The Scene: A characteristically surly Chris Paul makes his way from the player parking lot into the team’s sprawling practice facility in Playa Vista. It is mid-morning on Tuesday, December 6th, and Paul is still smarting from the Clippers’ home loss to the Indiana Pacers to kick off a four-game homestand two nights before. While the team is off to a strong 16-6 start, recent losses to Indiana, Detroit, and the Sean Kilpatrick Globetrotters have yet again renewed that nuanced, intelligent and highly original media debate: Are the Clippers truly an elite team? Or are they simply a collection of garbage whose astonishingly unlucky playoff failures lead to the obvious conclusion that we should simply dissolve the franchise and burn Chuck the Condor at the stake?
Paul has learned to tune out the media hyperventilating for the most part, but today it will be especially hard to ignore. Tomorrow night the Clippers will host the rival Golden State Warriors for the first time this regular season, a game Paul himself couldn’t help but circle on the calendar since receiving an advance copy of the 2017 NBA schedule several years ago at that Illuminati meeting with Lebron and Jay-Z. ESPN (who coincidentally will be televising the game nationally on a night when no football is being played) has advertised the game as “if you somehow combined Sox-Yanks with Ali-Frazier, but the loser will be summarily executed by Stephen A. Smith.” Paul knows that if the Clippers lose Wednesday, it will be treated as yet another sign that the team just doesn’t have what it takes.
Paul enters the practice facility’s film room, where a few of his teammates and head coach Doc Rivers have already assembled in theater-style seating. In short order the rest of the squad shows up, and Doc calls the room to attention.
Doc: Hey guys, thanks for coming in today. Really do appreciate you taking the time on a non-gameday, you know I hate doing that. We’ll cancel another practice to make up for this.
Chris: When’s the next practice?
Doc: April. Of 2019. But I talked to Ballmer, and you can flex a floating holiday between then and now if you like. Ordinarily I’d say you can just take off the second half of a Laker game like we always do, but this year I’m not so sure.
Veteran forward Paul Pierce raises his hand. The room quiets to attention to hear what wisdom the future Hall of Famer and former Finals MVP has to impart ahead of the biggest matchup of the year.
Doc: Yes, Paul.
Paul Pierce: Just a heads up to everyone, you do get to cash out your vacation days upon retirement. It’s right here in section four, article three of your employee handbook. That’s why I always carry the handbook with me, and HR on speed dial. Pro tip, from the vet.
Doc: Thanks Paul, duly noted. Ok, so we all know we’ve got a big game coming up tomorrow. I wanted to tell you all something beforehand. You know how I always say that if we trust the system and each other, and give every game the same amount of effort and energy, the results will take care of themselves?
The team collectively nods and mumbles in agreement.
Doc: That’s total bullshit. This one means more. And it’s going to be really fucking hard to beat these pricks.
The team collectively nods and mumbles in agreement. A Powerpoint presentation begins on the movie screen behind Doc.
Doc: Let’s start with the gameplan. Mike, can you kick us off?
Assistant coach and former human goatee model Mike Woodson steps in front of Doc.
Woodson: Ok, so we’ll start this film session with the same question we start off every film session for every opponent.
The Entire Team, In Enthusiastic Unison: WHO’S OFFICIATING?!?!?!?!
Woodson: That’s right! I guess what they say about continuity being important is true. Ok, so tonight we’ve got...
Blake: Please not Ken.
Chris: Please not Lauren.
JJ: Please not Tony.
DJ: Please not Bill.
Ray Felton throws a concerned glance to Wesley Johnson, seated next to him.
Felton, whispering: Dude. Is there any ref we don’t beef with?
Johnson, whispering back: Dude, watch what you’re saying. Alan Anderson asked that question in camp, and Doc hasn’t made eye contact with him since.
Felton casts a sideling glance at a sad-looking Alan Anderson, seated multiple rows away from any of his teammates.
Woodson: Looks like we got Scott Foster.*
The Entire Team, In Unison: FUCK!
Doc: It’s OK guys. I’ve watched a lot of tape on the Dubs, and no matter who is officiating, I think I’ve unlocked a way to defend them using our unique personnel. Luc! Luc? Where’s Luc at?
A rustling of plastic can suddenly be heard from the corner of the room. Luc Richard Mbah a Moute emerges from a pile of ice bags, looking haggard.
Luc: Oh no.
Doc: There’s my future defensive player of the year.
DJ, obviously upset: Hey! But that night we pranked Cuban and played sleepover you told my mom I was the defensive player of the year.
Doc: Uhhh. Yes I did say that. DJ you are defensive player of the year. Luc can be co-defensive player of the year.
DJ: FRIENDS! I LIKE IT!
Luc: Honestly, I don’t care about awards. I would rather just have one night where I’m guarding Steve Novak. This job of guarding the best offensive player on the opposing team is killing my...
Doc, loudly interrupting: So we’ll be starting you on Durant.
Luc: Goddammit. Well I suppose on THAT team it’s kind of pick your poison...
Doc: And Draymond.
Luc: Wait. You want me to switch onto Draymond off pick and roll action with Durant? Or you want me to guard Draymond instead of Durant.
Doc: No, you’ll be guarding Draymond AND Durant simultaneously. And Klay sometimes too. To preserve Blake and JJ for the fourth quarter.
Luc: I’m calling my agent. Manhattan Beach ain’t worth this shit.
Doc: Oh, and uh, bring a cup.
CP: You don’t have to worry about Steph, Luc. I’ve been preparing for this one for a while.
A crazed look falls over CP’s face. He reveals to the room what is obviously a homemade shiv.
CP: It’s made from the cast for my broken finger. I whittled it myself. I even added in some threading from the game ball from Game 6 a couple years back. It’s beautiful.
The room falls silent. Raymond Felton again turns to Johnson.
Felton, whispering: He’s not going to really stab Steph Curry, is he?
The silence is broken by a suddenly shouting Blake Griffin.
Blake: AND ONE!
Blake: Sorry guys. I just do that like every 30 seconds or so now, I can’t help it. They really do hack the shit out of me down there. Also I hate the refs.
Chris: You want a shiv?
Blake: Nah man, I’m good.
Doc: Ok guys, lets focus on what offensive actions we want to run, especially early on. On the next slide...
A picture of Steve Kerr and Bob Meyer introducing Kevin Durant in a Warriors uniform appears on the screen. A terrifying and seemingly non-human growl, originating from the purest bile and rage, erupts from the front row. Suddenly Mo Speights charges the screen at full sprint. A devilish grin creeps across Doc’s face.
Doc: Yes, Mo’. Let the hate course through you.
Speights: MO’...BUCKETS! MO’...BUCKETS!
The entire second unit and several tranquilizer darts are needed to subdue Speights, but not before he has punched a hole through the projector screen. After a few moments, Doc collects himself and stands on top of a prone Alan Anderson.
Doc: Here’s the last thing I’ll say. I’m not going to lie to you gentlemen. The Warriors are monstrously good. They may be the best offensive team ever. They force you into impossible decisions where you’re just seeking to minimize catastrophe.
But I meant what I said two years ago—they have also been lucky. They were lucky that Steph’s ankles were made of taffy his first few years in the league. They were lucky that the cap jumped at exactly the right moment when they could afford Durant. The only time they’re not lucky is when Draymond kicks someone in the nuts...twice in the same postseason. Which is just fucking karma. They’re arrogant and corny and honestly kind of boring.
Where fortune has smiled on them, it has shat on us. We had Sterling, and Game 5, and Game 6, and Portland’s parade of horribles. They have not suffered like we’ve suffered. They have not felt the heartbreak that we’ve felt. And so they do not understand the pain in our hearts, as players or fans. There’s a reason Chris plays defense like a feral cat whose owner abused him.
Play with that pain. Play with that anger. Because although they may take our home-court advantage, they will never take...our freedom to make 3-1 memes (forget Houston).
As always, shout-out to the Clippers artist-in-residence Connor. Connor, you are the Cuttino Mobley post game to my Cuttino Mobley midrange game.