After losing Saturday evening to the Nuggets at Mandalay Bay, the Clippers decided to go out on the town. Their excursion featured Big Baby singing his theme song and more rookie hazing for C.J. Wilcox, among other antics.
Today we learned those 'other antics' might not be as innocent as the name suggests. TMZ broke a story today about Blake Griffin being investigated on a battery charge stemming from a nightclub incident:
Here's what we know ... a man named Daniel says he was partying at Tao nightclub in the Venetian in the early hours of October 19th when he tried to take a cell phone pic of the crowd. According to a statement Daniel gave to Tao security, the man says Blake was bothered by the flash of the camera -- and "grabbed my phone with one hand. "Daniel says he didn't let go of the phone because his ID and credit card were attached to it -- so Blake grabbed his neck and began to squeeze while demanding Daniel give up his phone "or else."
According to the statement, the two eventually separated after Blake took the phone -- and when Daniel tried to ask for it back, Blake struck again ... grabbing his neck and squeezing for a second time. Daniel says when security finally got to the scene -- Blake told them, "Get him the f**k out of this club." Daniel says Blake then "slapped me in the right side of my face."
Blake... is this what you meant when you said you would start retaliating?!
Hopefully most of us are familiar by now in how TMZ traffics in rumors and unproven, yet salacious, 'insider' scoops. And we know that Blake, while occasionally an instigator, at least plays the part of model citizen both on and off the court. All that being said, I would give Blake the benefit of the doubt at the moment; it's possible that the man suing downplayed his own role in the conflict.
In the meantime, the Clippers lost another preseason game last night in embarrassing fashion (the team previews and power rankings coming up later were all probably written by idiots — who haven't seen just how terrible this Clippers team looks like it'll be this season). Matt Barnes in particular had his lowlights, continuing his frustrating shooting slump.
He's as cold as ice right now — unlike Jared Cunningham, who first took the reins, then the spotlight, as he dazzled in his first extended action with the Clippers. While he looked like a superstar to the rest of the world last night, the zebras went on doing their usual business, oblivious to his dazzling potential (at the very least, he's proven that he should be the starting small forward from here on out).
"Obviously, they don’t know his name," Doc Rivers said of Jared Cunningham. "He got mauled three or four times and there was no call.— Ben Bolch (@latbbolch) October 22, 2014
Back to the retaliation motif: Kelly Dwyer's take on why Blake Griffin has made the smart choice so far in his career by not getting into fights and potentially sacrificing everything — but his honor.
Here’s the thing with punching people in the face – it messes up your hand. If you’re not used to getting into fights, or if you stupidly lead with your dominant hand, you can break your hand. Badly. And when you mess up your hand, to whatever degree, you miss basketball games – on top of the suspension the league will levy that will force you to serve after you return to the active list. The Clippers, with Paul and sound depth, are loaded. Blake Griffin, though, is the reason why they’re super-loaded, and a championship contender. In the West especially, they can’t afford to lose him.
Meanwhile, Chris Paul sat down for an interview with Ken Berger that bounced around from ownership changes to playoff struggles to NBPA policies. Here's an excerpt:
CBSSports.com: Did you add anything to your game this summer?
Paul: Yeah, I think so.
Paul: We'll see. I'm working on it.
CBSSports.com: Can you fill in this blank for me? The Clippers' season will be a success if ______.
Paul: If we enjoy the process. Fall in love with the process. The ups and downs. We've got to fall in love with the process -- the tough days. No team's gone 82-0 yet. So when we have one of those bad losses, bounce back. I think our season is going to be all about rebounding -- and not literally. If we lose a game that we should've won, bounce back from that.
In other Clippers coverage, Hoops Habit examined an interesting decision Doc might have to make in crunch time this year — Spencer Hawes or DeAndre Jordan? Finally, for all you sneakerheads out there, Kicks on Fire has a look at L.A.'s sneaker war this season.
Apart from that, there's not much going on in the news today. Perhaps we'll have more in that department after a blowout loss tonight against Phoenix. But in the meantime, let's take a look at the number of preseason previews and power rankings that have been popping up throughout the blogosphere. We'll start with Insider's Bradford Doolittle, whose prediction model has the Clippers leading the West this year with about 61 wins. FanSided, on the other hand, doesn't think there'll be too much change from last year: 58 wins and the 3rd seed.
Joel Brigham of Basketball Insiders came out with his season predictions today, and he mentions the Clippers in a few:
30. The L.A. Clippers will represent the Western Conference in the NBA Finals this year.
31. They will face the Cleveland Cavaliers, who will represent the Eastern Conference.
32. Cleveland will win the NBA Finals in 2015.
That's not a bad year, I guess. Bleacher Report seems to agree about the Finals appearance (although the author also claimed Doc Rivers would 'thrive' as an executive, so I would apply a liberal heaping of salt to that anaylsis). And the Miami Herald has the Clippers second in the West in their power rankings, second only to their town's former flame and the demons who vanquished him last June. The Clippers are doing pretty well in terms of expected watchability, too — both Sports Illustrated and Grantland had them second only to the Flying LeBrons.
Let's round up with some general NBA coverage — lots has been going on in the league recently. First, the owners bucked their usual behavior and decided to not kneejerk their way into lottery reform. Or they realized that the city of Philadelphia would riot if the league attempted to excommunicate the Sixers:
No, their goal was simple: punishing Philadelphia for supposedly being an embarrassment to the league. They wanted to add extra suffering to a fanbase that's about to enter its second hopeless season. In that sense, lottery reform supporters had much more shallow intentions than they wanted you to believe.
Of course, as Seth Partnow points out, what the Sixers are doing has little to no guarantee of success anyways, and perhaps the league was trying to fix an entirely nonexistent problem.
One owner tells Yahoo: "Several teams started to wonder about unintended consequences and voted no to be able to do further study."— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) October 22, 2014
One glum GM tells Yahoo: "Well, we still have the 'Be as shitty as humanly possible' strategy available in future if we need it."— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) October 22, 2014
Bravo, NBA! Speaking of bucking trends, Ric Bucher came through with a great piece defending Dwight Howard, who's been the subject of some unfair criticism and media bias.
Now, though, the bashing of Howard has taken a decided turn. He doesn't actually have to do or say something wrong to get taken to task; suspicion that he may have done or said something wrong is enough.
The worst part of it, for him, is that the shots are less about his game—although he's continued to take hits there despite vast improvement in several areas—and more about his character. Anything he says or does, therefore, can be held up as further evidence that he's just not a good person.
The Dwight Howard hatred is probably more ridiculous than the Blake Griffin hatred right now... and speaking of hatred! There's one team that I'd not only be OK with you hating, but also actively encourage it — the Memphis Grizzlies, who were the subject of a good read from J.A. Adande. Those riverboat bad boys aren't ready to slink off into the night just yet.
And speaking of bucking trends, this segue gimmick isn't working that well, so I'll just distract you with a new piece out from perhaps the best NBA writer today, Lee Jenkins. He's got the skinny on LeBron's return to Cleveland, and it's an absolute must-read:
James has been a headliner since he was a Summit Lake Hornet, but this marks his first turn as undisputed team leader. He has read several books on management styles and believes he must carefully monitor his body language so as not to discourage young players. He compares his charges with his two sons, who have different personalities and therefore require different teaching methods.
The Cavs will follow him, but not because of his posture or his pep talks. "Let me tell you what he’ll do," Boozer says. "He’ll get a tape of each of [his teammates]. He’ll go home and watch each one for half an hour. He’s very smart about all this, so it won’t take him long. He’ll figure out some things he can do to get them going on the court." They’ll follow him because he provides what everyone in the NBA wants, a little space and a clean look.
The Diss, one of the more underrated NBA blogs around, has a great piece out today on the profitability of the NBA and the greed it spawns in all participants. I think Clippers fans will have a greater appreciation than the casual follower for this look into the overarching business model of the league, and the beaucoup bucks being thrown around nowadays.
Nylon Calculus is doing a series on important numbers to know this season, and (*Count voice*) today's number of the day is... 49.46%. That's the percentage of shots Memphis took last year that weren't from at the rim or beyond the arc. And unless Byron Scott is playing an elaborate joke on us all, the Lakers are probably going to beat that this season. Instead of Nick Young jacking up threes, we'll have Nick Young jacking up long twos (it's a higher-percentage look!).
Finally, be sure to check out Hardwood Paroxysm's massive NBA Season Preview. Maybe not for the faint of heart, but it's definitely recommended reading for any hoops heads.
So until next time, pray that Doc Rivers and Bill Simmons don't get into a catfight tomorrow night on ESPN.