HANG TIME WEST – No, you take their tired, their poor, their huddled masses yearning to break .500. You embrace the less fortunate needing shelter.
Welcome the Eastern Conference to the same arena?
The Clippers don’t want any part of it. They don’t want to read the standings that show all of three teams with winning records and another at break-even. They don’t talk about the Least. They don’t want to hear the jokes about the junior varsity games on the other side of the country. They’re not laughing.
“Not at all,” guard Jamal Crawford said. “Not us. Not us at all.”
The Clippers are doing well maneuvering around trouble in the West, at 16-7 (.696) against the conference that is supposed to be much tougher, but 7-6 (.538) versus the East. Yes, the Heat and Pacers were among the six, but so were the Magic (with L.A. scoring 90 points), the Hawks (by 10), the Cavaliers (with Cleveland on the second night of a back-to-back, and L.A. scored 82), and the Nets (93 points, with the Clippers on the back end of a back-to-back).
The Magic, Hawks, Cavaliers and Nets have a combined 51-83 record today. And the Clippers have a problem wasting chances.
“I don’t think so,” coach Doc Rivers said when asked if his team is relaxing against lesser competition. “I don’t know. I haven’t given it that much thought, to be honest, as you can tell. I’ve thought about that about a second. I haven’t given it a lot of thought.”
No explanation for success against the West and struggles against the East, in other words.
“I have no idea,” Rivers said. “I don’t know. We’ve had some tough ones. We’ve been on the road. It’s a long year. It’ll all even out.”
They need it to happen pretty soon. The starting backcourt of Chris Paul (shoulder) and J.J. Redick (hand/wrist) is out, the Clippers have lost four of the last seven, although one of the victories was conquering the summit by beating Charlotte, and now comes the real definition of trouble: 10 of the next 12 games are against the not-so-Least.
It starts now, with the Magic at Staples Center tonight and the Celtics visiting on Wednesday, another reunion week as Rivers faces the two teams he previously coached. That’s hardly the prominent storyline any more, though. Two against the East, followed by the Lakers and Mavericks, and then a seven-game trip to New York, Indiana, Detroit, Charlotte, Chicago, Toronto and Milwaukee. When the Clippers do return to Los Angeles, it will be to first face Washington.
“Hopefully we can get the best of both worlds and figure it out,” Crawford said.
The worlds of the East and the West. Deciphering one has been tough. Just not the one most would expect.