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A Lakers fan’s guide to rooting in the 2014 playoffs

For the first time in nearly a decade, it’s late April and Lakers fans everywhere have nowhere to be. It’s a strange feeling for a fanbase that hasn’t seen a television set bereft of purple and gold more than a half dozen times in fifty years. Even as I sit and watch these incredible playoffs unfold, with titanic matchups like this spectacular Memphis Grizzlies/Oklahoma City Thunder series or the “no holds barred” battle between the Clippers and Golden State Warriors, I know there’s still a very foreign feeling of basketball emptiness in the hearts of the Lakers fans everywhere.
I feel you, brothers and sister. I really do. So what is there to root for? Is there anything to root for? Why should we care after the worst season in Los Angeles Lakers history?
Well, that’s why we’re here, kids. After a couple of weeks reconstituting myself from too many minutes of Wesley Johnson throughout the year, I finally recollected all of my hoophead passion and redirected it towards all the hate and bile in my heart. No, there are no Lakers to cheer on this spring. However, that doesn’t mean that Lakers fans don’t have anything to root for.
Going through the playoff bracket, I found ways for us to be collectively emotionally involved with hate binding us together. Is this the most positive exercise in the world? No, it’s not. This is pretty much the worst thing we can do karmically. But my friends, the hate will sustain us through the long summer. Let’s hit it: who can Lakers fans root for in these playoffs?
(Read on at Silver Screen & Roll)

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Donald Sterling and the hypocrisy of the Clippers fan base

Lakers fans howl at team owner and VP of Player Personnel Jim Buss. Some people say he’s not qualified to run the team in any capacity, let alone making basketball decisions on behalf of the greatest franchise in the league. Other say that he simply needs to maintain a spot as a silent owner, as he’s nowhere near the man his father was. Most people would say that he’s just an out-and-out idiot that they want nowhere near the Lakers. While I might not necessarily agree with all those opinions, it’s a hot topic of debate within the fanbase. Some people really despise Jim Buss. They think that his decisions, basketball-wise, are driving their beloved franchise into the ground. That’s definitely a conversation worth having. Sometimes, even a highly contentious one.
But the conversation between Lakers fans have everything to do with basketball and nothing to do with what kind of man Jimmy Buss is. Whether you think he’s incompetent or an unfair beneficiary of nepotism, that’s where the debate ends. No one is discussing whether or not Jim Buss is a good person.
Clippers fans–what kind of conversations are you having this week?
By now, even the most casual of basketball fans know the story: an alleged recording of Clippers owner Donald Sterling spewing racist remarks to a girlfriend has gone public. Nearly everyone associated with the league has made a public comment about this one way or another, as LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Commissioner Adam Silver and everyone down the line has decried the alleged comments. Hell, even President Obama weighed in. From Malaysia.
(Check out the rest at SS&R)

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2014 MAMBINO NBA All-Stars

The 2013-2014 NBA All-Stars have been fully unveiled as of last night, with the reserves being named alongside the fan-voted starters. Just for those of you too lazy to punch in “NBA All-Stars” into Google, here they are:
Eastern Conference
Starters: PG Kyrie Irving, Cleveland; SG Dwyane Wade, Miami; F LeBron James, Miami; F Carmelo Anthony, NYK; F Paul George, Indiana
Reserves: F Chris Bosh, Miami; G/F DeMar DeRozan, Toronto; C Roy Hibbert, Indiana; SG Joe Johnson, Brooklyn; PF Paul Millsap, Atlanta; C Joakim Noah, Chicago; PG John Wall, Washington
Western Conference
Starters: PG Stephen Curry, Golden State; SG Kobe Bryant, Lakers; SF Kevin Durant, OKC; PF Blake Griffin , Clippers; PF Kevin Love, Minnesota
Reserves: PF LaMarcus Aldridge. Portland; SG James Harden, Houston; C Dwight Howard, Houston; PG Damian Lillard, Portland; PF Dirk Nowitzki, Dallas; PG Tony Parker, San Antonio; PG Chris Paul, Clippers
A great list to be sure…but not necessarily the right one.
The illustrious MAMBINO crew came together over the past week and threw down their All-Star picks because we’re smarter, savvier and just better than you, dammit. The following are the consensus group picks, as well as some pithy little commentary on how we reached our conclusions, including the snubbiest snubs (those that didn’t even get “snub” votes on MAMBINO). Read on!… Read more...

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...

Instant Trade Analysis: Eric Bledsoe to Phoenix, Jared Dudley and JJ Redick to the Clippers

The Clippers get: SF Jared Dudley (pride of the Boston College Eagles) and SG JJ Redick
Phoenix Suns get: PG Eric Bledsoe, SF Caron Butler
Milwaukee Bucks get: Two second round picks
We live in a world where endless information is at your fingertips. Where scientists have the ability to clone other humans, but choose not to because of moral quandries. When people can realistically think about traveling to Mars. Mars!
We also live in a time where the Clippers are dangerously close to becoming championship contenders. A truly, truly wondrous moment in human history. Incredible, remarkable, disgusting. That’s how to mark today’s events.
After much speculation, the Clippers finally traded back-up point guard Eric Bledsoe, along with forward Caron Butler (and most importantly his $8 million dollar salary) in a deal with the Phoenix Suns. In return, the Clips received former Milwaukee Bucks guard JJ Redick (who will be sign and traded with a new, four year, $27 million dollar contract) and the finest professional basketball player ever to come out of The Heights, forward Jared Dudley. For their participation in getting Redick slightly more money by the S&T transaction, the Bucks will receive two 2nd round picks for their troubles.… 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...

Why Blake Griffin’s Injury Ruins the 2012-2013 Clippers…and Beyond

This week, Los Angeles Clippers forward Blake Griffin underwent surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his left knee. The All-NBA Second Team forward was hurt during a workout for the US Olympic team, which he had made ironically because two forwards in front of him, LaMarcus Aldridge and Chris Bosh, are recovering from in-season injuries. Coach and current front office executive Vinny del Negro stated after the surgery that the Clippers were very confident that he’ll be back for training camp and get back to 100%. So, as bad as that news is, it’s probably the best news that we could have gotten, which is great.” As news from Vinny is so many times, that statement couldn’t be any less illuminated. The injury to Griffin is relatively small, but the minimalist nature of the surgery couldn’t be more different than that potentially irreparable effect that it could have on the Clippers’ 2012-2013 season, and every season going forward.

The immediate concerns are the most apparent; Griffin has now had three injuries to the same knee within a three-year window. He fractured his left knee cap on a non-contact injury during the 2009 preseason, sprained it during the playoffs in May, and finally this past week in a team practice. I can’t say definitively that any of these injuries are related to each other, but regardless of if they are or are not, the Clippers have to be concerned that their first bonafide star attraction in franchise history has consistently gotten hurt in the same body part multiple times in a non-contact situations. As Simmons stated recently on a podcast, only the Clippers could ink a man to a $95 million dollar deal one day, and then have him suffer an injury requiring surgery the next day. 

 However, the long-term importance of this injury actually has to do with Blake’s short-term plans. As devastating as the prospects of a bum knee on the Clippers’ homegrown superstar would be, it’s the lost time this summer that could potentially banish Donald Sterling’s team from the brief gasp of relevant air that they’ve been able to breathe the past eight months.

As a seasoned Clippers doubter, I have my reservations about Griffin’s prospects as a future superstar in the league, but as a lover of the sport, I have to temper all of that with an air of positivity. In only 148 games, Griffin has thrown down a ridiculous 21/11/3 stat line on 52% shooting. The key number in that sentence was 148, meaning that Blake has missed zero games the past two years, including starting all 11 this postseason. He’s the most spectacular athlete in the league outside of LeBron James, with a dazzling combination of power, speed, quickness and hand-eye coordination that’s simply dizzying to watch. His dignity-robbing dunks are as much a trademark as they are a terrifying eventuality to the opposing team (and their fans), but he didn’t make the All-NBA Second Team this season just because he’s a spectacular showman. Griffin is a tenacious ball player, willing to scrap on the floor for loose balls, fight for offensive rebounds (finishing 5th and 7th in the league the past two seasons) and of course, stay on the floor at all times (5th and 4th in minutes). The detractions on Blake are numerous, but no one can argue that he is one of the most exciting and athletic players in the entire world with an endless ceiling.
That being said, the holes in Blake’s game are very easy to point out. First and foremost, despite all of his power and at

Instant Trade Analysis: Odom Comes Home

Utah Jazz get: Mo Williams, draft rights to Shan Foster

YOUR Los Angeles Clippers get: Lamar Odom

Houston Rockets get: draft rights to Furkan Aldemir

Dallas Mavericks get: draft rights to Tadija Dragicevic, cash from Houston, and a relief from the pain and suffering brought by The Kardashian Curse

Odom’s 2.4 million dollar salary would have become a hefty 8.2 by tomorrow if Dallas couldn’t pull off a miracle. Enter the Utah Jazz and their Mormon kindness, willing to take disgruntled backup combo guard Mo Williams from the Clippers, to facilitate a four-way deal.

By unleashing the much-maligned but uber-talented Odom, Dallas puts the finishing touches on what has to go down as one of the most abysmal title defenses in recent history. Mark Cuban, in only one calendar year, did the following:

  • Lowballed Tyson Chandler, the man who allowed Dirk Nowitzki to hide on defense, which allowed Chandler to leave for New York
  • Signed Half-Man, Half-Woman Vince Carter
  • Traded Corey Brewer and Rudy Fernandez to Denver for a future second-round pick (!)
  • Traded a first-round pick and an 8.9 million dollar trade exception for to the Lakers for Lamar Odom and a second-round pick
Now, of the four, the Odom deal was universally described as brilliant. Odom was fresh off becoming an unsuspecting victim of David Stern’s “basketball reasons” veto, and couldn’t muster the testicles to play for a franchise that didn’t want him. (Of course, “didn’t want him” = “we were on the verge of getting Chris bleeping Paul, you idiot.”) We laughed at Los Angeles, as Dallas seemed to luckily pounce on Showtime’s misfortune.
But Odom endured the worst year of his personal and professional life. While basketball Twitter was focused on the rumblings of the lockout, Odom spent his summer in pain over two deaths. One was the murder of his cousin, the other was a teenage pedestrian killed when a car, in which Odom was a passenger, collided with a motorcycle. As a result, the former University of Rhode Island standout arrived in Big D looking as doughy as ever, his conditioning probably suffering from having to eat Khloe’s leftovers whenever the behemoth felt pressured by her breathtakingly beautiful sisters (meaning, everyday). Okay, his conditioning actually suffered from not playing any basketball at all during the offseason, as opposed to the previous year, where he made a valuable contribution to the Kevin Durant-led Team USA that won the World Championships in Turkey.
But everything was supposed to be water on the bridge once the first jumpball was thrown up. After all, this was the reigning Sixth Man of the Year (although I guess the award has lost some luster in the past few weeks. You know who you are.). This was the guy who was versatile enough to play all three frontcourt positions, handle the ball, create, pass, and shoot. This was the guy who was traded to a team that was coming off a Larry O’Brien trophy, dismantling the team that made the trade, via sweep.
Not so fast, my friends. Odom sauntered through the 2011-2012 NBA season, producing career per game lows in minutes played (20.5), points (6.6), rebounds (4.1), and shot a frightening 35% from the floor. He spent some time away from the team to figure his ish out, and even had a short stint in the D-League (although he did not play an actual game there).
Even yours truly was guilty of poking fun at Lamar Odom. But with today’s news, Odom has an opportunity to reclaim his place as a contributing member o