By Nicholas “The Thinker” Taylor
The Los Angeles Clippers have now split the first two games against the Phoenix Suns and are going back home with a good chance at taking a commanding series lead. Their Game 2 victory was very encouraging, showing that the Clippers are very capable of playing the kind of game that will beat the Suns. In fact, not only can they play that way, they seem to be built to play that way.
With Chris Kaman and Elton Brand patrolling the paint, they are able to pound it outside, with Cassell, Radmonovic, and Mobley spreading the floor with their shooting and Maggette and Livingston attacking the rim with slashing drives. Not only are they deeper than the Laker team that nearly bounced the Suns, but, more importantly, they are more experienced: Sam Cassell is a tough, savvy playoff-tested veteran, Elton Brand is a mature and experienced player who is ready for the big time, Mobley and Radmonovic have playoff experience, and their coach, Mike Dunleavy, took the 1991 Lakers to the Finals. This team has a real chance of making the Western Conference Finals, though most observers would agree that their chances against either San Antonio or Dallas are not great.
At this point, though, I think the Clippers getting to the Finals is beside the point. The international basketball audience, including myself, has been forced to sit up and take notice of the Clips. We have seen that these guys can play. Cassell, though aging, has still got it. Kaman is a versatile and valuable big man. Young Shaun Livingston is an immensely talented player who has a chance to be the next Penny Hardaway. Quinton Ross can really play D. And Elton Brand? I mean, those of us who follow hoops have heard all year that this guy was putting in an MVP year, but how many of us really took that seriously? He is an absolute beast. His arms are so long that he can seemingly block any shot in his ZIP code, he can drain fadeaway or contested jumpers anywhere from 7 inches to 17 feet away, and he is big and quick, with an array of moves on the block and an absolute hunger for rebounds. And to top it all off, he’s known around the league as being one of the nicest kids there is.
We as basketball fans are lucky that the Clippers have been playing up to their potential. Otherwise, gems like Brand and Livingston might have stayed hidden in the shadows, appreciated only by Clippers fans and true basketball aficionados.
Our picture of the league and the game itself is enhanced by seeing this extraordinarily deep, versatile, talented, and previously unheralded team make a deep playoff run.
Thu 05/11/06, 7:07 am EST