I have been a fan of this team a long time.
Not quite as long as many, longer than the new generation that came in for Lob City. A big reason I have tended to fall back on in regards to why I have become so attached to the Clippers are the players. Not just what they've put on the court, because a lot of the time what they put on the court was pretty bad.. But what they seemed to represent. Clipper kids came and went, some very charming with their own head bopping quirks.. However mixed in there were hard working blue-collar guys you wouldn't mind having a beer with, often beaten down by the simple fact of being a Clipper and seemingly humbled/inspired by it. Guys that have been here for years and years and years. From Eric Piatkowski to Elton Brand (despite his controversial departure) to now Chris Paul. Guys whose games spoke before anything else. I loved what long-term Clippers represented.
Blake Griffin felt like no exception. So many teams have had franchise altering superstars that changed their culture, Blake felt like ours. A guy you'd be proud to represent your team. Blake seemed like a simple kid from Oklahoma City, whose main concerns early in his career were dunking on people and making jokes. He soon grew into a multi-dimensional basketball player and someone who is legitimately a franchise player. Make no mistake about it, Griffin is an otherworldly talent and he will continue to be one. He's absolutely in the NBA elite, and he's worked hard for every bit of reputation he's gotten on the court. While last season ended up in flames due to a lack of bench, Griffin's body of work in the postseason was astounding, and even with an underwhelming regular season last year, Griffin seemed to make another leap in the playoffs to continue his upward career arc.
But with this, terrible, terrible thing.. I feel quite a bit of sadness. A kind of sadness I haven't felt since the Donald Sterling stench that transpired a couple of summers ago, when our former owner's ugly laundry bubbled so much to the forefront that it was just impossible to ignore anymore. This is of course a different matter, but it's been a while since something so embarrassing has been thrown at this franchise and there was simply no argument against it. No rationale, no defense. Just a whole lot of, "Man, what a crappy thing." News will continue to trickle, some perhaps painting Griffin in a more sympathetic tone. But as far as I'm concerned, there's little way around this. This is a massive disappointment, from so many perspectives. For some reason, I think many of us thought Blake would be above this sort of massive, immature diversion, even with a nightclub incident that was simply brushed aside. The Clippers have done a lot to build a new culture, but this incident will spout a whole new line of "It's the Clippers" for fans to endure, with no real rebuttal in sight. There's little we can say, except for hope that Blake can take responsibility. No way you cut it, this was a bad thing that he did.
Sure, it's easy to forget how young these players are and that we definitely don't have any sort of personal relationship with them. Sometimes when I think of how attached to the Clippers I am I can't help but laugh. Truth be told, I enjoy getting to know these guys. All the Before the Bigs episodes, football exhibition charity games, kids in the locker room clips, wedding dances, imitations of each other, comedic improvisings/sketches, Kia/All-State commercials, interviews, I eat all of it up. It's not necessarily correct, but I took some solace in the idea that the team I rooted for seemed to have a lot of well-natured guys with good heads on their shoulders. Part of the reason I was so skeptical of the Josh Smith/Lance Stephenson additions were because they just seemed like knuckleheads who couldn't get their acts together. Then we get hit with this reality check.
We have gone through as much heartbreak over the last couple of years as any fanbase has in basketball. From OKC to back in LA against the Rockets, those were moments on the court I'll never forget. Blake will continue to be a fantastic player and I'm sure he'll rehabilitate his image plenty. But on top of making me forget all those tragedies on the court, he's going to have to help me forget this one, too.