After years of infamy playing in the dusty old Sports Arena, the Clippers owner Donald T. Sterling tinkered with the thought of moving his franchise to Orange County to escape the shadows of the fabled Lakers.
This was and still is the Lakers town, but since moving into the state of the art Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles, the once woeful franchise has established record attendance and at least when they play the Lakers there are as many fans clad in red than there are in the trusted gold of the Lakers.
Since moving here from San Diego the Clippers have had one uniform change after another and to their credit, they wear Los Angeles across their chest on the road, forging an identity with the city they reside.
Their General Manager is a former Lakers great by the name of Elgin Baylor and they came, oh so close to stealing away the Lakers most gifted player, Kobe Bryant, a few years ago.
If you were to ask the average fan which team they prefer, they would publicly claim the Lakers and privately support the Clippers.
It’s liked the Mets and Yankees in New York.
The Yankees are always expected to win, while the Mets are always expected to lose.
No longer are the Clippers being accused of being thrifty, while they failed to pull the trigger for Allen Iverson last season, they brought in Tim Thomas as a free agent from Phoenix to go along with a talented mix of young veterans.
Can this be the year the Clippers separate themselves from the Lakers?
Only time will tell, but before it even began it started out with an ominous curse.
In February, gifted young point guard Shaun Livingston suffered one of the most horrific injuries in the history of basketball.
The images are painted into the minds of basketball fans everywhere. Livingston going up for a lay-up against the Hornets and snapping his knee. Not only was his career in jeopardy, but the future of the franchise as well.
Then one of the most model players in the NBA and Clipper poster child Elton Brand suffered an injury that will keep him out for most of the season.
This for a team that was 23rd in the NBA in offense and 13th in the league in defense, behind the Lakers in both categories.
Now the team will rely heavily on gifted 6-foot-6 wing Corey Maggette who averaged 16 points, five rebounds and two assist per game last season.
Those numbers would have been much higher if he had started more than the 31 games while playing in 75.
Maggette has always been on the cusp of stardom and now with Brand out he will have the opportunity to prove he’s capable of handling it.
Guards Cuttino Mobley and ageless wonder Sam Cassell will have to increase their scoring output. Mobley averaged just 13.8 points last season, down from a career average of 16.4. Cassell, in the final year of a two-year deal, has been injury free during the preseason and is expected to put up his usual big numbers.
The wild card is rookie Al Thornton, a 6-foot-8 beast from Florida State who dropped 24 on the Lakers in a preseason affair and has shown that he has the ability to be a certified rookie of the year candidate.
If Thornton doesn’t hit a wall during the course of the season, as most first year players do, then the Clippers have a real shot at becoming one of the top five or six teams in the Western Conference.
Replacing Brand’s 20 points and nine rebounds will not be easy and Thornton will not be relied upon to do it alone, but he is the key to the kingdom of the heart breakkids.