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NBA Might Be Bad, But the Clippers Are Surely Entertaining

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It’s easy to think nothing is wrong with the NBA from our vantage point in Los Angeles. After all it was announced that four of the starting five players for the Western Conference in the All Star Game would be comprised of players from the Lakers (Kobe Bryant, Andrew Bynum) and the Clippers (Blake Griffin, Chris Paul).

But TNT’s Charles Barkley went on “Waddle and Silvy” on ESPN Radio AM 1000 in Chicago Monday morning apologizing to NBA fans for the awful product on the court.

I cannot believe how bad the NBA is right now, I’m a fan first and foremost, watching the NBA right now I’m embarrassed about the product we’re putting out there right now. It’s no fun for me to watch these games, I feel bad for the fans.

I can see his point. If you are an NBA fan living in Sacramento, Charlotte, Detroit, Washington or New Orleans, this is probably the worst basketball you’ve ever seen. But hasn’t it always been this way? In the romantic heyday of the NBA in the 1980’s, there were some awful teams in the league - the Clippers, Indiana Pacers, Kansas City Kings.

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Sure there is the excuse of the lockout, the lack of training camp, the condensed schedule that features games on three consecutive nights for team. But coming from someone who doesn’t usually find the NBA all that entertaining, it’s been quite fun to watch.

Take the Clippers. Add Chris Paul and Chauncey Billups, and all of a sudden the Clippers have instant credibility. Perhaps the biggest sign of progress happened Wednesday night. For the first time since January 22, 2003, the Clippers won a game in Salt Lake City, UT 107-105.

It was a game dominated by Paul’s 34 points, 11 assists and Blake Griffin’s 31 points, 14 rebounds. With the Jazz leading by as many as ten points in the second quarter, it was a tight game with the Clippers taking over the lead for good halfway through the fourth quarter. It marked the third of a string of emotional victories. Sunday they came from behind to get a win in Denver - then the second best team in the West - and Monday they came home for an emphatic win against the team with the best record in the NBA, Oklahoma City Thunder.

But on Thursday the effects of playing four games in five nights seemed to catch up with the Clippers at home against Denver, especially with their lack of depth getting routed 112-91. The Clippers got out to a 32-19 lead after one quarter, but that’s all she wrote for them. Denver put their foot on the throats of the Clippers outscoring them 93-59 the rest of the way. It’s not even worth going through the box score, although if one has a masochistic streak one is free to go for it. Just too bad Chauncey Billups’ 1,000th career game was such a dud.

The Clippers next test is this upcoming Grammy road trip, six games that starts out in Washington and makes stops in Orlando and Philadelphia before culminating in Dallas. They are 3-4 on the road - actually 3-3 away from STAPLES Center with one “road” game against the Lakers.

Okay the basketball may not be stellar. Yeah you have the Bobcats running around losing games by 30, 40 points. But with the Clippers on the rise, the Lakers and Celtics age creating a power vacuum in the NBA, the ascension of Oklahoma City and Chicago, the Dwight Howard drama in Orlando, there are plenty of things to keep interest in the NBA. Perhaps more so than in previous years.

And as an aside from last night’s clock controversy with the Kings, it seems the clock became a slight issue at the end of the first half. However this one seemed to be a human error, no coulombs or electrical impulses or any other phoney science that makes general managers rest peacefully at night.

On the local college basketball scoreboard:
Washington defeats UCLA 71-69
Washington States defeat USC 60-53
UC Santa Barbara defeats Cal State Northridge 85-70
Cal State Fullerton defeats Cal Poly 83-61
UC Irvine defeats UC Davis 68-61
LMU defeats Pepperdine 67-57.

LA Lakers at Denver Nuggets. KCAL9, ESPN, AM 710 KSPN.
LA Kings at St. Louis Blues. 5:00 p.m. FSWest, AM 1150 KTLK.
Columbus Blue Jackets at Anaheim Ducks. 7:00 p.m. FS Prime Ticket, AM 830 KLAA.