HANG TIME, Texas — From Bill Walton’s feet to Danny Ferry’s bolting for Italy to the choice of Michael Olowokandi to practically any decade of Donald Sterling’s long and painful stewardship, it is practically built into their DNA.
Fear! Dread! Panic!
So maybe you can’t blame Clippers fans for seeking out a tall mast from which to jump.
But we will.
Yes, it’s now a three-game losing streak that has your boys slipping behind the Spurs into third place in the Western Conference playoff race. Yes, the latest blow came at the hands of the lowly Suns, who are more barren than an Arizona desert and are memorizing the name of their new coach (Lindsey Hunter).
No, the ball’s not going into the basket as often as they’d like. No, Blake Griffin wasn’t zooming toward the rim to catch alley-oops for dunks, wasn’t attacking the basket and wasn’t taking enough shots.
Come on, surely you can take off your sunglasses to see that handsome young man in the dapper outfit sitting over there on the bench, not far from coach Vinny Del Negro.
Meet Chris Paul, fire-starter, All-Star and MVP candidate whose stock is only soaring higher as he waits for a sore knee to feel better.
Maybe everyone was fooled when the Clippers swept a three-game road trip a week ago with Paul on the sidelines nursing his knee. But does anyone really think this team, this season, this talk about the Clippers as real championship contenders doesn’t revolve around CP3?
Everything the Clippers try to do with their offense is based on having the ball in Paul’s hands, letting him make plays, buckets and decisions, as Arash Markazi of ESPNLosAngeles notes:
The Clippers don’t want to make any excuses while Paul is out, and there’s certainly a chance he could be out for a week as he was the last time he sat out with a bruised right kneecap. But with the Clippers up by one with 7:45 left in the game, the Clippers sure could have used Paul or at least Chauncey Billups running the offense to close the game out. Eric Bledsoe is a great change-of-pace point guard and can give the Clippers a spark in the second and third quarters, but Del Negro likes to lean on Paul (and Billups when he’s healthy) early and late in games and it’s not hard to see why.
“All that stuff changes with Chris or Chauncey out there,” Del Negro said. “There’s no excuse. We were in this game and whoever is out there I have confidence in and they got to make the plays.”
Paul is the one who gets the ball to all of the other Clippers in the best position for them to score. Paul is the one who creates the open spaces for open shots. Paul is the one who turns them from a collection of diverse talent into a team.
Yes, there are games that you can win over the course of a long season without your star player. The Clippers did that in going 3-0 through Memphis, Houston and Minnesota. But that was never the point.
Imagine the Heat without LeBron James or the Thunder without Kevin Durant. Heck, even imagine the Three Stooges without Curly.
The show still goes on. But nobody really comes to see Shemp.
We don’t need laboratory slides to know that panic is in your blood, Clipper fans.
Just relax and know that CP3 is just collecting a few more MVP votes this week.