PLAYA VISTA, Calif. For a team that has never won a NBA championship but shares an arena with a team that has won many, a division title is no small thing.
The Clippers appreciate the importance of winning the franchises first Pacific Division crown, an achievement they didnt attain in 27 previous seasons in Los Angeles or in six seasons in San Diego or eight in Buffalo.
So the thought of hanging a banner in Staples even if it pales in comparison to the 16 league championship banners owned by the Lakers is one that is embraced by some players, although not all.
I think that would be special because its a moment in history, forward Caron Butler said Friday. Winning 50 (games) is a special moment. Acquiring guys like Chris Paul and Blake Griffin and having the roster we have, expectations have soared through the roof. Were trying to do big things and trying to build some momentum for years to come.
The Clippers won their franchise-first 50th game Wednesday, beating the Phoenix Suns. But they have never won a division title in their history. Their chance comes on Sunday when they face the Lakers, who are trying to hold on to the eighth spot in the Western Conference.
Griffin, however, said he would prefer that the team not display a division banner inside Staples. If they hang it, he said, it should be in the teams training facility.
For me, I kind of have bigger goals than that for the team, he said. The team has bigger goals than that. We kind of expected to win the division. We didnt come into the season thinking, Oh, it would be great if we could win the division. Its something to be proud of, and maybe theres a banner that goes up in here, but its not something that were going to be like, it needs to go up in Staples and we can hang our hat on that.
Even as they prepared for Sundays game, the Clippers were trying to defuse a newspaper story this week that claimed their team chemistry is on the rocks and that the immaturity of Griffin and center DeAndre Jordan is hurting their chances of winning a title.
All in all, I think were fine, said Chris Paul, who was unaware of the story. Were going to be all right.
Griffin denied that he and Jordan exchanged words on the bench when the team played in Sacramento on March 19, as the report said. But he also said that disagreements happen occasionally in the course of a season.
I dont think its ever with bad intentions, especially in the heat of the game, he said. Sometimes youre going to say things. Thats the best thing about this team. Weve been able to say things to each other and we know that its to help ourselves and get us to another level. When youre winning its great, but when youre losing somebodys going to see it and embellish.
Paul said the team had a good practice Friday and that any issues regarding discord were not a concern. Beating the Lakers, claiming the division title and preparing for the playoffs mattered most.
As for displaying a division banner, coach Vinny Del Negro said hes fine with it. But its just a start.
It was one of our goals at the beginning of our season, but its not the ultimate goal were looking at, he said. Its a step in the right direction. Whenever you do something first its very important. Youre trying to start a tradition, trying to start some type of consistency.
Lets start with, weve got 50 wins. Thats not enough for us. We want more. The division title is great, (but) its not enough for us. We want more. Thats our mindset, but you have to start somewhere, so were pleased with hopefully attaining both of them.