Clips Nation, approach the loss against the Jazz holding a teaching from Professor Aaron Rodgers, R-E-L-A-X. Just a five-letter spelling lesson that profoundly every sports fandom should embrace in early season slumbers. Aaron Rodgers delivered his lesson 18-percent of the way through the NFL season, while the Packers underperformed every game previous to the speech. The Packers went on to win the division. Right now, the Clippers are 18-percent of the way through their own season. Reoccurring Clipper issues, such as rotational inadequacies or consistent production, frustrate many - understandably. Similarly to Thanksgiving Day, Clipper fans must focus on the positives. Thanksgiving Day originates from mass murdering of Native Americans, but America looks past. Instead, the day focuses on uplifting values and positivity. Families look past shortcomings for a day of resounding love. Against the Jazz, the Clippers expressed numerous reasons to love.
Remember when DeAndre Jordan signed with the Mavericks? At least the Clippers Plan B solidly prevented the Clippers inevitable regression following Jordan's emigration. Oh, wait, GM Doc Rivers' decent replacement options totaled zero. The Mavericks traded for Jordan's replacement, Zaza Pachulia - he wasn't even a free agent. The Clippers could have replaced DJ with minimum contracts for Javale McGee, Samuel Dalembert or Andrea Bargnani - Clipper fans would be happy with those guys playing center, right?
Jordan scored the first four points on alley oops, one from Paul and another from Griffin. Neither play fronts as extraordinary, but Jordan's lob ability is. The moment defenders lose contact with Jordan, it is over. Gobert and Favors both helped too much and disengaged with Griffin, creating space.
The Clippers roster has three exquisite passers from their respective positions: Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and Josh Smith. Each of those players marvelously view passing lanes in 4-D, while the rest plays in 3-D, they just have an extra sense. Time after time this season, they've sensed when Jordan loses his defender. The Clippers air lobs for Jordan about twice a game, with him already having 31 attempts on the season. Just imagine a not-so-distant alternate universe where Javale Mcgee catches the lob and not DeAndre. Be thankful Chris Paul halted banana boating to recruit Jordan. Be thankful Blake and DeAndre are best friends, presumably creating a sense of guilt in Jordan when he partied with Chandler Parsons. Just be thankful DeAndre Jordan is still a Clipper.
Clips Nation, don't be derelict in the perspective of Blake Griffin's play. Against the Jazz, he showed why he's an MVP-candidate. His career evolution draws only one modern day NBA comparison - Jimmy Butler. Have any two players expanded their game more than these two in todays NBA? Griffin evolved from a one dimensional, rim-stuffing high flyer to a well-rounded viable superstar. Butler played power forward in college, now he's a shooting guard and one of the best two-way players in the league.
Don't be numbed by Griffin's midrange shooting. A few years ago, critics clamored for a jumpshot. In 2013, Blake shot 37 percent for midrange according to stats provided by the NBA. Last year, 40 percent. This year he's grown to a 47 percent midrange shooter. He's shooting roughly the same percentage as midrange savants Stephen Curry, Chris Paul and Russell Westbrook. Obviously he's not the same caliber shooter, but he's doing better than positional comparisons Lamarcus Aldridge, Chris Bosh and Kevin Love.
A few years ago, Blake wouldn't be guarded this far away from the basket. His improvement shooting the ball forces defenders to guard him tighter. When guarded this closely, Griffin athletically dominates. Teams negated Griffin's athleticism by not guarding him and sitting back. Griffin's complete arsenal demonstrated against the Jazz, scoring 40. Be thankful for Griffin's work ethic. Without it, Clips Nation couldn't have expectations to be disappointed by.
Be thankful for David Stern. The trade vetoing Chris Paul becoming a Laker granted the Clippers arguably the best player in franchise history - Blake Griffin is the other side of the argument. The franchise's disheartening history changed narrative with one trade. Obtaining Paul provided the Clippers with their first real championship hope. Chris leads the team offensively and defensively. Analytics love Paul. Defensively, he's one of the best in the league. He rotates, he guards his man with unrivaled physicality, and most of all, he cares. Look at this steal. He executes a simple rotation, but like most great players, turns a simple play into an amazing one.
Paul's quick hands steal the ball, and off he goes on a 3-on-2 fast break. In spite of his height, Paul's finished 62-percent of his shots within eight feet of the rim. Defenders blocked his shot twice this year. That's it. The closer he gets to the basket, defenders must respect his ability to finish, yet, he's also one of the best passers in the league. With Paul leading the break and Griffin on the wing, nobody in the league will stop it. Be grateful for Pauls's passion and artistry. Just a few years ago Baron Davis started, whose best Clipper moment was passing the ball to Blake through a sunroof.
Maybe it's a little harder to be thankful for Josh Smith this season. The notoriously cold shooter went human inferno Game 6 against the Clippers, personally hurting more Clipper fans than Donald Sterling. This season with the Clippers, he's been frustrating. Offensively inept, Smith shines defensively. Rooting for Josh Smith necessitates a perspective shift. To appreciate Josh, you must understand his faults. He's basically every interaction with any family member on Thanksgiving. To expand the scope with Josh, remember last year when Spencer Hawes and Big Baby Davis were the primary bigs off the bench. How is Josh Smith not an upgrade? How is he not the most popular bench player? Granted, on offense he's played terribly, as showcased by this GIF. However, these are career lows he's posting. Regression to the mean will happen. On this day, appreciate his defensive presence. Players shoot 6-percent worse when Smith guards them. Interiorly, players shot 10-percent worse when Smith is the closest defender. Smith gets in passing lanes and leads the break. He's a playmaker. Maybe a playmaker making less plays than hoped, but allow him and the team an acclimation period.
Be thankful for J.J. Redick's screen running mastery. This is Redick's only bucket against the Jazz. This maybe the biggest difference in the Clippers offense from game to game this season. When Redick plays, the first quarter usually features incessant Redick play calls. Against the Jazz, only one or two play calls for him, but relax and be happy he's on this team. Redick warps defenses in ways only Curry, Korver and a handful of others can. Watch when Redick uses screens and how he reads them perfectly almost every time. This bucket, Gordon Hayward tried to shoot the gap, giving Redick an easy flare read. The more featured Redick is within the offense, the team passes ripen. Be thankful when Redick starts moving, because as he goes, so does the Clippers.
There aren't many reasons to be thankful for Paul Pierce, yet.
Arguably the most frustrating player on the team, Jamal Crawford enjoys redeeming qualities. His offensive quickness, handles and shot creation defy age. His fluidity mystifies. He takes a lot of bad shots. Against the Jazz, he missed most. Be thankful for the games Jamal eventually wins the Clippers. For every ugly miss, eventually a beautiful double crossover to contested midrange goes in. Hopefully it is sooner rather than later.
On this day of reflection, grant players the positives rather than the negatives. Give the benefit of the doubt to Lance Stephenson's tenacious nature. The yin to an Austin River's fall down is a quick burst to the basket. Wesley Johnson hasn't been bad, although he hasn't been great, let us be positive. He's more right of an answer for the fifth starter over Stephenson and Paul. The Clippers lost against the Jazz, but flashed plenty to remember why they'll be fine. Just give it time. If you don't think so, just be grateful for the talent on the floor. This is a franchise that's won 17 or less games more than they've won 40 or more. Thanksgivings a day to put expectations aside and be grateful for what you have.