Don’t look now, but the team with the best record in the NBA is in Los Angeles, but not the Lakers. Yes, the L.A. Clippers, notorious failures, no longer are the butt of jokes. They are making jokes out of their opponents.
They have won 14 straight now, and they have done it in impressive fashion. They are providing highlight-reel plays via forward Blake Griffin and point guard Chris Paul, while also doing all the gritty work from a host of players to emerge as the team with the best record.
”They’ve got the respect of the league and they’ve got the attention of the league,” Denver guard Andre Miller said after the Clippers made the Nuggets successive victim No. 14. ”It’s tough to come in here and get a win when the team is playing that well.”
Coach Vinny Del Negro, whose job was not that secure at points last season, has been a steadying force emphasizing a desire to keep working in the midst of success.
”I’m big into making sure we play the right way,” he said. “It’s always about the big picture and us getting better.”
They are better than expected because they have depth. Center DeAndre Jordon continues to round into a solid center. Guard Eric Bledsoe from Kentucky has been sensational. The additions of Jamal Crawford, an explosive scorer, and Willie Green, a steady forward, have extended Del Negro’s reach down the bench.
”When we are at our best our starters have a great first quarter and our bench elevates that,” said Griffin who has shown a a more consistent game in the half-court offense as a shooter from about 15 feet
All this, and yet the best reason the Clippers are flourishing and could be a force throughout the year is Paul. He’s playing brilliantly as the floor leader. Best of all is that he is not caught up in what they are doing now. He’s keeping the team’s focus on a more significant prize.
”This is fool’s gold,” Paul said of the winning streak. “‘You don’t play for the regular season. Obviously, you want to build something.”
Building something starts in the regular season, and it is the Clippers — not the Lakers — who have emerged at the top to this point. And that’s a surprise.