Coast to Coast is my bi-weekly column here at Fansided. Each week I’ll be taking a look at an interesting topic in the NBA, and giving my own spin on it. Feel free to disagree, because you most likely will anyways.
Let me preface this article by saying this: The Lakers will always be the favorite team in Los Angeles no matter what happens in the coming years.
That said, the Clippers have finally turned around their luck, and they are a franchise on the rise. Originally the Buffalo Braves, the Clippers have been labeled one of the worst franchises in professional sports history, and that isn’t far from the truth. The team would then move to San Diego in 1978, and they had a 43-39 in their first season as the San Diego Clippers. After that, I’m sure the Clippers would like to forget what happened. They wouldn’t have another winning season for 13 years, and attendance would plummet to the point of desperation.
During the 1981-82 season, the team was sold by Irv Levin to Donald Sterling, and the modern day Clippers were born. Sterling moved the team to Los Angeles in 1984, and they played in the Los Angeles Sports Memorial Arena. If you’re wondering if the move to LA improved their team, then maybe their 12-70 record in 1986-87 will answer those questions. Sterling was known for being cheap with the team, and his ability to own a sports franchise was justifiably questioned.
Through the years of 1994-1998, the Clippers played a handful of games in Anaheim, California at the Arrowhead Pond of Anaheim. The league liked the idea of the Clippers in Anaheim, but Sterling had a different idea for his team. In the fall of 1999, the Staples Center opened in downtown Los Angeles, and the Lakers, Clippers, and the Kings of the National Hockey League would be tenants of the epicenter of LA sports.
The Lakers moved to Los Angeles in 1960, and they are arguably the most successful franchise in NBA history. Residents of Los Angeles are passionate about their Lakers, and their fans reside in multiple countries around the world. From George Mikan to Wilt Chamberlin, from Kareem Abdul-Jabar to Magic Johnson, and from Shaquille O’Neal to Kobe Bryant, the Lakers have had the biggest stars in the league. They hang the jerseys of many legends in their rafters right next to their 16 championship banners in Staples Center. The Clippers were always a joke, and an afterthought, and they would always be haunted by the Lakers’ success when those accolades would loom above them during their home games. Now, the Clippers have turned around their all-time bad luck, and have done something about those objects hanging in the rafters:
Doc Rivers has finally created a virtual wall between the Lakers and Clippers in Staples Center, and the separation has begun to grow between the two franchises. Rivers told the Los Angeles Times that it was finally time to make a statement:
“Well, I didn’t look at it as the banner thing,” Rivers maintained. “I just look at it as putting our guys up.”
“Listen, I think this is our arena when we play,” Rivers said. “So I just thought it would be good that we show our guys. No disrespect to them. But when we play, it’s the Clippers’ arena as far as I know.”
If I would have told you that one of the best coaches in the league would leave a franchise like the Celtics to go to the Clippers, you would have laughed 5 years ago. With Donald Sterling as the owner, no one wanted to go to the dumpster fire out west. Chris Kaman was one of the best players for the Clippers a few years ago, and he put it perfectly, “Yeah, but of a losing franchise so how good am I? At that point it’s all about trying to do the best I can with what I have. Donald Sterling didn’t want to pay a ton of money to get other players,” Kaman said about being the centerpiece for the Clippers. Not only did he not open his wallet, but he would be a heckling fan of the team. Check out this excerpt from Yahoo Sports back in 2010:
Sterling has expressed his displeasure about [Baron] Davis’ play by taunting him from his courtside seat at Clippers’ home games, several sources told Yahoo! Sports. Among Sterling’s verbal barbs:
– “Why are you in the game?”
– “Why did you take that shot?”
– “You’re out of shape!”
While Sterling has also taunted other Clippers players since the middle of last season, none have received it worse than Davis, the sources said.
That’s right, the owner of a team not only yelled at one of his players, but he heckled many of the players court side during games, and if that doesn’t show you the kind of structure that the Clippers have had, then I don’t know what will.
Take yourself to to December of 2011, and you’ll see a trade that brings Chris Paul from the New Orleans Hornets, to the Los Angeles Clippers. When you team Paul up with Blake Griffin, you have a core that can contend. All of a sudden, Sterling looks like a guy who is ready to turn a bad situation around, and that the Clippers will be changing the public’s opinion. Doc Rivers was traded to the Clippers earlier this summer (yes coaches can be traded), and with J.J. Redick and Jared Dudley joining the squad, the Clippers are poised for a historic season. Rivers is turning DeAndre Jordan into a true defensive anchor, and their potential has a chance to be realized.
So now that the Clippers are arguably one of the best 2 teams in the Western Conference, is it time for them to move away from the Lakers, and from Los Angeles? Yes.
I am from Los Angeles, and over 80% of my family currently resides in Southern California. When I am in LA, the city is filled with Lakers pride–even with them being down. Any Clippers fan you see is a rarity, and the true fans are few and far between. Sure, maybe the younger generation could be swayed towards the blue and red, but purple and gold will always be the colors of Los Angeles. So now that the Clippers have a bright future for the next few years, it’s time for them to find their own identity.
Where could the Clippers move? The NBA wouldn’t mind if they would look to move to a few cities. For one, Seattle has been longing for an NBA franchise since the Sonics moved to Oklahoma City in 2008. A group led by Chris Hansen attempted to buy the Sacramento Kings during the 2012-13 season, and move them to Seattle, but the fans in Sacramento fought for their team. If commissioner-to-be Adam Silver could get a franchise back to a city that loves basketball, he could start off his tenure with a bang. Not only would the Clippers be welcomed in Seattle, but they would be embraced like they have never been embraced before. They would be bringing a franchise who could contend for a title now, and it would be insanity in Seattle.
Another landing spot for the Clippers would be Anaheim, California. Not only have the Kings flirted with going to Anaheim in previous years, but check out this excerpt from the Los Angeles Times in 1998:
While the news was good for the Staples Center, it closed the door on any hopes the Walt Disney Co. had of attracting the team to the Arrowhead Pond of Anaheim, where the Clippers have been playing eight to 10 games each season under a year-to-year agreement.
The National Basketball Assn. must approve the Clipper move. That is not expected to be a problem, although league officials have long made it known that they preferred a Clipper move to the Pond. Playing in the same building as the Lakers could create scheduling difficulties for the NBA.
Although Disney no longer owns the Anaheim Pond, I’m sure the Disney Company would gladly support the now successful Clippers if they wanted to play right next door to Disneyland. They could share the Honda Center with the Ducks, and it could be their own arena in basketball terms. The fact that the NBA wanted them to move there could mean that their interest hasn’t dissolved. If they move to Anaheim, they can still use the weather and location to lure free agents, and with Disney on their side, the options could be limitless.
The one thing standing in their way is Donald Sterling. He is a stubborn guy, and it was his idea to move the team in Los Angeles in the first place. No matter how much success the Clippers have in the coming years, LA will always be a Lakers city. If they want to be respected, it’s time for the Los Angeles Clippers to move out of LA.