In honor of the Clippers making a rare postseason appearance, I wanna take a look at the first time I noticed the Los Angeles Clippers (and, in turn, became my second team to watch).
After Magic Johnson‘s forced retirement in 1991, another NBA team in Los Angeles made the most out of its opportunity.
Out of the cellar came the Los Angeles Clippers. I took notice when they beat the Lakers in OT very early in the season. I sensed that there was a changing of the guard there since the Lakers were no longer Showtime and that the Clippers boasted a roster that had a nice young core in Danny Manning, Charles Smith, Ken Norman, Ron Harper, Gary Grant, and Loy Vaught. They also had some wily veterans that included James Edwards (two championship rings!) and Doc Rivers (yes, people… the Celtics coach used to play ball, too). The Clippers then won eight straight early that year (they haven’t won eight straight since as a franchise, including this season!).
After that long winning streak, the Clippers were brought down to Earth by going 7-14 the next 21 games. Mike Schuler was then let go as a head coach. The Clippers then got Larry Brown (who had been fired by San Antonio earlier that year) to replace Schuler. The Clippers went on their most memorable stretch of the season as they won five straight against playoff-caliber teams in the Western Conference. One of those games included a 93-92 win over the #1 Portland TrailBlazers squad after a James Edwards go-ahead jumper. I still have images of Larry Brown running off the court in my head after that shocking win. The Clippers were quite the cardiac kids during that season as they came back in multiple games to win after being down double digits.
I remember when the Clippers had a chance to eliminate the Lakers from the playoff picture at the last game of the regular season. Sedale Threatt made a jumper after he seemingly pushed Doc Rivers off. That jumper gave the Lakers a one-point win in overtime as well as that playoff berth. God. That was 20 years ago and I still remember all of this as if it was yesterday.
Even though the Clips failed in their attempt to put away the Lakers, the Clippers finished 45-37 (franchise best at the time since they moved to L.A.). That was good for the seventh seed in the wild Western Conference.
The Clippers drew the Utah Jazz in the first round. After the Jazz won their first two at home, the Clippers came back to win the next two. Game 4 was held in the Anaheim Convention Center because of the L.A. riots. The Jazz then held serve and put away the Clippers in Game 5, 98-89. It wasn’t a long playoff run for them but it was definitely memorable because it was uncharted territory for the Los Angeles Clippers.
The next year was more of the same for the Clippers. They traded Charles Smith to New York (Knicks fans remember what he did there) for Mark Jackson and a first-round pick to Orlando for Stanley Roberts but lost another five-game barnburner in the first round of the postseason (this time to the Houston Rockets). Coach Larry Brown fleed the Clippers for the Indiana Pacers the following year… and the Clippers went back to the cellar.
I’m pretty positive that this current Clipper squad ain’t going back to the cellar anytime soon.