LA Clippers News: Who's Laughing Now?: The Clippers Have Shifted The Balance Of Power In L.A.
That's not an Earthquake in Los Angeles, that's the balance of power shifting. For the longest time The Los Angeles Clippers have been an after-thought, playing second fiddle to their neighbours in the city, the decorated Lakers, steeped in history and championships. One of the greatest franchises in the history of sport. Media darlings, A list celebrities watching them on a nightly basis. Magic, Kareem, Wilt, Shaq, Kobe. The teams throughout the generations will be talked about forever. Things are changing. Things have already changed. Slowly but surely, the Clippers have turned it round. It hasn't been easy, they have made some bad decisions along the way but now the Clippers have a team that can genuinely challenge for an NBA championship. Something that the long suffering Clippers fans have never had before. Franchises have defining moments and you can pinpoint three moments in the not-to-distant past that have transformed the Clippers into the force they are today. 1. Drafting Blake Griffin: When the Clippers won the 2009 NBA Lottery. They could scarcely believe their luck. The prize was Blake Griffin, a physical Power Forward from Oklahoma that was vicious getting to the rim and the most exciting prospect to come out of the draft in years. The Clippers stated they felt he was the man that could turn around the fortunes of this franchise. He was rough around the edges, without question. Lacking a mid-range jump shot and he would have to put a lot of work in on the defensive side of the ball, but the potential was there. They didn't hesitate to draft him number one. Then, in typical Clippers fashion, disaster struck. Griffin was sidelined the whole of his rookie season due to a knee injury. An incredible blow. People questioned whether Griffin would be any use to them at all now. His game relying on explosive moves to the rim and whether he could still do it was up for discussion. Not only did Griffin come back, he was just as good if not better than before. Head and Shoulders above anyone in his revised rookie class, he won the rookie of the year with ease. Not only that, he made the Clippers relevant. His highlight reel dunks were national news and he had people in L.A wanting to see the Clippers. Something which hadn't happened before in the history of the franchise. His game has come on leaps and bounds since he entered the league. His mid-range jump shot is improving, his defensive rebounding has developed and he is now guaranteed to have 20-10 averages every season. With the weapons he has around him now the sky is the limit for Griffin and will no doubt have many more All-Star appearances before his career is finished. 2. The Chris Paul Trade: When rumours went round the league that Chris Paul was looking to leave the Hornets in free agency, the NBA-owned team had a decision to make. Do they keep Paul and risk losing him for nothing? Or do they trade him and get something in return for the perennial All-Star? There was talk of the New York Knicks, with Paul's infamous toast at Carmelo Anthony's wedding, referring to the next 'Big 3' alongside Anthony and Paul. The Knicks signed Tyson Chandler and simply did not have the assets to make this trade, no matter how much either side wanted it. The Lakers were next, they wanted to form an All-World back-court with Paul and Bryant. They agreed in principle to a three-team trade that sent shockwaves through the league. However, the Hornets were league-owned at the time and they saw this trade as the rich getting richer and the trade was cancelled. It looked like Paul would be staying in New Orleans, until the Clippers stepped in with an offer they couldn't refuse. Paul was heading to the Los Angeles Clippers in exchange for a huge haul. Shooting guard Eric Gordon was the centerpiece of the deal, and he was joined by former all-star center Chris Kaman and second-year player Al-Farouq Aminu. The Clippers also sent New Orleans a first-round pick for 2012 they received from the Minnesota Timberwolves, and received two future second-round picks in return. A kings ransom, one that has changed the whole demeanour of the franchise. Paul is a winner and makes everyone around him better. In particular Griffin, who's pick-and-roll sets with Paul have thrilled fans league-wide. He is an MVP candidate this year without question, some say second only to LeBron James in Miami. Paul is out of contract in the summer but the doubt surrounding his contract hasn't followed him to Los Angeles. He seems settled here and enjoying his basketball in the spotlight. Chris Paul seems committed to the cause and is primed for another Championship run for the transformed Clippers. 3. Surrounding the stars with quality: The personnel at the Clippers has been one of the reasons that they haven't succeeded over the years. Gambles have not paid off, either through injury or players not reaching their potential. The Clippers was seen as a graveyard for talent in the NBA. The 'Clippers Curse', which many thought had got to Blake Griffin too, had a stranglehold on them and didn't look like letting go. Things are different now, they have assembled one of the deepest teams in the league. A nice mixture of youth and experience that will be invaluable at the business end of the season. Chauncey Billups has been a great addition, signed when the Knicks used the amnesty clause on him to make room for Tyson Chandler. Chris Paul has stated what a great leader Billups is, he knows what it takes to win a Championship. He has been a great influence on Paul and even though injuries have affected what he's achieved on the court, his knowledge and motivational skills have been key to the Clippers success. They have also gambled on players, only this time they have paid off. Players that were discarded by other teams have come to the Clippers and thrived. None more so than Lamar Odom, who's turbulent time in Dallas ended with his release and he was picked up by the Clippers. He is now playing like he was for the Lakers and seems a lot happier now he's near celebrity wife Khloe Kardashian. Jamal Crawford has been the signing of the season for them. He can take over games with his quick scoring and this has helped the Clippers in close games this season. He's a contender for sixth man of the year, as he is every year for whoever he finds himself playing for. Crawford seems to have found a home here in L.A and they will need him firing on all cylinders if they are to go where they want to this season. Matt Barnes, Eric Bledsoe, Grant Hill and Willie Green have all contributed this season from the bench. These names tell you just how deep the Clippers are. It's been demonstrated in particular of late when they have been winning games on the road without the services of their All-Star Point Guard. Great decisions by the management and good players willing to accept lesser roles for the greater good have made the Clippers one of the best all-round teams in the NBA. So, now it's up to the Lakers to transform this trend. They've made moves themselves. Howard, Nash, Jamison have all been brought in. Things haven't worked out the way they'd hoped. Injuries, lack of form and chemistry have the Lakers on the outside of the Playoffs by some distance. Sound familiar? Not to the Clippers anymore. They are now Western Conference Heavyweights, something their fans have wished for all their lives. Dean Jones: Follow me on Twitter @DeanJones_979764