18 players have worn the No. 22 jersey in Clippers history, and determining the best to date comes down to two players, essentially.
In this corner is Tom Chambers, the power forward who had a long and successful NBA career, starting with the Clippers, who was one of the bright spots of the early Sterling years.
In this other corner is Matt Barnes, a “glue” guy who had two stints on the team, as a rookie and later in his veteran phase, whose box score didn’t provide a ton of wows but who did the intangible stuff every team needs.
Chambers was drafted by the Clippers in 1981 out of Utah. A center in college, the 6-foot-10 player shifted to forward in the pros, and he was an instant contributor, leading the Clippers in scoring his first year and offering a ray of sunshine in a season in which the Clips finished a putrid 17-65.
In his second season, Chambers was joined by rookie Terry Cummings and the injury-plagued Bill Walton, on a team that seemed to have a lot more talent, and while Chambers bumped his scoring average up a bit on the season to 17.6 ppg, Cummings surpassed him as the scoring leader, but the team’s improvement was not overwhelming, as the Clippers went 25-57, again finishing last in the Pacific Division.
Before the following season, instead of continuing to build a team with good players together, the Clippers traded Chambers away to Seattle, and LA improved...to a whopping 30-52, before sending Cummings on his way a few seasons later for no good reason.
Chambers’ averaged 17.4 ppg and 6.8 rebounds during his two seasons with the Clippers, and improved from there. In a career that ended up including 20,000 points scored, he was a four-time All-Star and had a particularly successful run with the Phoenix Suns in the early-90s.
Like many of the players in Clippers history, many of the players to wear No. 22 only wore it for a season. Barnes, however, had it for four seasons, wearing it 257 games. Frankly, consistency alone goes a long way here.
Barnes was absolutely one of those players who clawed and scrapped to get where he was and to stay in the league. The small forward was drafted out of UCLA by Memphis, but didn’t win a contract and bounced around for awhile before winning an ABA title with the Long Beach Jam in 2003. That got him his ticket to the NBA, with the Clippers signing him in 2004 to finish out the 2003-04 season.
Barnes played for a whopping nine NBA teams, but interestingly, he had two stints with three of those teams, including the Clippers, who he returned to in 2012 for a three-season run.
Barnes averaged 9.3 points in his total Clippers run, but he wasn’t counted on to be a player who would score much at any of his stops. Instead, he was the player who drew the tough defensive assignment, who tried to antagonize opposing players and throw them off their game, and just set the tempo as the “street-smart” baller.
On the flip side, Barnes got fined a lot by the league in his second stint with the Clippers for various comments made during games, kicking over water bottles, that kind of thing. Like an enforcer in hockey, players like Barnes played on the edge, and sometimes they get carried away.
Still, having said all that, teams need both players who fill the stat sheet and players who do the dirty work, and Barnes was the classic player in the latter category.
So, which No. 22 was tops in Clippers history? I’m leaving the choice to you.
Which No. 22 was best in Clippers history?
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