“The character of any team is reflected in the standards it sets for itself.”

During the post-game wrap-up, Don MacLean spoke about the team leaders taking it upon themselves to help change the culture of this team for the better .  In doing so, he referenced the team that I respect above all others in all of professional sports: The San Antonio Spurs.  He said that Duncan, Parker, and Ginobili practice every day and added that all players that join the Spurs follow the lead of the team leaders:  working hard both individually and as a team to earn their success over the years.  True enough, but it should be mentioned that they’ve never been guilty of adding guys to their roster that get insulted when talking about practice (AI), take swings at other players (Melo), or wear bright colored nail polish & white wedding gowns (Rodman).  The Spurs bring in players with good character and veterans who (to quote, I think, either Ralph or Mike) are “over themselves” and just play the game.  I think their personnel guys understand that you can’t turn lead into gold—no matter how talented the player, if they have bad character, the team ultimately suffers for it.  Where is the character of our Clippers team?  What are the standards that our Clippers are setting for themselves?  The last time I wrote a fanpost, I lambasted the character of this team because, quite frankly, they deserved it.  So many words to describe the team who fell far short of everyone’s expectations.  But as Clippers fans, we are ever optimists…and one doesn’t have to think too far back for examples when teams turn things around in a hurry.  The Spurs did it when they drafted Duncan.  The Celtics did it when they traded for Garnett and Ray Allen.  Maybe next year, we can say that our Clippers played with…

STRENGTH.  This year, our Clippers were far from being in peak physical conditioning.  A lot were physically not strong enough and got pushed around by other players:  Zach Randolph, Chris Kaman, and even DeAndre Jordan.  Camby has always been very lanky, but the other guys are big: yet lose the rebounding battle night-in and night-out.  I’ve never seen a team with so little lift off the ground, either:  Kaman proves without a shadow of a doubt that White Men Can’t Jump.  Zach gets off the ground maybe six inches, if he’s lucky.  And I know EJ is short, but a lot of his misses at the rim was because he just didn’t elevate high enough—maybe just the rookie wall more than anything…

Also, a lot were overweight and couldn’t compete the entire four quarters: Tim Thomas, Baron Davis, Ricky Davis, Chris Kaman, Randolph, & Fred Jones (likely because he was out of the league).  How are you going to play defense when you’re carrying too much weight to move around the court as quickly as you need to?  And for the periods of time that you’re required to?

WISDOM.  The great teams know how to attack and, equally important, when to attack.  My favorite example of this Jordan during his time with the Bulls.  He knew when he had to score a lot of baskets, when to stop the other team from making baskets, and when to change the tempo of the game so that the other team never becomes confortable in what they want to do.  Great teams also know how to take something away and force another player on a team beat you.  The Pistons did this against MJ.

DISCIPLINE.  Mikki Moore, formerly of the Clippers, spoke about the difference between playing for the Celtics vs playing for other teams in the league: he said that when he picks up an offensive player, he had to learn to commit fully and KNOW that his other teammates had his back.  The top teams have players that know their assignments, know their roles, and stick to it or they know they don’t get to play the next game. 

To become respectable, our Clippers need all three…

Where is strength without wisdom?  The easiest example I could think of is MJ and Kobe during their early years…as physically gifted as can be, but didn’t know how to translate this physical ability into championships.

Where is wisdom without strength?  It would be like MJ in his later years—the COMPLETE understanding of the game, but no longer with the raw physical ability to execute.  Actually, closer to home, a lot of our vets know how to play the game but just couldn’t play the way they expect to because of health/weight issues…

Where is wisdom and strength, without the discipline?  The Lakers, unfortunately for L.A., are the best example of this—their players are mostly physically fit athletes, wise in their understanding of the game d/t some great coaching and because the Laker organization likes to bring in smart players as much as the Spurs like to bring in character players…BUT they don’t have the discipline that the Spurs have or the Celtics had last year...and I think they’re looking at another LOOONG offseason thinking about what could have been…

Frankly, I think it would be a start if our Clippers could be described as having even one of the above characteristics.  Let’s keep our fingers crossed.

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