Not so long ago, the Los Angeles Clippers were one of those franchises that alternated between pathetic and punch line. Years of ineptitude, poor draft picks, disappointing injuries and sketchy ownership had led to franchise that was never really taken seriously by the rest of the NBA. The Clippers were certainly not a desirable free-agent destination. In a short period of time, that has changed a great deal. The signing of Grant Hill is just another piece to the puzzle and it says something about how the team is perceived in today's NBA.
Not premier, but symbolic
Grant Hill is not necessarily the premier free agent on the market. He is at the end of his career, and he will be one of those veteran reserves that you hope will give you quality minutes. He probably could have gone to a number of teams but he picked the Clippers. According to Hill, he saw guys on the roster that he liked, and apparently the history of club did not scare him away. That says something when a good character guy picks your club based on culture and possibilities.
A shift in owner mindset?
It is hard to get a read on what changed with the Clippers. The team now has a superstar tandem in Chris Paul and Blake Griffin. They quickly became a playoff team, and they will be a squad to contend with next season. In addition, they have been active in the free agent market, and they continue to add key veterans. What changed? Did Donald Sterling suddenly decide that he wanted to win? Or did the Clippers just put together the right combination at a fortuitous time? As a fan, you don't know what the owner is thinking, but the Clippers certainly have the look of a franchise that cares about winning.
Still a precarious balance
Granted, things could still go horribly wrong. Next summer, the negotiations with Chris Paul could go badly and he could walk away. The Clipper Curse could rear its ugly head and Blake Griffin could continue to have knee problems. Of course, you can't list all the doomsday scenarios when you look at the future. Anything could happen, but now is the time to enjoy the possibilities. Grant Hill has been added to an already good team, and it will be fun to see what he can do in a Clipper uniform.
The author grew up in Seattle and now lives in Los Angeles, where he waits patiently for the Sonics to return to the Pacific Northwest. In the meantime, he roots for the Clippers to become a winning franchise, and perhaps even the most popular team in their own city. You can follow him on Twitter @tpheifer.
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