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The championship comebacks by the Cleveland Cavaliers and Chicago Cubs this past year almost became larger than life because of the history behind both franchises. Lovable losers and all that. So, it’s not easy for a franchise historically synonymous with failure to also earn a reputation as the most hated team in its sport. But somehow the Los Angeles Clippers have managed to achieve that feat.
Even as Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan have helped established the Clippers as a perennial contender this decade, their complaining, flopping and complaining about flopping has become so incessant that Bleacher Report’s Howard Beck penned a lengthy feature entitled, “Why Everyone in the NBA Hates the Los Angeles Clippers,” rife with league-wide contempt for the team.
“They don’t think they ever foul,” former NBA referee Steve Javie told Beck, summarizing it most succinctly, “and they think they always are fouled.”
Nobody knows that better than Marreese Speights, who has had a front row seat for it from both benches as a member of the rival Golden State Warriors from 2013-16 and a reserve on the Clippers this season. So, after his new team came unhinged early and often in a game against his former team that became a blowout by first quarter’s end, Mo Buckets let them know about it through the media.
“That’s the scouting report when you play against the Clippers,” said Speights, via The Vertical’s Michael Lee. “It’s always been. You play the Clippers, you hit them a couple of times, and their spirit is going to be down. We’ve got to find a way to get over that hump and do something different.”
Speights then brought down the hammer:
Mo Speights didn't hold back when it came to the differences between the Warriors and Clippers pic.twitter.com/sw0TPMPDbi
— Bill Oram (@billoram) December 8, 2016
You won’t often hear a player criticize his teammates so plainly to reporters, but then you might not know Speights, who on his way out of Golden State criticized Draymond Green’s antics, telling ESPN, “Draymond’s a good guy, but I think at the end of the day, it hurt the whole chemistry of the year.”
The veteran’s dig at his new teammates grabbed headlines on Wednesday night, and Clippers coach Doc Rivers disagreed with Speights a day later, particularly as it pertains to complaining about calls:
“The officiating thing, I don’t think, is our issue. I will say that,” Rivers told reporters at Thursday’s practice. “If that were the problem, then Golden State will be struggling. They’ve been No. 2 the last two years in techs, too. I think we need to point fingers in another direction than that.”
For the record, over the previous two seasons, the Clippers amassed 169 technicals, leading the league in both seasons. The Warriors totaled 109 techs, ranking 10th in both 2014 and 2015. Granted, it seems silly to draw a direct correlation between total technicals and team success, but when those instances become part of a larger issue of accountability, then yeah, a team can unravel because of it.
As for Speights’ claim of selfishness, Rivers said not to look in that direction, either, adding, “That’s the other thing I didn’t like. … I don’t think we have an agenda team. I think we’ve proven that.”
If Rivers was sending a message to his new player to not break ranks, Speights received it, loud and clear. Even as teammates like Clippers guard J.J. Redick told reporters, “I have no problem with what he said,” Speights still walked Wednesday’s comments back the following day, clarifying to the media:
“It’s just sometimes, I should have just said it in different kind of way. I’m on the team, man. I’m biased to this team. Every time I step on that court, I’m going to play hard for Doc, for this city, for this team. I’m not trying to call nobody out. The will to win … you just want to win. You just want to do it the right way. You want to do it for a great coach like Doc and the city of L.A. That’s something that maybe I should have said a little different. I’m not calling nobody out.”
Except, instead of walking it back, Speights should’ve doubled down. After all, who knows scouting reports on the Clippers better than someone who’s been party to them the past few seasons? Doc’s team does complain, a lot, and he knows it. He told Beck in December 2015, “When I took the job here, I remember literally hearing from a couple refs: ‘Oh my God. You’re going to the team that clearly complains more than any team in the NBA by far.'” And Rivers did this to a ref not two weeks ago:
So, to deflect concerns about his team’s whiny ways on the Warriors is enabling. He’s done the same with flopping, calling Paul’s acting “clever” and saying of Griffin’s shenanigans, “Blake gets fouled more than any player in the league. So, anyone wants to show me the flop, I’ll show you 10 fouls that he didn’t get calls on.” It’s generally considered a good trait for a coach to stick up for his players, but it can also make it more difficult to stop the behavior, which Rivers has tried to do in the playoffs:
One of Doc's messages to the team: "Stop f—ing flopping."
— Arash Markazi (@ArashMarkazi) May 17, 2015
That Doc order came during Game 7 of a 2015 Western Conference semifinals that culminated in a brutal 3-1 series collapse by the Clippers. So, when less than six minutes into the biggest game of their regular season two years later, Chris Paul is still getting technicals for complaining to officials …
… and still flopping to try to get whistles from those same refs …
… and still complaining about the officials not falling for his flop, it’s reasonable to consider this cause for concern, especially after the Warriors hit them a couple times and crushed their spirit.
People penciled the Clippers in as the best bet to challenge the Warriors out West after their 14-2 start, but this recent streak of five losses in seven games has them looking more and more like the team that’s never reached a conference finals. At some point, when a team is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results, it’s time to change the behavior. Speights suggested that this week, and his coach didn’t listen, so what does that make the Clippers?
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