The list of other fanbases that can stand the Los Angeles Clippers and their players is – shockingly – barren. On the surface, you kind of understand the sentiments of the opposing crowd when players like Chris Paul and Blake Griffin have been built up by the “in the moment world” as being either “whiny”, “douchey”, “floppers”, or whatever other adjective you can come up with to describe how they might view each one. You can sort of wrap your mind around the fact that, partly due to his physical stature, Paul has to act the way he acts. Griffin, in a way, has to act the way he acts in order to get justified calls from referees who call fouls in his favor even less than they did for Shaquille O’Neal when Shaq was getting beaten on repeatedly. But – and this is where the team should really listen – the Clippers should embrace the hatred and vitriol thrown their way. And then use it to fuel their fire.
It’s a cold, hard fact of life. Not everyone is going to like you. In fact, not even 20 percent of the people you run into will like you. Sure, some will bullshit you and blow smoke up your ass every now and then but you can tell who really means it and who is just there for the moment. The Clippers need to do a deep search into their hearts and souls to determine who they really are. Are they this team that wants everyone to like them? Or, rather, are they this team that needs to go out there every night and make the entire visiting arena hate them? The answer is the latter, not the former. Other teams and players and fans don’t already like you. They’ve already made up their mind. So, all you’d be doing is just giving them even more of a reason to abhor you.
The reality of the situation is that the Clippers, just a few short years ago, were the up-and-coming team in the league. They had budding pieces and were awesome to watch on a nightly basis. Then they got too big, too strong, too fast. No one thought they’d “earned” their spot, whatever that means. This is part of why no one outside of the fanbase wants to see them succeed. You won’t hear that same sentiment with Golden State. Oh those plucky guys? Oh they’re just dandy. They’re showstoppers. They were built the “right way.” Once again, whatever that means. The Clippers are no longer the plucky upstart. They’re now the rabid dog trying to protect its own. It’s time to act like it.
Take Wednesday night, for instance. The Clippers walked into Madison Square Garden, the “Mecca of Basketball.” And they played basketball. Beautifully. Sure, it was against a team that has no business calling themselves an NBA franchise at this point in time due to their rundown roster and joke of a head coach, but it was still a virtuoso performance by a team that appears to be getting ready for a solid playoff run. It also happened to come against a team who beat the defending champion San Antonio Spurs roughly ten days ago. The Clippers didn’t overlook the Knicks. They simply ran through them. Repeatedly. For 48 minutes.
The point being, they showed no quarter. They treated the Knicks as the Knicks were; a dilapidated entity not worthy of the same airspace as the mighty Clippers aerial assault. They did a similar thing earlier this year – and also last year – to their STAPLES Center brethren, the Los Angeles Lakers. When push came to shove, the Clippers shoved the living hell out of both iconic franchises. They did the same thing earlier this year to the Philadelphia 76ers, as well. They play them again on Friday evening. We’ll see if the Clippers can go two-for-two there. But that’s not the point. The point is that the Clippers gave zero regard to anything Knicks related. They didn’t care about the name on the front of the opposing jersey, but rather cared about the name on the front of their own. And that’s how it has to be from now.
Teams hate the Clippers. They hate the way the Clippers try to fluff the officials for calls, they hate the way the Clippers complain when they get smacked across the face without a foul call, they hate the way the Clippers want loose ball fouls called when DeAndre Jordan’s arm gets grabbed, and they hate the way the two leaders of the team – Chris Paul and Blake Griffin – opine for fouls that they think they deserve. In short, teams hate the Clippers for being just like every other team in the NBA but hate them more because, well, they’re the lowly Clippers. It’s not their time to shine. They need to wait their turn in line a little longer before they can puff their chest out and try to assert their dominance. Except the Clippers shouldn’t have to take that. Not anymore. Not now.
From now on, the Clippers need to make a conscience decision. Are they going to be the team that the NBA constantly misidentifies or are they going to be the team that gives the rest of the NBA a reason to hate them? Once again, it should be the latter and not the former. If Serge Ibaka punches you in the man region, remember it and use it the next time you come close to him for a rebound. If Tony Allen kicks you in the face, remember it and pay him back when he reaches in as you corral a rebound and swing your elbows. If Andre Miller elbows you in the back of the head, remember it and get him back with a screen. The time for pleasantries is over. No one will like this team. Ever. This team wasn’t supposed to be good. Ever. They were supposed to just sit in the corner and wait their turn for juice boxes. They weren’t supposed to skip ahead of the line and start grabbing them. If the Clippers want to take the next step, be the bully.
To truly shed the labels that the rest of the basketball world has placed on them – i.e. “soft”, “whiny”, “petulant”, “bitchy” – the team needs a facelift. To put it into WWE terms, the Clippers are John Cena. They were flashy once, cool even. But they’re now in the limelight too much and people don’t like it. In fact, they resent it. They want to see them lose. The casual fans want to see them nowhere near the main event. Rather, they just want the Clippers relegated somewhere around the mid-card, where they can put on spotty performances and be forgotten about like a fart in the wind. Yet, this is where the Clippers should rationally make the decision to not be John Cena. Instead, they should be Brock Lesnar. Own being the asshole.
Did you just dunk on someone? Make sure they know. Did you just set a hard screen? Make sure they know. Did you just beat a contender? Make sure they know. Make sure they know it every step of the way so that they can hate you even more to the point where the line between good and bad is blurred beyond all recognition and all that’s left is just the Clippers and the way they do business. Deep down, this is what should happen. The Clippers should pull out a “take no prisoners” approach and do so as long as this core group is together. It doesn’t even matter if they win a title at this point. It’s about leaving your mark. What better way to leave your mark than piss off every single opponent and opposing fan you run across? Make sure they know you hate them. Make sure they know it each and every night you put on the jersey. Hell, they already do hate this team for dumb reasons. You might as well just give them something viable to actually hate now rather than imaginary.