year. Here’s how they could pull it off: If they amnestied Kobe Bryant, then traded Pau Gasol to Houston for a dirt-cheap salary (say, Donatas Motiejunas), they’d suddenly be lopping close to $49 million off next year’s cap, leaving them with commitments to Metta World Peace, Steve Nash, Steve Blake, Chris Duhon, Jordan Hill, and Gasol’s cheap replacement for less than $30 million. That’s more than enough to sign Chris Paul and re-sign Dwight Howard if they took a little less … which they might, since it’s the Lakers and all.

To clarify, LA is very much over the $58 million dollar salary cap threshold–around $40 million over it. The 2013-2014 roster amounts to roughly $78 million in commitments, which doesn’t count a figure for Dwight Howard if he were to re-sign. Pulling off Simmons’ theoretical scenario would involve clearing the cap room and then signing Chris Paul to a 4-year, $79 million dollar deal (the most he’s eligible for a team that’s not the Clippers) and Dwight to a 5-year, $118 million dollar deal. No easy feat.
(For the uninitiated, the amnesty clause is a one-time provision every team has in order to waive one player and thus clearing his salary from their salary cap number. The player cut will still receive his payment in full, but the team will not have to pay any luxury tax on the contract, if they are indeed over the cap limit. Also, the team that waives the player cannot re-sign him for the entire duration of the original contract. For this case specifically, if the Lakers were to amnesty Kobe Bryant, they would not be able to re-sign at any point during the 2013-2014 season)
As insanely cold-hearted as it may be, the Sports Guy might not be crazy. LA could completely rebuild in just one season, launching themselves back into championship contention after a mere three years in title-purgatory. Make no mistake: a Chris Paul/Dwight Howard core would, health permitting, be more than a match for the Oklahoma City Thunder, Golden State Warriors and perhaps Finals-bound Memphis Grizzlies. If it were to happen, that is.
Beyond all the complexities of essentially cutting Kobe Bryant (and don’t be naïve: if Kobe Bryant were to get cut via the amnesty provision by the Lakers, do you think for one second that a disgruntled and disrespected Mamba would ever come back to the purple & gold, even after he was allowed to? He’s still upset at the Phoenix Suns for beating a Kwame Brown and Smush Parker-led team 8 years ago. He would never get over this), there are too many technical difficulties to get this coup to happen. Let’s go to the tape:
1) The clock is against them. The Lakers can ONLY use the amnesty provision between July 10th and July 17th 2013
If the Lakers are going to make such a franchise altering decision, they’ll need to do it all in a two-week period.
Every NBA team can talk to free agents starting on midnight on July 1st. Though teams cannot officially sign players, they can “agree to terms” before pen is put to paper. This is in no way legally binding, meaning that the player is not compelled under contract law to sign with the team, … Read more...

NBA Playoffs: Western Conference First Round Predictions

On Friday, we took a look at our Eastern Conference predictions. Even though one game is in the books, better late than never. Let’s get right to the other side of the bracket, the Western Conference:
1) Oklahoma City Thunder vs. 8) Houston Rockets
Why OKC takes it in 5 games
KOBEsh: It’s a 1-seed versus an 8-seed. That’s reason enough right there. 
But going further? You’ve got the league’s best and most efficient offense playing a squad with a middling 16th ranked defense, though they’ve certainly improved over the second half of the season. You’ve got two of the NBA’s deadliest scorers in Westbrook and Durant, and no one on the opposition that is at all suited to slow them down. You’ve got an experienced OKC front line that knows how to work advantages against a bunch of first-time playoff virgins, including Serge Ibaka whose mobility and shooting touch should tear up whatever platoon coach Kevin McHale chooses.
This shouldn’t be a contest. No further explanation necessary. … Read more...

The Unenviable Problems of the Los Angels Clippers

The Los Angeles Clippers are already experiencing the greatest season in franchise history.
From nearly any viewpoint, the team has never flown at these heights of on or off court success. For just their second time in Donald T. Sterling’s ownership, the Clips have not one, but two starters in the All-Star game in Chris Paul and Blake Griffin. They are playing at a .679 winning percentage, which is almost 80 points higher than their second-best record in over three decades of basketball. At 36-16, if the Clippers lost every game for the rest of the season, they’d still be tied for the 8th highest win total in their franchise’s history.
Looking into the future, if the team keeps it’s current trajectory, they will not only attain a top-4 seed for the first time and home court advantage in the playoffs for just the second time, but seem to be on their way towards capturing their maiden Pacific Division banner.
Most importantly, this season was the first time ever, at any in point in any season, where the casual basketball fan could say “the LA Clippers are the best team in the league.” That’s not hyperbole or exaggeration; the Clips have never been good enough in their entire existence as a franchise at any moment in time where someone could mention their name at the top of the league. Quite incredible.
But the present isn’t just what has Clippers fans excited–it’s the future. After years of squandering draft selections with titanically busted picks, signing over-priced free agents that no one else wanted and allowing players to walk and flourish elsewhere, the Red, White and Blue have finally given their long suffering followers a reason to hope.
It all starts with the top; Chris Paul holds high the belt as the undisputed point guard champion, no discount double check necessary. Blake Griffin has his detractors–count MAMBINO amongst them–but he’s only in his third season at the age of 22 with two All-Star berths and a 2nd Team All-NBA nod to his name. Even as his post game, jump shot, free throw shooting and defense leave a Kia-sized raft of shortcomings to be desired, Griffin still has years to grow into a true dominator.
The rest of the squad looks teeming with talent. DeAndre Jordan performs at times like the $43 million he signed for, providing the defense and shot blocking that drew comparisons to Tyson Chandler two years ago. Eric Bledsoe came to the Clippers from the Thunder in a rare lapse of judgment from Jedi Master Sam Presti. Chris Paul’s back-up has turned into one of the league’s finest back court defenders and one of the brightest prospects in the NBA. Jamal Crawford has been shockingly fantastic this year after a much maligned full mid-level exception signing, providing some of the playmaking that no other Clipper besides CP3 has been able to bring onto the table. Meanwhile, Matt Barnes continues to play career-best ball and Lamar Odom, Caron Butler, Grant Hill and Willie Green perform their supporting roles well, even at a combined price of around $19 million.
Put this all together? You’ve got a championship contending team. The Clippers play like few incarnations ever have before it, locking down oppositions in the half court set, destroying oppositions in transition and relying heavily on two seemingly unstoppable All-Stars. Moreover, the Clips seem to have the room and assets to improve; Eric Bledsoe’s days with the team seem limited with free agent-to-be C… Read more...

Has the Little Brother Finally Grown Up? – Los Angeles Clippers Season Preview

Can’t believe they got Dwight too.

Starting Five: PG Chris Paul, G Eric Bledsoe, SF Caron Butler, PF Blake Griffin, C DeAndre Jordan

Key Bench Players: G Chauncey Billups, SG Jamal Crawford, SG Willie Green, SF Matt Barnes, SF Grant Hill, PF Lamar Odom, C Ryan Hollins, C Ronnie Turiaf

Key Additions: SG Jamal Crawford, SF Grant Hill, PF Lamar Odom

Key Departures: G Mo Williams, SG Nick Young, G Randy Foye, PF Kenyon Martin, PF Reggie Evans

Despite having Chris Paul and Blake Griffin, the poor Clippers can’t catch a break in Los Angeles or in the Pacific Division. Perhaps they were expecting the Lakers to slowly decline while trying to ride Kobe off into the sunset? Unfortunately, that’s not how the Lakers roll and they managed to completely retool on the fly, retaining all their core assets except Bynum and adding two superstars. That’s gotta hurt for the Clippers, who were probably planning on flipping the switch this year and triumphing over their cross-town rivals to win their FIRST Pacific Division crown.

The continued relevance of the Purple and Gold aside, this team has a lot of pieces, but there is an equal number of question marks here. Although they have several young superstars surrounded by a tantalizing combination of young talent and veteran leadership, this roster doesn’t scream title contender in an increasingly top-heavy NBA. Forget the Heat. Would this team even be favored against the aging Spurs?

If there is ever a roster that will be defined by injuries and its intangibles, it’s this one. My first concern is health with this Clippers squad. Chauncey Billups will almost certainly miss the beginning of the season, while Paul and Griffin both have had checkered injury histories themselves. All of their new additions are on the downside of their careers and it’s totally unclear how much they are going to get from an ancient Grant Hill, a  wounded Lamar Odom on the rebound, and Jamal Crawford, who fell off quite a bit last year and should continue to decline. Nick Young and Randy Foye weren’t the answer on the bench, but they did provide fresh legs and some energy. They also knew their role on the team– something that Jamal Crawford has complained about at just about every stop on his NBA career.

Beyond that, I’ve listed 14 players as the starting five and key bench players. What’s the 10 man rotation? Lots of coaches struggle with rotations, but Vinnie Del Negro may be the worst. Although he did a much better job in the playoffs last year, he’s still a liability and prone to distractions (like squirrels). Clippers fans should not be confident that VDN can get the most of this deep and versatile roster, and that’s troubling. There are guys with defined roles and career bench players, but how do they have enough minutes to play Billups, Paul, and Crawford while continuing to develop Bledsoe and Willie Green? They also have 3 guys who’d like to play 30 minutes at SF and a logjam in the front court. Reggie Evans, who bailed out Blake Griffin in the playoffs with his toughness and rebounding last year, has been put out to pasture.

Really though, this roster comes to the development of their young talent in the frontcourt. Most of these guys are known quantities, but what DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin provide will determine if this is an up-and-coming contender or a middling playoff team. Blake Griffin’s appalling inability to shoot free throws or make anything where his hand wasn’t actually inside the rim really hurt this team last year. It also kept him off the court at the en… Read more...

The Most Clippers-y Clippers Team Ever

Let’s go over the laundry list of what the 2011-2012 Los Angeles Clippers accomplished this year:

  • .606: Their best winning percentage ever, years in Buffalo and San Diego included
  • 40 wins: Their 8th highest total ever…even with only a 66-game season
  • 2nd Place in the Pacific Division: Only the 2nd time they’ve ever finished that high (2006) in LA, and only the third time overall (1974-75)
  • Wins a playoff series for the 3rd time ever
  • Wins their first ever 7 game series
  • Wins a playoff Game 7 for the first time ever
  • 2 NBA All-Stars: Only the second time two players were ever selected to the All-Star team together (1976: Randy Smith & Bob McAdoo in Buffalo)
  • 2 NBA All-Star Starters: The first time any Clipper was selected an All-Star starter, let alone two at the same time
  • Chris Paul on 1st Team All-NBA: This isn’t official yet, but I would be incredibly surprised if Chris Paul wasn’t the first 1st Teamer since Bob McAdoo in 1976
  • Breaks a 17-game losing streak in San Antonio, dating back to January 31st, 2002
  • Breaks a 16-gamer losing streak in Utah, dating back to January 21st, 2004

In short, this has been the greatest Clippers season in their entire 42 year history, including their brief, but slightly more successful tenures in Buffalo and San Diego. A team who’s basketball plans always laid in the future, owner Donald Sterling finally had a squad that was ready for the present. Faced with unprecedented preseason expectations, the Clips in many ways exceeded them. Now merely dark horse pick to make a run to the NBA Finals, at one time many had lofty expectations that this team could be title contenders. They finished the season with 40 wins, good for a .606 winning percentage, slightly better than their 1974-1975 Buffalo Braves antecedents. Within those 40 W’s includes two wins that broke gigantic losing streaks in the fortresses of San Antonio and Utah, dating back nearly a decade.

Individually, two Clippers reached heights previously unimaginable by almost any duo in the past. Both Blake Griffin and the newly acquired Chris Paul (instantly the best player in franchise history upon the trade) were named All-Star starters. In Paul’s case, he’s a shoo-in for 1st Team All-NBA, with Griffin under consideration by many for 2nd or 3rd team honors. But even all the achievements as a team and as individuals couldn’t describe how prolific this particular season of Clippers basketball was.

The Griffin-coined “Lob City” was a nightly Sportscenter Top 10 highlight in waiting. With Chris Paul, Chauncey Billups and Mo Williams supplying the passes and DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin throwing down the dunks, the Clippers became “must-see TV” literally overnight. Griffin threw down buckets with a ferocity not seen since the days of the Reign Man, his epic flushes over Kendrick Perkins and Pau Gasol overshadowing how important both games were within the context of the season. Chris Paul, whose health had long been in question, seemed to not only be fully functional, but channeled the ghosts of Isaiah’s past. The Clips were winning, and spectacularly at that. Tickets for the red, white and blue suddenly (and shockingly) became the hottest in town. For years, Clippers seats were the ones you’d buy when your home team came to town and rather than splurge on halfway decent Lakers tickets, you bought lower bowl seats outside Staples Center for half face value. The Clippers tickets weren’t just a dime a dozen – they b… Read more...

MAMBINO’s All-NBA Teams for the 2012 Season

All-Star Games in any league are really easy targets for in-season buzz. Right in the middle of a long haul of 82 or 162 games, any All-Star contest is usually the most obvious metric for any fan to point to as an indicator of a man’s success on the field, ice or the court. Right after the MVPs, championships and Hall of Fame accolades, your favorite star athlete is going be be qualified by how many All-Star Games he’s been selected to.

To me, this always seemed like such a strange measurement of success. Why is it that we’re using an award that’s given to a player for only a half-season of work to determine how successful they’ve been their entire careers? Sure, Kareem made 19 All-Star teams not because he was only a 1st half performer, but because he’s one of the greatest of all-time. But then you have a guy like Rajon Rondo having a stellar first half last year and making the All-Star team,  watching his FG% drop 7 points and his assists go from 12 a game to 9 in the 2nd half. So at the end of the day, did Rondo have an All-Star year? No. So that’s why we have All-NBA teams.

All-Star selections are nice, but 1st, 2nd or 3rd team All-NBA is where the real prestige is at. We here at MAMBINO HQ polled our distinctive panel of NBA hoop-nerds and came up with our team selections. If you disagree, please leave a comment and tell us how dumb we are. I guarantee a shot back by BockerKnocker, and where he’ll undoubtedly and inappropriately attack your family or something. 

1st Team:
G-Chris Paul, Los Angeles Clippers (unanimous)
G-Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder
F-LeBron James, Miami Heat (unanimous)
F-Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder (unanimous)
C-Andrew Bynum, Los Angeles Lakers

KOBEsh: While I’m utterly disgusted that my colleagues would befoul our All-NBA teams by not putting Kobe on the 1st team, I’ll be the first to admit that the time is approaching rapidly, if it’s not here already. The two young twenty-somethings, Durant and Westbrook, crack the All-NBA 1st Team in tandem for the first time, and deservedly so.

I’ve watched every team in the league this year, multiple times thanks to NBA League pass, which has not only taken money out of my wallet, but spare time out of my nights and faith from my girl that I can ever be a good boyfriend. There is no team that has two offensive threats that put more pressure on a defense than Westbrook and Durant. Wade/LeBron, Pau/Kobe, Randolph/Gay, CP3/Blake, Melo/Amar’e and yes, even Biyombo/Kemba don’t raise the same type of discomfort in my heart when they’re on the court opposing another team. Though different type of players, both men are deadly with the ball in their hands, whether it’s putting up an extremely difficult jump shot you know they’ll make or driving to the hoop and weaving around defenders no matter how much guile and strength they play with. On top of everything else, Durant has turned himself into a solid rebounder (8.0 per game), and both are very good, athletic defenders that rarely lose their assignments or make silly mistakes.

Other than LeBron, there’s no other guy in the league that change the game more on both ends of the floor per 48 minutes more than Durant and Westbrook. They’re that good.

If you watched the 1st round playoff match-up between the Lakers and the Hornets last year, you could have seen this coming; Chris Paul is back to where he was before his knee injury a few years ago, and showing everyone why he’s the best point guard in the league. MorRead more...

Burning Question #6: Are the Clippers a title contender?

Merry Christmas! For your gift (besides this wonderful blog we do for free…you thankless sack), you will be magically transported to an alternate universe where the Los Angeles Clippers are the talk of the town. In this make-believe land of pretend, the Clips will be predicated as a playoff team by all, and a title contender by most. Chris Paul, the best point guard in the game, will be roving the perimeter, throwing dishes to energetic bigs Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan, with All-Stars Caron Butler, Chauncey Billups and Mo Williams bombing from distance. As we drop further into insanity and delusion, this fantasy Clippers team will be talking trash to their 16-time locker room neighbor Lakers, even though they’ve competed in two exhibition games, had 7 days of training camp and won approximately nothing. But now Christmas is over, and your gift is over. Time to return to reality, where all of this really happened.


That sums up my feelings on how I feel about the Clippers. I can’t believe this happened, and I buy some of the hype, but not all of it. In fact, I can’t believe that I even had to use “Are the Clippers a title contender?” as a title for a post. Let’s get after it, shall we, friends? And for real, Merry Christmas.

Why is this even a question?

Because the Clippers acquired Chris Paul, Blake Griffin is a mack truck in the form of an ugly human being, the team re-signed DeAndre Jordan and acquired Mo Williams, Chauncey Billups and Caron Butler. In that, they have two of the best 15 players in the league, a top-5 center and 3 guys in Mo, Billups and Butler that have been to the Finals (though Caron was sitting for his trip). They have the most talented backcourt in the league, and arguably the best starting frontcourt in the West.
The Clippers gave up a lot for Chris Paul, but what this says most to me is the tremendous depth that the team had before the trade. Even after giving up Eric Gordon, Al-Farouq Aminu and Chris Kaman, the team still seems as loaded as ever. As amazing as it is, the Clippers have more former All-Stars in their starting lineup (four) than the Lakers have on their entire roster (three). Even in my most vehement Lakers-induced disdain for the Clippers, I have to say that this is one of the best 8 teams in the league. Wow. I just threw up.

How will this play out?

I just listed all the strengths of this team, and believe me, there are many. But looking past the highlight reels of Lob City, the ballyhooed acquisition of Paul and the sexy story of the bridesmaid Clippers perhaps becoming the starring attraction in a city shared with the Dodgers and Lakers, this team has some serious problems.

No frontcourt depth: The recent signing of Reggie Evans was a great move by GM Neil Olshey, but as LeBron, Wade and Bosh showed in last year’s Finals, even the youngest and most athletic of legs will wear down over a 82 game season. What happens when you put those legs through a 66 game sprint with a three-man rotation? Evans is a solid piece and a definite rotation player, but in order for Blake and DeAndre to play less than 40 minutes a night, they need another big man to sop up the minutes to preserve something for the playoffs (and this isn’t even taking into account Jordan’s penchant for fouling the CRAP out of guys).

Lack of continuity: These guys haven’t played together. Granted, if there ever was going to be a player to bring your team together in a 10-day span, it would be Chris Paul. However, Butler, Billups and CP3 are all b… Read more...