For the first time in franchise history, the Los Angeles Clippers just sold out of season tickets. You can read that again, and again, and again, and it may still look funny. Hell. When you’re doing reading this, as well as every other article that will be published in the next few days/weeks, you may STILL think all of this looks funny. But believe it or not, ready or not, here they come.
The Los Angeles Clippers are relevant.
I don’t want to get ahead of myself and call them a contender. But you never know. The Thunder arrived quickly. As did the Grizzlies. There is a changing of the guard in Staples Center, and it’s shocking people. With the acquisition of Chris Paul, the emergence of Blake Griffin, and a mix of veteran leadership and young talents, the Clippers just made a statement that filled the Staples Center with a noise as loud as the rock concerts which frequent the building. But I can’t help but compare what’s going on with the Clippers/Lakers fiasco right now to what happened with the Angels/Dodgers a few years back.
Now, before I begin my analogy, you must understand that I understand that, while similar, they are different situations. I’ll explain that at the end.
Let me bring you back to the year 2000. The Dodgers, while not making the playoffs since 1996, were still the premiere Southern California franchise in baseball. The history, the championships, the stadium. Players wanted to be in Dodger blue. They had just traded for a talented right fielder, and had a star in left. The Angels were, the Angels. Owned by a corporation which had bigger things on its mind. Ugly uniforms. Their star player had been traded away. Their star free agent was underperforming. 3 place in the AL West. Nothing special about them. Then began the change.
Phase I : The New Manager
In 2000, former Dodger, Mike Scioscia, was hired to become the manager. He brought with him a mentality and philosophy about the game which he had learned in the Dodgers farm system. “The Dodger Way.” He loved his players and had a desire to win.
Phase II: Magic
For the Angels, the “Periwinkle Pajamas” were gone. Classic white and greys. A red hat. A simple “A” with a halo. A new brand. The Dodgers fielded a great time, but in a highly competitive division. The Angels, expected to fail once again, won the Wild Card, and eventually, went on to “magically” win the World Series.
Phase III: The Game Changer
The World Series victory helped the team gain popularity, but the Dodgers still held a slight advantage in terms of SoCal supremacy in popularity. Then came the 2003 offseason. The big fish, Vladimir Guerrero. A superstar. The Dodgers wanted him. Badly. Negotiation went on and on and, allegedly, he was about to put ink to paper. Talks turned sour in the 11th hour. The Angels swooped in and grabbed him. From that moment on, things were officially different. If a player like Albert Pujols became a free agent before 2003, the Dodgers would have had a chance at him. Not now. Maybe when the new owner gets here, but not now.
That brings be to the Clippers, the Lakers, and why this is the same (but different). Do I expect the Clippers to win the NBA Championship. Absolutely not. Do I expect the Lakers to fall into obscurity. Absolutely not. But the Lakers have always been the powerhouse. 16 NBA Championships. 16 Hall of Fame members. They are the Lakers! And the Clippers have always been…sigh…the clippers (lowercase intended). 0 Championships. 0 Division titles. 2 winning seasons since 1984.
But here come Blake Griffin and Chris Paul. Getting younger and more talented. A plan in hand and going full speed ahead. And there go the Lakers. Getting older and confused. No plan. Outlook, not so good. The Lakers were minutes away from adding CP3 to the roster and building for the future. Then the Clippers swooped in and grabbed him.
And while the Lakers will still make they playoffs (Kobe isn’t just going to give up), as of right now, it appears that for the first time…ever…they may be passed in the standings by a team that they forgot shared a house with them.
Don’t fall asleep on these Clippers. Something special is about to happen…