I got in the car at 720 last night to head down to Long Beach for the big preseason ClipsNation politburo meeting, complete with Lebanese food. And I realized that I could listen to Ralph and Mike kicking off the fall campaign, appropriately enough, on the drive. When I turned on the radio the first thing I heard was "and Blake Griffin picks up his second foul and will come out of the game." The score was 15-14 I think, and Ryan Gomes hit a three and the Clips had the lead. I missed hearing about Griffin's exploits, and BDavis and Gordon were nowhere in sight, but hey, let's go fellas, let's play the right way.
Or not. And then the deluge. A perfect storm of Bledsoe turnovers, Wes Mathews gluey Portland perfection, more turnovers and disgruntled Rudy F. threes, and soon enough that old Clipper feeling, the familiar fear and loathing, the insanity, the horror, it was all racing back, much too soon, much too quickly. I had to report to our fearless leader that the Clips had been outscored by something like 50-15, and they were down by something like 35 points. I exaggerated. My eyes were wild, the walls were closing in.
But after a couple of beers, and a night of rainy reflection, I realized it was part of a carefully designed plan. Getting blown of the floor and out of the gym in Portland was the best possible thing that could have happened last night.
That Vinny, he's a sharp customer. Now I get it. How can I teach these guys to play the right way, he was thinking. To play the right way you have to feel the right way, and for the vets the preseason doesn't mean a thing. But what about the rookies, these young guys?
The key to VDN's crafty approach was sitting Eric Gordon. Gordon needs the rest. (At least that's what the optimists are saying at this point, though they know to be looking at the fanshots to see the announcement of the knee or the hamstring, ankle, or shoulder, whatever is tweaked.) Why get caught up in the excitement of Portland's opener, when Baron's knee wants to settle down and Gordon should be "freshening," rather than running himself down? Portland will be coming down to Staples soon enough, so why show them the A team in front of their rabid fans? Let's throw Blake and Bledsoe and Jordan and Aminu and that other guy, the one that DTS can't remember, along with the other bench guys out there and see what happens. Welcome to the NBA. You suck.
We know from last year what happens when Gordon isn't in the lineup. It isn't pretty. Take Baron away and it gets a lot uglier. So now, VDN is thinking, look at that: I've got their attention! What just happened? These guys had a nice shot, some great minutes, and they didn't play the right way, now did they? They got killed; they were humiliated.
But you know what? It doesn't get much worse. And now they know how bad it can be. You have to play the wrong way, it seems, in order to learn how to play the right way. They know how hard they have to work, how far they have to go. They found the floor right away, without even a second of hesitation. Now it's all one direction, and the only way to go is upwards.
Like I said, very crafty. So that first preseason game might have seemed frightful and disheartening, but it was actually the ideal, most desirable result. (I know that's what you were all thinking.) It couldn't have been better!
And that's just a glimpse of the old Club Optimism spirit for you all. Marching on!