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The Thin Line Between Love and Josh Smith

What to do when the team you live and die for fills its bench with a bunch of guys you'd like to choke to death with your bare hands?

Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports

You know the dirty feeling you get when you're dating a girl that you really don't like all that much? I mean, sure, she's bodacious and bendy, so that part's all good. But she also won't shut up about her stupid job at the flower shop, and she dots her i's with little hearts, and sometimes she says things that make you think she sorta kinda might be a little bit racist.

Sadly, that's how I feel about the 2015-2016 Los Angeles Clippers.

Now, unlike the purely hypothetical situation above (hypothetically she was a blonde, had a one-in-a-million rack, and her name started with a D), I can't just dump the Clippers the way I hypothetically dumped the hypothetical blonde I eventually came to refer to as Dimbo. I've stuck it out with the Clippers for 37 years now, during most of which they were about 100 pounds overweight and had a serious case of bacne, so I'm not about to cut them loose now that they've gone Paleo and gotten implants and look like Kate Upton's hotter sister. But I also can't escape the feeling that this year's iteration is a team full of players that I don't really like.

To be clear, I'm not talking about the core. I love Blake Griffin. He's everything you could ever want in a superstar: smart, talented, hard working, funny as hell. And though I get why Chris Paul annoys people, I love him too. He's exactly the same kind of demanding, perfectionist asshole that I am. DeAndre Jordan showed himself this summer to be less than a paragon of maturity, but c'mon, if you're a Clippers fan, how can you not love our stony, smiley center? And JJ Redick ... well, with that pretty face and even prettier stroke, even the straightest guys I know are a little bit gay for JJ.

But the trouble starts when you go further down the roster. Until we reached our current level of desperation third-big-wise, Josh Smith was a player I never wanted to see in a Clippers uniform. Here's a guy who is a 28% career three-point shooter and yet has launched more than 200 bombs in each of the last three seasons. Everyone on earth knows he should never shoot them. Everyone, that is, but Josh Smith. And it just so happens that one of his rarer-than-rare hot streaks prevented the Clippers from advancing to the Western Conference Finals, so excuse me if I still throw up in my mouth a little bit when that empty headband strolls onto the court wearing red-white-and-blue.

Lance Stephenson, meanwhile, fell into the second round coming out of college because he had a reputation for being a head case. Since then he seems to have gone out of his way to back up that reputation, from the locker-room issues in Indiana to the flame-out in Charlotte to the infamous ill winds he blew in LeBron's ear. If you're gonna be that much trouble, you better be worth it when you're on the floor. So far he's been worth it in one season out of five.

Austin Rivers? There's no clearer sign of how bad the Clippers' bench was last year than the fact that Austin Rivers dramatically improved it. Blake Griffin's famous YouTube impression of him was hilarious for a reason—it was dead-on accurate. I don't think drive-and-kick means what you think it does, Baby Doc.

Wesley Johnson? He's the current winner of the Tim Thomas Award for guy who's got all the talent in the world but plays like he doesn't give a shit. I've seen Vespas with bigger motors.

Cole Aldrich? The highest praise I can muster is he's not Byron Mullens.

And then there's Jamal Crawford. What can I say that hasn't already been said? When he's got it going, there's nothing more fun than watching Jamal Crawford play basketball. When he doesn't? There's nothing less fun than watching Jamal Crawford play basketball (except watching Byron Mullens play basketball).

Of course we've all been through this before. Most of us despised Matt Barnes before he rejoined the Clippers. Ditto Jordan Farmar. For me the worst was Stephen Jackson, an unrepentant thug who not only punched an NBA fan in the stands at a game, but eight years (and one strip-club-and-gun incident) later actually showed so little remorse that he said this in an interview with ESPN's Chris Palmer: "When I hit that fan, I definitely enjoyed it."

Thankfully, Jackson's stint with the Clippers was brief. And thankfully, nobody on the current roster is anywhere near that bad. The problem for me isn't any one of these guys in particular so much as the aggregation. The Club O part of me wants to believe Doc Rivers, wants to believe that the second unit, with its collection of guys who can dribble and pass and play tough on-ball defense, will be a thing of beauty. But the skeptical Clippers fan in me can't help but see a train wreck, with Austin doing his patented drive-and-flail, Lance finding exciting new ways to dribble out the shot clock, Wes jogging aimlessly down the court, and Josh and Jamal chucking up brick after brick.

Hopefully they will prove me wrong. But for now, the honest, depressing truth is that it feels like these Clippers aren't my Clippers. The logos on their chests may say LAC, but when I gaze down the bench, all I see are a bunch of Dimbos.