Originally posted on The Sports Fan Journal  |  Last updated 4/3/15

No matter how hard they try and how much progress they make, the Clippers seem incapable of taking the next step. Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images

By Rosalyn R. Ross

Chris Paul did the only reasonable thing he could do in his matchup against Portland this week.

A day after Steph Curry reduced him to the leading man in a meme featuring a beloved game of physical skill other than the NBA, Paul took the opportunity to remind everyone that he wasn’t the joke or the Twister aficionado the Internet had made him out to be.

The Clippers’ All-Star point guard put up 41 points to lead all scorers along with 17 assists and just one turnover in a performance that was equal parts necessity and absolution.

It was what his team needed in order to slide by with a 4-point win over the Trail Blazers and what Paul needed in order to give his hecklers a piece of his mind Rick James-style — as in that famous line from one of the most memorable episodes of Comedy Central’s “Chappelle Show.” In his mind, it might have gone something like this after each shot in a somewhat menacing tone, “I’m Chris Paul (insert bad word here).”

Now, if only someone could help the Clippers figure out what they need to do to get their fan base interested in them again.

Don’t shoot me. I’m not the messenger here. Blake Griffin is. About being handed their hats, and coats for that matter, by the Warriors in their own house, a somber Griffin said in the post-game press conference that “home court advantage is just not there for us.”

Apparently, hearing your season ticket holders chanting MVP for another man, one not wearing your team’s uniform, has a way of killing your mood.

Of course, they weren’t wrong about Curry’s MVP worthiness, and sadly they aren’t the only ones bored with the Clippers.

Remember back in 2011 when CP3 first arrived in Los Angeles after his original plan to make the trip was rejected? Many thought that the Clippers trumping the Lakers would become a recurring theme. It feels like it only took a win or two for a few true believers and some bandwagoners to declare that it was the Clippers, no longer the Lakers, that were the chosen ones in the City of Angels.

Not so much.

The denizens of what was to become Lob City rose from the ashes of their perennial futility in 2012 to earn the fifth seed in the Western Conference headed into the NBA Playoffs. This season they are, once again, on pace to claim the 5th spot to start the postseason. In the years in between, they were a 3rd and 4th seed, respectively.

In other words, they’ve been steady, almost monotonous. And of monotony, Edith Wharton once wrote it is “the deadliest of all sins.” Heck, even DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince thought it best to transform a whole groove in order to steer clear of its clutches.

Worse yet, since the Clippers’ monotony is more middle of the pack than top of the heap, it’s worth noting that their status is a mere jump, hop and step away from mediocrity.

Meanwhile, according to Lakers head coach Byron Scott, free agents are lining up court side, during games, to tell him how much they would love to play for the purple and gold.

“You have a lot of free agents out there who would love to play for us,” he said. “They’ve been making it pretty clear.”

Regardless of whether or not you’re willing to suspend your disbelief long enough in order to actually let that sink in to your mind hole, you’d probably have to admit that you’re much more fascinated by the possibility of the 20-54 Lakers improving their record next season than you are intrigued by the Clippers perhaps finally making it to the Western Conference Finals in this one. In fact, you’ve probably had zero conversations about the Clippers being in the Western Conference Finals this year despite them boasting one of the league’s best point guards and big men on their roster plus a seasoned, championship-winning coach on their sideline.

Or maybe it’s just that we know we can trust the Lakers with our expectations while it’s safe to reckon the Clippers will keep on Clipper-ing.

One conversation I have had seemingly almost every season for the last three is that the Clippers better do something big to improve their outlook on the court, and they better do it soon before they miss the window.

After all, the most significant change this team has made in the name of improvement the last few years happened away from the court with the removal of a racist owner. Though noble, the move does not a championship make.

If this is all there is to the boys in red, white and blue and they never get over the hump, at least it was fun while it lasted.

That said, Blake Griffin’s thoughts on the lack of hometown support might also perfectly summarize his perspective on the sobering impertinence and frustration of the Clippers being stuck in the middle — neither good enough to be a real contender nor bad enough to warrant a wiping of the slate.

“I don’t know what we could do, but it would be great if it wasn’t that way.”

This article first appeared on The Sports Fan Journal and was syndicated with permission.


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