Hey sports fans. Today I get a chance to do something I’ve wanted to do for a while – ask L.A. Clippers superfan and all around terrific guy Casey Robinson about our beloved hoops team. I met Casey “kinda” through Democratic Party activism (by way of Dante Atkins. Dante introduced us when we all got together to watch a Kings hockey game at the Buffalo Wild Wings in Hollywood a few seasons back). Incidentally, Casey was in the auto business for many years and Erin and I put our faith in him when we needed new wheels in 2015. He worked very hard for us and we are so grateful for him putting us into our beloved Ford C-Max Energy and Fiesta, respectively.
Casey, for me, I began rooting for the Clippers as soon as they moved to L.A. from San Diego. I knew the Lakers were the big thing, and I loved Kareem. But I kind of felt like “everybody owned” the Lakers, and that they were almost too much of a big deal. I wanted my own team.
TODD: How or why did you become a Clippers fan?
CASEY: My parents bought seasons to the Clippers in 1986, their second season in L.A. Each year, my mom went to less games, and I went to more. It was, in a lot of ways, the one great bonding I had with my father. I was one of the few young fans in attendance, and got treated well for it. My typical routine with my father was to get some Chicago Brothers Pepperoni Pizza (later La Pizza Loca, as it replaced Chicago Brothers at the Coliseum) and watch almost the entire first half in our seats, which were right at half court, on the middle level. Right before halftime I would head downstairs so that I could be part of the high-five line as the players went back to the locker room, and be part of it when they came back out. I had access to most of the empty seats, since the ushers all knew me. If I found a kid I knew, we would often sit together, and I would head back up to my dad before the game ended.
TODD: Do you think the current regime, or “core,” can get to a Conference Final? If so, what finally gets them there? If not, what’s the biggest reason, if not injuries?
CASEY: Conference final? Certainly. They were minutes away when they had the collapse in Houston. A little luck is needed, and a strong second half to the season. Right now they are mired in a battle for the 4th and 5th seed which means a second round matchup with Golden State. This team can beat Houston
or San Antonio, it’s no guarantee they will, but they need that path, and preferably the two seed so they can do it at home.
TODD: I’ve not personally been a fan of the way Doc Rivers substitutes whole squads like they are a line in hockey, and wish he would stagger minutes so players would all learn to play and gel in different combinations. Do you think Doc should stagger minutes more frequently or stay with his approach? Why or why not?
CASEY: This was one of the things that Del Negro did that pissed me off. I don’t think Doc does it as much as Del Negro did. Doc doesn’t put all 5 in at the same time, he just works it up to that point. The difference is, this team has a deep bench, and it gives the starters more rest. I have no problem with it, I just wish when you see the bench starting to falter that he’d pull the trigger
TODD: When you consider consistency over the longevity of his career, is it foolish to suggest that Jamal Crawford could perhaps be a “sleeper” for the Hall of Fame?
CASEY: So this is a conversation I love to have with friends. Beyond longevity and consistency, Crawford is actually the 76th leading scorer in the history of the NBA and is climbing fast. Even if he averages only 10 a game the rest of the season, he will jump to 68. By the time you print this, he may already be 74, passing the great Magic Johnson. On top of that he is the only player to win the Six Man of the Year award three times, only one of 4 to win it twice, and the other three were all in the 80s and early 90s. There is also the four-point play stat, which is just astounding, he leads the history of the league with 49, 54 if you count the playoffs. Reggie Miller is second with 24. But that is just a fun stat, and not HOF worthy.
Where his stats help, what hurts him are the lack of quality teams he’s been on, and his failure whenever he’s been tried as a starter, and his lack of roots to a team. At one point in his career, (his first season here) he was playing on his 6th team in 12 seasons. Even more astounding, he was playing for his 16th head coach. Add in Doc, and he’s played for 17 coaches in his career, that tells you, you aren’t playing on great teams… While he might be the greatest player off the bench of all time, unless this team rattles off a couple of rings, I don’t see him getting in.
TODD: Do you trust Steve Ballmer’s commitment to remain in Los Angeles? Or could you see him using, perhaps, another long losing period as the excuse to move to Seattle?
CASEY: I do believe that Ballmer is committed to Los Angeles. Even as the second team in L.A, it’s too good of a market not to try and succeed in. Since he overpaid for the team, he needs a situation to make money back. I don’t think Seattle gives him that opportunity right now. However, if this team falls apart, and sellouts stop occurring, then yes, it’s a possibility. But, with the Lakers down right now, he is doing everything right to make younger fans Clipper fans. The atmosphere at games is completely different, from a live DJ, to the upbeat crowd, to having fun… he is building a seed that these newer fans will stay Clipper fans.
TODD: Given my impression of you as a superfan, how many Clippers, past or present, have you met? Or perhaps could you say you even know personally?
CASEY: Wow, this list could get very, very, very long. I’d say I’ve met players from Chris Paul to Benoit Benjamin. At one point in my life I “knew” a few players where they would recognize me and give me a head nod, etc. And I was a little closer with one player,
TODD: Who is your all-time favorite Clipper? (Todd’s – Corey Maggette)
CASEY: That player I was a little closer, who was my all-time favorite, Loy Vaught.
TODD: Who is your all-time Clipper starting 5? (Todd’s – Paul, Griffin, Jordan, Maggette, and Michael Cage!)
CASEY: Well first, I am going to laugh at your starting 5 because you have a PG, SF, 2 PFs, and a Center. Griffin, Cage, and Jordan make for a really big lineup. I also laugh at Michael Cage because he was terrible at the free throw line, Jordanesque even. My dad used to quip that he’d go 0 for the month of February.
For my 5 I am going to eliminate the following – Buffalo Braves and San Diego Clippers, making it an L.A. Clipper 5, players who played short periods here, like Dominique Wilkins, Marques Johnson, etc, or players who were at the top of their game, got hurt, and never recovered.
My 5 would likely be – Paul, JJ Reddick (honestly, 2 guard is something this team has always sucked at, if not for his knee injury, Harper. Cat Mobley and Sealey were in contention, but Reddick is one of the best shooters in the game in a time when shooters are doing better than ever before), Maggette (I really wanted to go Kenny Norman, but couldn’t quite do it), and Jordan.
Yes, 4 of the 5 players are our current team. This tells you just how bad of a history this team has.
TODD: I don’t see any combination of guys I would give up for what I see as an ill-advised disruption in the form of Carmelo Anthony. Would you agree? If not, who would you trade?”
CASEY: This is a tough one. I’ve never loved Carmelo Anthony. Partially because of the great rivalries we had back in the Cassell-Brand days against the Anthony lead Nuggets. I still remember Anthony, in anger, punching the ball into the crowd and getting tossed in a playoff game. That said, I don’t agree. We need to do something if we want to take a real run at winning.
The current proposed three team trade has the Clippers giving up JJ Redick, Austin Rivers, Luc (Richard) Mbah a Moute (I will always add the Richard cuz of his days as a Bruin), and Paul Pierce. Pierce is useless to this team, it’s for cap reasons and so he can retire as a Celtic. I love Luc’s defense and hustle, but he’s a no brainer. It’s the other two that are in the conversation – JJ is up at the end of the year, and right now he’s poised for a big pay day. He is one of the top three shooters in the game, and you can argue between him and Klay for second. He deserves one big contract, and will get it, and we can’t give it to him, so again, it’s something for nothing.
Austin on the other hand continues to grow into a quality NBA starting point guard, and as Paul gets older, the final two years on his not too unfriendly contract are certainly important to play out.
If the deal didn’t include Austin, I’d pull the trigger today. But, since the math doesn’t work without him, you have to think about it.
What is Chris Paul’s health situation? He’s on the downside of his HOF career. Is Blake ever going to become a winner? He’s a great player, but he is still immature. Jordan, whose college coach once referred to him as a 21 year old going on 18 has matured more than we could ever imagine thanks to Doc and Team USA. Will Melo be ok sharing the ball, and playing in a system led by one of his best friends. (Have you ever noticed CP3 is everyone’s best friend.) Finally, what does this do to our odds of keeping CP3? (I think the question of keeping Blake is less of an issue thanks to the new CBA and Blake’s status within it)
The other question is, what does Ballmer care about, winning or attendance/making money. You can’t argue that a big 4 of CP3, Melo, Blake and DJ makes for some exciting ball and puts asses in seats.
Even if they don’t win they will perennially exciting and sell like the Jazz of the 90s that just never could get past the Bulls/Rockets. Compared to what I am used to, I would be happy with that.
On the other hand, you can also make a reasonable case that this team COULD be better. Raymond Felton is playing well enough to take over for Austin. It’s a downgrade, but he wouldn’t hurt us, and we’d play more traditional with a shorter bench (something you already said you like.) As for the starting 2, well here it gets a little tougher. The Clippers don’t even really have a second 2, and have run a rotation where Austin often plays the 2 when JJ is out. With both players traded, the Clippers would need to make a move for a decent shooter/defender to start, and run some bigger options off the bench.
It is certainly worth a long look, especially as NY is apparently willing to do it without the any of the Big 3.
TODD: Looking into your crystal ball, can you see us ever watching a Clipper Game together? (This is Todd’s passive way of asking, “Can we?”)
CASEY: 🙂 Sure.
TODD: Finally, what’s the one question I SHOULD HAVE asked you about the Clippers, but didn’t?
CASEY: My opinion on the new logo / jerseys which, like everyone else, is that they for the most part suck. I do enjoy the black jerseys, especially when they use them for the home games on Saturday nights, but we could have had black jerseys without the Microsoft Paint logo. The red jerseys are the worst, with the logo and the number the same size, next to each other just under chest height. It looks terrible. It even makes me forget the sleeved jerseys.
Side not on the sleeved jerseys, I had, for years, been hoping a rebranding, either name, or at least logo and colors. I thought a throwback to our history, of powdered blue (San Diego) and orange (Buffalo) with some black (modernization) would look really nice. When I got powdered blue in a sleeved jersey, I cried.
Oh, a second question is, what I would do if we actually won a ring. Celebrate non-stop once I stop convincing myself that it isn’t a dream, then get a tattoo next to my Kings/Stanley Cup tattoo. Though, as the Larry O’Brien is the ugliest trophy in sports, it might not be exactly the same. And, if they win it within the right time frame, get to ride in the parade, as Mayor Garcetti has promised me a spot in his vehicle if they win while he is mayor.
This was fun. Thanks.
TODD: The pleasure, sir, was all mine. Thank YOU