There’s been so much talk about the offensive and defensive problems of the usual golden boys of the city, but at the current moment, the Los Angeles Clippers are the best team in the city, keeping their climb in ability and success from last season, led by the best point guard in the NBA, Chris Paul.
They call it a option offense in college football, which usually doesn’t translate that well into the pros because quarterbacks don’t have the same kind of time to make decisions. The NBA isn’t such an organized world of set plays and rigid coaches keeping their hands firmly on the reigns.
It’s a superstar league, with head coaches like Vinny Del Negro are often under appreciated for what they do, because it doesn’t always translate on the court. Their most important job? Keeping their stars happy, and keeping the team socially together. Plays and smart basketball usually depend on the players they have, but after spending a while with a team they do get the kind of respect and obedience from the players they deserve.
The Clippers are underrated defensively, and just for playing in the same town as the Lakers are, underrated in general. But unlike the Lakers going through tough growing pains under the spotlight, the Clippers didn’t try to make too many changes on their way up, aiming to the same places the Lakers are, just without the same flash and vanity about it. Blake Griffin is working harder on both ends of the floor to improve and to add to his game; DeAndre Jordan is trying to become much more than a guy who gets dunks and blocks on youtube; Caron Butler is looking healthy and like one of the best small forwards in the NBA.
But Chris Paul is everything for this team. There are good options off the bench with Eric Bledsoe and Jamal Crawford coming on to make things look even faster, but this team, this whole offense and defense is about Paul’s ability to create shots for himself and others, and trusting his decision making ability. He finished with 18 points and 15 assists, while the Lakers had their better defensive point guard on him (Steve Blake). People keep talking about the Lakers’ offensive problems, but the defense seems to be in just as much of a mess right now.
In their 105-95 win over their big sister, it was simply smarter execution down the stretch. While the Lakers gave up on whatever it is that Mike Brown is preaching, the Clippers kept doing the same thing. Jamal Crawford is as unpredictable as they come, and had another big night off the bench with 21 points. Paul does the same thing – penetration off a pick n’ roll and finding the open man or attacking the basket. Simple, predictable, but he’s so good and so quick with his movements, it’s hard to stop. Especially with Blake Griffin really improving his ability from outside the paint, an addition that should take him to the next level on his progress in the NBA.
Best team in Los Angeles? Right now, sure. In a few months? Who knows. But that’s not the only thing. Paul, unlike others on other teams, doesn’t force himself on the game. For that, and for his ability in the first derby day of the season, he deserved to be labeled as the best player in the city, for now.