As far as rivalries in the NBA go the Warriors and Clippers match-up descends from a dying breed. Both teams play a fast and physical style of basketball that results in the occasional scuffle. GSoM and Clips Nation on the other hand are much more cordial.
But for some reason the name of the Clippers blog bugs me. Call me biased or maybe just a tad bit butthurt, but I have never heard anyone use the term "Clips Nation" in my life. I can't quite put my finger on it but it sure sounds oddly similar to the moniker used by another team's fan base, but I digress.
AF: First off, what's up with those new jerseys? How do the majority of Clipper fans feel about the re-branding effort?
LH: The home jerseys are fine. They're basic, but fine. The away jerseys are atrocious. The black alternates are... interesting. They look kinda like they should be summer jerseys, or practice jerseys. It's a shame that they finally decided to go with a black alternate, and they didn't KILL it. Most Clippers fans don't like the new jerseys, but there's also bigger things to worry about so after some off-season complaining it's been kinda pushed to the side.
If you want to read the insanely true story of how Gillian Zucker, Clips President of business operations, outsourced the job to the Miami Heat design team and then rush ordered it, you can check out some quality investigative reporting from Clips Nation's own Justin Russo here.
AF: The Golden State Warriors new ownership helped turn a lack luster franchise into NBA Champions in just five years. Although it is still early in his tenure, have you seen Steve Balmer make any real impacts to the Clippers organization?
LH: The main thing that I think Clippers fans have noticed is Ballmer's energy. Before, it was pretty easy to root for the Clippers and ignore Donald Sterling. He wasn't around much except for the occasional embarrassment, and they didn't ever dare to show him on TV. With Ballmer, it's a different story. We haven't quite seen him throw money around in too huge a way (although the Clippers have a high tax bill and three max players for the first time ever), but he's actually a lovable character and a fan, which is pretty cool.
AF: What do you make of the improvements the Clippers made in the off-season to try and strengthen their bench? Do you think this team can realistically contend for a title?
LH: Instead of looking at the "bench", I like to look at everyone who isn't Paul, Redick, Griffin, and Jordan. Lots of guys play as the 5th man in that lineup, so it's more of a "supporting cast" issue than a "bench" issue. And man, did the Clippers revamp their bench. They kept Austin Rivers and Jamal Crawford, but also added Pablo Prigioni (min deal), Lance Stephenson (Barnes/Hawes trade), Paul Pierce (mMLE), Wes Johnson (min deal), Luc Richard Mbah a Moute (min deal), Josh Smith (min deal), and Cole Aldrich (min deal).
The reason I included the way those players were acquired is to get a point across about how much the Clippers front office did with so little. The bench hasn't turned out yet, but we're only 10 games in to a season working in those 7 new guys, so the expectations can't be too high at this point. There's a TON of talent in that unit, I don't think anyone can deny that, so if the lineups and chemistry can click properly, it could turn the Clippers from a team with a deadly starting unit and no depth (last season) to a team with a deadly starting unit that never misses a beat as the subs come in.
AF: How comfortable are you with Austin Rivers closing out the fourth quarter of a close game?
LH: Terrified and oddly OK. Austin has probably been the Clippers' fifth-best player since they acquired him mid-season last year, and he's helped a ton. They gave up essentially nothing for him (Reggie Bullock wasn't good enough to get minutes at the 3 over Jamal Crawford, Jordan Hamilton, and Chris Douglas-Roberts), and he's given them a lot, both on a nightly basis and exploding to carry the team to several playoff Ws (which nobody saw coming).
His shot is suspect, though when he's open I'm more comfortable with him taking threes than the percentages suggest I should be, and he's a pretty good defender who gets to the rim very well. He doesn't finish, but he gets there, which opens up the floor for everything else the Clippers try to do on offense. Late in games he hurts the spacing offensively, but when Doc uses offense-defense subs, there's match-ups where Austin makes sense on the defensive side of the floor.
AF: What do you make of the Clippers - Warriors rivalry? Is it legit? Do Clippers fans generally dislike the Warriors?
LH: Yeah. To be honest, personally, I don't have as much of a hate as a lot of people do--I've got nothing against Curry (except being mad that he's unfair) or Klay, I've always liked Iggy and Steve Kerr and Livingston, etc. Clippers fans in general hate Draymond Green though. We hated Mark Jackson, too.
I don't know if you remember the Christmas day game a few years ago, before we knew who Draymond was, then Jackson put him in with a few seconds left in the third quarter just to take an off-ball cheap shot at Blake Griffin. Green got ejected (but who cares, he was just a backup at the time) and Blake got a T, so when Bogut lured him into a double tech in a scuffle later on, Griffin ended up ejected. It was bush league and I think that's the moment when Clippers fans universally started to hate Mark Jackson and Draymond Green.
AF: I am actually quite fond of that memory, to be honest. In my opinion Draymond Green is the type of player that you love if he is on your team, and despise if he is not.
AF: What are the Clippers greatest strengths and biggest weaknesses?
LH: Their greatest strength is Blake Griffin. I mean, I know you guys have Steph Curry so you take it for granted, but Blake's been somewhat of a basketball God this season.
Their greatest weakness is defense and size. The second unit plays small, with Pierce at the 4 and Smith at the 5, so opponents get about two-thirds of rebounds while the second unit is on the floor, and then when they have the ball, they're playing against guys like Jamal Crawford and Paul Pierce--it's hard to hide both of them at the same time.