It didn’t look right at all. Chris Paul dribbling up court with that bright red jersey on made me almost wonder if the New Orleans Hornets had made a horrible Christmas uniform mistake.
But then, in the second quarter, this happened.
And with that, the CP3 era with the LA Clippers was born.
The first pre-season game between the Clippers and Lakers was predictably sloppy, and unpredictably lopsided. The Clippers 114-95 steamrolling of the Lakers, while stunning visually, falls slightly above the final scores of the barnstorming lockout dunk-fests in terms of importance. The Lakers are learning a new system under Mike Brown while looking for a sixth man to replace the traded Lamar Odom. They carried so many players into this game, the bench was two rows deep (that’s not a joke).
Meanwhile, the “visiting” Clippers found that integrating Chris Paul was a bit easier, especially when Chris Paul had Steve Blake or Darius Morris in front of him (though it’s not like Derek Fisher would have been a bigger deterrent). So with that as the set up, here are a few knee-jerk reactions:
1: The Lakers were right to go hard after Chris Paul
Just judging from last night’s game, Chris Paul would have helped the Lakers a LOT more than Dwight Howard would have. Sure, Morris actually knocked down a few shots, but he was also dribbling the air out of the ball. The Lakers are really going to be in trouble if they don’t find any other point guard help. They’ll end up relying on Kobe to be the facilitator in addition to carrying the scoring load. That’s a lot to ask at this point in his career.
2: Blake Griffin was right about Lob City
This Clippers team is going to look a lot like NBA Live ’95. In that game, you could throw lobs from anywhere on the court at any time, and if you had a guy with the right jumping numbers, he’d fly in from almost anywhere within 15 feet and finish it. It was a totally indiscriminate lob fiesta. And the more comfortable CP3 gets with just how insane Griffin and DeAndre Jordan are athletically, the crazier the lobs will get. The Clippers are now the most exciting team in the league.
3: Move over Mo Williams, Chauncey Billups is the new you
Chauncey Billups had the ball on a 1-on-5 break last night… and he pulled up and shot a 3. Flip through the “what to do during a 1-on-5 break” instruction manual and “pull up for 3” is under the heading “things that will give your coach a stroke” (good think not many people will notice with Vinny Del Negro on the bench). The thing is, he nailed it… one of four 3’s he hit en route to scoring 23 points on only eight field goal attempts (and nine free throws). Chauncey was gunning last night, and I don’t think that will stop, because I don’t think he was kidding about this being all about him now.
4: Mike Brown is going to be questioned… a LOT
The Lakers were down huge, the game was a few minutes from being over, and Kobe Bryant had taken a wicked fall that had him clutching the wrist on his shooting hand earlier in the half. So what does Mike Brown do? He sends Kobe out there to finish the game with Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum. Why? Good question. Get ready for a lot of “what is Mike Brown doing??” over the next few months.
The Clippers will end up being a good team with Chris Paul, because Chris Paul can make any team “decent,” and the Clips have enough pieces to be better than that. Meanwhile, the Lakers looked like they could use a little help. I don’t know if it’s post-Odom trade sulking, apathy for a preseason by a team always playing in May and/or June or fatigue from the lockout, but the Lakers sputtered through about 75% of that game.
Of course, it means nothing at all… unless it means something and we don’t know about it yet. In that case, this means a lot. But mostly, it means nothing. Well, except that Chris Paul makes you sit at the edge of your seat on every pick and roll as you wait for a soft, floating arc of a pass to be violently slammed home. And we get to watch it happen on TV, rather than in some video game, which is what I though we’d be doing right now. And that’s going to be pretty cool for at least four months. So in that regards, this game meant a whole lot.
It meant basketball is back, and back in a way that will get us all excited for the sport all over again.