Clippers don’t fear living up to hype
by Sam Amick, USA TODAY Sports
LOS ANGELES — The modern-day NBA is often accused of being too much of a fraternity.
Too many players palling around, critics say, and not enough good old-fashioned bitterness between rivals. But to see always-competitive Chris Paul smirk at the notion that he would ask one of his contemporaries for advice in the Los Angeles Clippers’ championship pursuit was to be reminded that he is different.
Yes, their season-opening loss to the Lakers Tuesday night sparked reminders of teams that failed to live up to their own bullish billing — his good friend LeBron James’ Miami Heat squad that started 9-8 in 2010 before falling short in the Finals, perhaps, or the unforgettably-underwhelming 2012-13 Lakers team that was led by two guys in Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard who always return Paul’s calls.
But no, as he made clear, he didn’t consult with them on matters of team chemistry and togetherness during the offseason and certainly won’t be dialing them now that this has become a blood sport again.
“Nope,” he told USA TODAY Sports with a grin. “Not gonna happen.”
Getting surprised by the team whose championship banners your organization decided to hide away during home games is one thing, and new Clippers coach Doc Rivers got it right when he pointed out that the Lakers were fueled by the fact that they “heard for four or five months how good we are.” But whether it’s the game against the upstart Golden State Warriors Thursday, the clean-slate Sacramento Kings on Friday or any and all comers from there, nothing changes about the fact that these upgraded Clippers will get no mercy from teams that are tired of hearing all their hype.
This is the fascinating annual affair that they are now a part of, this elite club of contenders who see the proverbial target on their back grow with every bit of buzz only to discover the hard way that the risk of being a paper tiger is so very real.
“(Opposing teams) still want to beat the champ, but they hate anointed champions, OK?” Rivers explained. “It was the same with … [For more on Los Angeles Clippers don't fear living up to hype, click here.]