No One Ever Says Goodbye

Life, Sports

Endings are abrupt. It doesn’t matter what the circumstances are. They always land with a loud, resounding thud — even if you see it coming.

The Mad Men series finale was shocking. Literally right when it ended I said, “WHAT?!” out loud and my dad, who was reading downstairs, asked me what was wrong. I know that critics guessed what would happen and that the episodes only run for an hour, but I still felt like I was left hanging, mouth agape.

Who knew Don Draper could ever find peace. The man who committed adultery countless times, and who drank and smoked to no end. He did what he wanted when he wanted, and was never satisfied. He was living the life: high-paying job, beautiful wives, adorable children, dashing good looks. Then, at the end, he found closure. That was unexpected.

Deep down I wanted to see him die a triumphant death like Walter White. Instead, he finished his TV life happily smiling crisscross applesauce on lime green grass.

Hours before the end of the Mad Men era, the Clippers had a dismal, crushing end to their postseason run. I didn’t see that coming, either. I thought for sure this was the year they’d break their losing streak. THEY BEAT THE SPURS IN SEVEN. But I guess the Spurs are a bit on the older side… and the Clippers have failed us many times over before.

It’ll be forever sad when the inevitable endings happen. The best shows will come to an end. The best teams (OK, maybe that’s an overstatement) will die.

That Game 7 Win

Sports

Screaming, screaming and more screaming.

I graduated Saturday morning, went to a very long lunch afterwards and when I got the chance to return to my apartment, I flipped on the Clipper game. There were less than 20 seconds left and the Clippers were up by 2. My dad and I could barely contain ourselves.

Tim Duncan hit two free throws off a fluke foul by Matt Barnes. “CP3 with the buzzer beater — watch!” I said. Then, the magic happened. It looked like an ugly toss up, but a shot is a shot is a shot. The Clippers beat the Spurs in seven. THE CLIPPERS BEAT THE SPURS IN SEVEN.

At the end of my last post, I predicted it. I’ve actually been predicting these improbable wins for the Clippers for the past three years. They’ve cost me dinners and various other things that I’ve bet on. This time it actually came true.

This is the year.

I think the Clippers can handily beat the Rockets. The real challenge will be the Warriors. But beating the Spurs is a big step forward. Gritting out a seven game series against the defending champs is an incredible feat.

It’s now or never for Clipper nation. Now is the perfect opportunity for the Clips to claim LA, even if it’s just for a brief moment.

Death by Expectations

Life, Sports

The Clippers were slammed Friday night in San Antonio. I didn’t watch the game, but I did see a rerun at a bar later that night where I saw about two minutes of the first quarter in which Blake Griffin turned the ball over. Sigh.

Their 27-point loss in Game 3 was something I expected but didn’t want to happen. Of course the Spurs were going to come out on their home floor, guns blazing, ready to demolish the Clippers. After all, this could be the last year of an epic NBA dynasty of Coach Pop/Tim Duncan/Tony Parker/Manu Ginobli (so they say, anyway). Meanwhile, the Clippers have never seen past the second round and if they don’t break that streak this year, it could be the last year of their core team as well.

Both sides have lots to lose. The expectation runs higher in San Antonio than LA because championships speak louder than anything else. The Clippers are the second class citizens in Los Angeles, sharing their home court with a legendary franchise, and I’m certain their confidence levels and mindsets are nowhere close to that of the experienced Spurs. I think this is where the problem lies.

Everyone has expectations of you. First impressions are long lasting and judgments stick. It becomes easy to bend to them, to truly believe, “OK, maybe they’re right.” The thing is they’re not right. Not always. Flip that perspective and rewire your thought process. Focus on the positives and own them. Soon those expectations will be crushed, stomped on and overcome. That is what the Clippers need.

They’re down 2-1. It’s not experience or better players that they’re lacking (their youth and athleticism is enough), it’s brash determination. If they have that, I’m calling this series Clippers in seven.

LA Basketball Fades to Black

Sports

Flashback five years ago in Los Angeles basketball history: Around this time, the battle of Kobe Bryant & Pau Gasol vs. Carmelo Anthony & Chauncey Billups was in full swing. Meanwhile, the Clippers (stacked with Baron Davis, Chris Kaman, Marcus Camby and Al Thornton) faded further into obscurity with a 19-63 season record, which earned them a playoffs DNQ.

Now zip back to the present: It is the coach-less Lakers who are teetering at a point of uncertainty with only four players signed to play next season. And while I’d like to say that the Clippers have fully redeemed themselves, it’d be a lie. The Clippers tried really hard. Ultimately, a few blunders, a couple whistles and one huge front office controversy buried them.

David Parsons declared that the Clippers could become “America’s team,” yet the squad couldn’t rise to the challenge. Instead, again they stumbled, and the team has never advanced past the second round of the postseason.

Tonight, for Angelenos, all eyes are on ping pong balls. The Clippers failure to succeed (sadly) surprised no one, but the Lakers’ season fumble was viewed as completely unacceptable. The NBA draft is the only hope left — a shot at redemption. It could determine which Lakers re-sign, and which coaches the team will begin courting.

On the other hand, the Clippers’ troubles will not recede until the Sterling debacle dissipates. Head Coach Doc Rivers sounded confident that he’ll return last season following the team’s heartbreaking loss in Game 7 to OKC. But would he still stay if the Sterling family kept its grip on the franchise?

Considering it’s mid-May, Los Angeles basketball is in unfamiliar territory. The Lakers need a stroke of luck and the Clippers need a miracle.

Underdog Clippers to steal fans and wins

Sports

Can the Clippers earn a banner of their own to hang this post-season?

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Heading into the playoffs — heck, heading into this season — I never would have imagined declaring the prediction that I’m about to make. Every year the Clippers turn out to be a disappointment. Second round exits, first round exits, deprived expectations, as I said in my previous post, they always seem to be missing something.

As they lead the Thunder 1-0 in Round 2, my call is this: Clippers win in 6 to advance to Round 3 for the first time in franchise history. 

It’s destined to be.

The emotion the squad used to will a victory at Staples in Game 7 against the Warriors and the dominance they displayed in Game 1 in Oklahoma against the Thunder is enough evidence for me.

True, OKC boasts the 2014 MVP and Russell Westbrook is infamous for showing off brilliance in unpredictable bursts (prompting the hashtag #LetWestbrookBeWestbrook). A push to the third round will not be easy, and if the series goes to a Game 7, I’d be uncertain in holding my prediction.

If the Clips can grab a 3-2 lead with the opportunity to finish off the Thunder at home, then Doc Rivers’ team could have a fairytale post-season —  a shot at the Western Conference Championships.

Blake Griffin as the strong leader with the high basketball IQ; Chris Paul handling the rock while providing a confident presence on the court; DeAndre Jordan holding his own down low and protecting the basket with length; and key bench players J.J. Redick, Danny Granger, Jamal Crawford, Darren Collison; the Clippers have all the right pieces.

Additionally, for the first time ever, they have the fans.

Even if they are actually Lakers fans in disguise, wearing Kobe jerseys beneath their Griffin and Paul ones, none of that matters. Home fans — fake or not — help in any capacity, so long as they’re not cheering for the opposing team.

The Clippers are positioned in a near perfect spot. It’s up to them whether they’ll capture it or let it slip. Working into the NBA post-season is tough, especially in the West. You only get one shot.