“Hell Yeah. HELL YEAH.” A reaction usually to designed to express exuberant joy, “I told you so’s”, and exhilaration at beating your opponent was used for all of that Monday night. As the outspoken leader of this rag-tag Clippers team (and their most ardent believer), Patrick Beverley had perhaps the boldest early season claim from a player in recent memory that this 2018-19 Clippers team were still the best team in Los Angeles. This statement received the ire of NBA fans worldwide, and mocking gifs on Twitter: the Lakers had signed the “best player in the world” (we might want to rethink this one now), and the Clippers were getting proposed contract extensions turned down and openly admitting to setting their eyes on the 2019 offseason. Win projections from various media outlets had the Clippers as a bonafide lottery team (betting site SportsLine.com had the Clippers projected at 21.8 games won!!!!), as the Lakers were projected to get 50 wins and contend for the Western Conference crown come June.
Well, it turns out Beverley was onto something. Those “hell yeahs” reverberated down the halls of Staples Center Monday night, as the Clippers diced up the Lakers in route to a 113-105 victory. This victory put the Clippers in the driver’s seat of obtaining a spot in the Western conference playoffs with a 37-29 record, while the Lakers playoff chances took a nosedive with their record now being 30-34, 5.5 games out of the eighth spot with 18 games left.
Monday night featured two teams traveling in compete opposite directions. One team is broken — physically, mentally, in the media and on the court — while the other team keeps winning, despite trading their leading scorer away a month ago. One team has been derided for their lack of drive and energy, while the other has both of these in abundance. This eight point victory for the Clips was not surprising given the current landscape of the respective teams. However, these are landscapes that few thought would be possible before the 2018-19 season. Except, of course, for the players and coaches in that locker room, and perhaps the most prideful Clipper of all time in Beverley. He Namath called his (and the team’s) shot before the season, and L.A. is responding in the best way possible — with wins.
As Jovan Buha of The Athletic reported, after their win against the New York Knicks, Beverley stomped in the locker room and demanded to guard LeBron James. Despite giving up about seven inches and nearly 100 pounds, Beverley wanted…no craved, the challenge. The result was five first half steals, most of them coming on attempted post passes to James, and his most complete game of the year, putting up 13 points on 50 percent shooting while also grabbing nine rebounds and dishing out four assists. Beverley has never been one to back-down from any situation he’s faced (he’s faced a lot of tough ones), and an untold storyline came to light as Beverley sat down to talk to the media in a seemingly packed locker room. He, James, and the Lakers had some history that most didn’t know.
#Clippers’ Patrick Beverley on the chip on his shoulder - “I played with Miami, with LeBron and they cut me. I got drafted by the #Lakers, they traded me to Miami. Bron got there, they cut me. I remember it like it was yesterday, so yeah, it’s a chip on my shoulder.” pic.twitter.com/bcSwtF5En6— Tomer Azarly (@TomerAzarly) March 5, 2019
Beverley, who seems to relish in adversity and always play with a chip on his shoulder, took the challenge in guarding an all-time great head on, took on the challenge of taking a hostile Lakers crowd to task and rile them up, and ultimately delivered exactly what he needed to: a win.
It’s no secret that Beverley is the leader of this Clippers team. He displays this on the court, on social media, when TMZ approaches him, and in the locker room, where he ends every post-game gathering in the locker room with a “family on three.” It’s also no secret that Clipper fans love him. He’s the type of guy that no team wants to face, yet every team wants. For the Clippers to have someone on their team that seems to have immense pride in wearing that Clippers uniform and not hide their feelings about it or about their biggest rival is incredibly refreshing.
This pride was put on display after the victory over L.A.’s other team, when Beverley met with the media. After backing up his “best team” claim on the court, Beverley made sure to let Clipper nation know why he plays the way he does and who he does it for (Via Jovan Buha)
“That’s who we do it for: The people in the back. ... The blue-collar people who don’t have a lot given to them. Who work for everything they deserve. And that’s what we’re doing right now. We do it for them.”
This is why Bev is a fan-favorite. It’s long been said that the Clippers are the “little brothers” to the Lakers. A team that latched onto the Lakers’ arena, and have had trouble keeping up with the prestige of the franchise. Thus, the Clippers fanbase has a more workman, “blue-collar” feel to them, something they hold with their pride. This new Clipper ball-club takes this approach every night, and Bev is the one leading the pack and wearing this “blue-collar” approach like a prized medal.
After going through what JJ Redick called the “Donald Trump-level pettiness,” era of Lob City, and having to deal with the shortcomings of a racist, bigoted owner in Donald Sterling, the Clippers finally have an identity that fans can be proud of. Guys like Beverley and Montrezl Harrell exemplify this. Undersized, underutilized by other clubs and given away essentially, these are players that use this as motivation, work extremely hard on a nightly basis and also want and love to play with each other. Beverley for perhaps the first time in his career is the undisputed leader in the locker room, and he is embracing this role and leading by example. His scrappy, tough play aside, Beverley is the first to react a teammate with a high-five to celebrate, or a word on how to improve. He’s the first one off the bench to slap up teammates after a timeout, and is the first to defend his teammates or the team’s play after games. He’s the ultimate teammate who has helped propel a squad of overachievers, to do the unlikely — get L.A. to the playoffs.
On the court, what Beverley has been able to do 15 months after getting knee surgery is astounding. After only playing 11 games in his inaugural season in L.A., Beverley has become a key starter for the Clips. While Beverley caught flack early this season for his inability to consistently knock down a three and defend without fouling, the 30-year-old from Chicago has responded by 44.7 percent from three since December 2, and becoming one of the best rebounding guards in the NBA, averaging 7.2 rebounds a game since January 1. The dude barely cracks 6’0” and is constantly skying for boards over centers.
Most importantly, when Beverley starts, the Clippers are 23-13. The new starting lineup of Bev-SGA-Shamet-Gallo-Zubac is one of the more efficient fives this season, as in 10 games played together, their net rating is +14.5 with an offensive rating of 110.7 and defensive rating of 96.3. Beverley himself is averaging the highest True Shooting Percentage of his career at 56 percent, his second highest Effective Shooting Percentage at 52 percent, his lowest turnover output, his highest block total, and the second highest assist percentage of his career. This is all coming while averaging the lowest usage of his career at 11.8 percent. Beverley knows his role, plays it to a tee and has consistently elevated his play as the season has progressed.
Pat Beverley is putting in the best stretch of his career just 15 months after microfracture surgery. https://t.co/CQsFiwF3zR— Robert Flom (@RichHomieFlom) March 5, 2019
With all of this being said, it’s not 1000 percent certain that Beverley is still on this Clipper roster this summer. He will be an unrestricted free-agent, and will attract a lot of attention, especially after his play this season. With the Clips; big plans to go after superstar free-agents, some players might have to be sacrificed. I think most Clipper fans are unanimous in their desire to have Beverley back next season and he absolutely needs to be a priority for the front-office. He probably won’t demand a lot, and pairing him next to a guy like Kawhi Leonard in the backcourt would resemble Fort Knox defensively. He is the heart and soul of this franchise right now, and will continue to be for as long as he is in a Clipper uniform. Give this man a lifetime contract, and have Bev represent Clipper nation for as long as he plays. If not, it could come back to bite them.