Hey there fellow Clipper fan. You got a second?
No? C'mon man. You've been muttering "fu&*ing Pablo Prigioni" under your breath every time there's a pause in the conversation for a full week. It's almost involuntary at this point. Yesterday I asked what you wanted on your pizza, and you said, "Meatballs and green peppers and fu*k Prigioni. No for real fu*k Pablo and fu*k the Knicks and Phil and Daryl Morey and JJ Watt and could you get me some crazy bread?"
It's time to start moving on. Time to force yourself to watch Draymond for the remainder of this postseason, time to Google "what are early bird rights exactly?", time to erase Game 6 from your DVR. Yes, I realize you're still working on that Bayesian analysis proving definitively that Josh Smith and Corey Brewer must have done a "Freaky Friday" soul-switching thing with Ray Allen and Anthony Morrow in Games 5, 6 and 7. I don't doubt that Nate Silver has read your emails, and I honestly think you have a good chance at getting into Sloan this year.
I'm not sure what the appropriate grieving period is for Clipper fans after this postseason. It feels like this one was uniquely disappointing in a way that last year's Oklahoma City series wasn't, simply because we thought we had already climbed most of Everest on one hamstring.
But, in the interests of refusing to sit shiva with Dahntay Jones over the next five months, I thought it would be helpful to go back to some of the happier times the Clippers brought us this season. Those who were here for the pre-Chris Paul era know that Clipper fans have a special talent for selective basketball memory, cherishing those moments during the regular season that blend nostalgia and hope and sustain you through the summer (along with Chad Ford's scouting report on Yaroslov Korolev).
How these memories settle in your consciousness depend on the individual fan. For whatever reason I can still remember far too vividly a November 2001 game where Pike absolutely torched Minnesota, to the point where Kevin Garnett began guarding him in the fourth quarter. I can also recall with disconcerting clarity that 2012 game against Oklahoma City when we finished the first half with Mo Williams and Chauncey raining hellfire from three (that was also the Blake on Perkins disembowelment dunk game).
Perhaps more than any other season in Clipper history, 2014-2015 felt like a preamble to the playoffs. That's partly because there wasn't much roster turnover, and we know what Chris and Blake and DJ and Doc look like together. That's also because we've reached a stage in basketball fandom where the team's postseason performance is viewed (rightly or wrongly) as the definitive verdict on the team's quality, especially for some star players who will remain nameless and who would have already made the Western Conference Finals if it wasn't for Tony Brothers breaking the laws of instant replay and Josh Smith breaking the laws of math (come see me at Sloan!).
There also seemed to be fewer Mozgov and Knight-level destructions from the Lob City wrecking crew this year. And, as Adithya will point out in an upcoming post, there were certainly a fair number of "God that one hurt" games (Atlanta and Brooklyn on the road, the DJ brainfart against Portland at home).
But there were still dozens of "I'm glad I'm a Clipper fan" moments, games, and storylines that we'll remember for some time. The best and most obvious of these occurred in the postseason, which I'll devote a separate post to. But for now, put away that Game 6 win probability chart, pop a Zoloft and enjoy the Top 10 most memorable regular season moments from 2014-2015. Let the healing begin.
(Obviously these are the moments that made my list, and I"m sure I've missed something glaring. Add your own own in the comments section below, I'd be interested to see what stands out.)
10) DeAndre Jordan, Splash Brother Separated at Birth
Remember that? How can you not love absolutely every part of that clip? DJ gripping a basketball with one hand like a bear catching a salmon, making that "thizz" face after the three, the explosion from every single member of the bench like they just saw an 8-year-old girl win a Chrysler with a halfcourt shot, DJ trying and failing to suppress an ear-to-ear grin while going back on defense.
The "DJ outside the paint" field goal attempt is a rare form of Clipper fan joy. And by rare, I mean EXCEEDINGLY rare. In his seven seasons in the league, 1.4% of DJ's field goal attempts have come from outside ten feet.
Which obviously is a gross misuse of the man's talents. That form is flawless, and when DJ does decide to launch from the outside, he apparently only draws the purest silk. Rewatching this, it reminds me of an old baseball legend about Ty Cobb. Apparently Cobb was getting jealous of the attention Babe Ruth was receiving for hitting home runs—he thought home runs were a showman's way of playing the game, but that real hitters were contact hitters like he was. He told some newspaper columnists before a game that he was going to hit home runs that day to prove that it wasn't as hard as everyone thought it was. The columnists scoffed at Cobb's arrogance. Cobb went out and smashed three dingers. Then he went back to beating out infield singles and drinking Scotch between innings for the rest of his career, like a real man.
That's DJ. He could be Kyle Korver, but he chooses not to. A real man dunks and misses free throws.
9) J.J. Sets Clipper Regular Season Three-Point Mark
Sure, Jamal set this record last year, and yes, everyone in the league is pacing and spacing their way to more threes than they used to. But J.J. had a fantastic regular season for us and a career year, during which he shot a pretty remarkable 44% from three. He was also the first Clipper member of the 50-40-90-95 club, in which he shot 50% from the field, 40% from three, 90% from the free throw line, and 95% on shots with his foot on the arc during All-Star Weekend.
We learned a lot about J.J. this year. We learned that a healthy J.J. (which we missed most of last season) meant a monstrously efficient starting five; we learned that his sisters nicknamed him J.J. because Jonathan Clay Redick sounded too much like a Civil War general for the wrong team; and, most importantly, we learned definitively that J.J. was one of the best catch and shoot bombers in the game... as long as Kawhi Leonard is in a different time zone.
8) The Austin Rivers Breakout Prequel
Austin went for a (then) career-high 28, including 5-of-9 from deep, in a highly enjoyable wire-to-wire blowout of the fighting Boogies in February. I've got ten grand for anyone who can produce a tweet, post, text, or email around the date of this game that contains any combination of the following words: "Great", "Trade", "Austin", "Difference", "Maker", "Playoffs".
7. Goodbye, Jordan
Yeah, I'm surprised this didn't crack the top five as well. When Doc announced Farmar's signing over summer, Clipper fans tried our best to hold our nose. "Remember how much we hated Barnes before he came here?" we tried to rationalize. We've naturally got a short leash for L-word (© ClipCast) castaways from the Kobe-Bynum-Gasol era, and especially those who reek of the kind of self-satisfied smugness that's synonymous with our Staples Center co-tenants. But we desperately needed a replacement for Darren Collison, and shit, we made it through that ten-day with Sasha Vujacic. This couldn't be that bad...
Fast forward to a few hours after Game 7 against the Spurs, and the winning comment on my buddies' post-game group text was the following: "I haven't been this giddy since we waived Farmar in January."
6) The "Yeah, We're Still Good" November Road Trip
Remember all that early-season "What's wrong with the Clippers?" hyperventilating? Remember how hungover we looked during the preseason, and how Perry Jones torched us and then Boogie torched us and then the Warriors torched us and Ballmer had this look on his face like "what the hell did I just buy?"
All it took was a franchise-record 6-1 road trip against Eastern Conference also-rans and injury-depleted Western Conference foes to get things back on track. And the pièce de résistance was a lob-saturated drowning of Miami on TNT that gave Heat fans PTSD flashbacks to the 2014 Finals.
5) A Full Season of Big Baby and Ballmer Gifs
You can keep your gorilla, Suns fans. The Clippers may not have an official mascot, but we've got two national treasures that provided a full season worth of in-game entertainment this year.
Feeling that urge to check your phone midway through a second quarter against the Nets in which both teams are shooting 12% from the field? NBA Reddit can wait! Hilarity is only a camera pan away! Smashcut to...
4. The Revenge Portland Comeback Game
The cliche is true, for athletes and fans alike: you do remember the heartbreaking losses more vividly than the thrilling victories. Fifty years from now, I probably won't be able to remember the difference between a microwave and a toilet, but I'll be able to draw frame by frame that DJ put-back brainfart against Portland that ultimately cost us a 2-seed.
Hopefully I'll also remember the Chris Paul vengeance game a month later, where he dropped 41 and 19 in the Moda Center to leads us back form a 19-point deficit.
3. Another Gloriously Symbolic Laker Beatdown, April 2015 Edition
I know the Laker routs have all kind of blurred together the last few years. But this one was memorable for two reasons: 1) Chris going And-1 Mixtape on the the Booze, and 2) the 106-78 thrashing set a Laker franchise record for losses in a regular season. How fitting that the official historical stamp on the Lakers' season of awfulness was provided by us.
2. Ralph Lawler Night
Scully, Hearn, Miller, and Lawler. He deserves to be in that company.
1) Blake Destroys PJ Tucker's Will To Live
By far the best game of the regular season. Flagrant fouls, ejections, Bledsoe going for a triple double and blocking Chris at the buzzer in regulation, Blake dropping 40. I thought we wouldn't see such a dramatic and thrilling end to a game for the rest of the year. Certainly not another buzzer-beater...which leads me to....
Top 5 Moments of the Postseason. Coming next week.
Also Receiving Votes
Didn't crack the top 10, but worthy of recognition
- Mr. Double-Double: DJ's performance while Blake was out with poop elbow.
- Mr. Durable: Chris plays every game this season (like it or not).
- The brief and wondrous life of CDR's shorts.
- Win over Dubs on Christmas Day.
- Spencer Hawes' suit on Christmas Day.