Chris Paul suspects the Clippers are going need some help as this Western Conference playoff series shifts to Los Angeles.
Help from their fans.
Presumably, the Clipper point guard was talking about more than Penny Marshall and Billy Crystal.
For years, those two celebrities were about the only thing that the world knew of Clipper fans. The only good thing anyway. There was a time not so long ago when a Google search for “Clippers fans” turned up pictures of lots of folks wearing paper bags on their heads.
Who could blame them? The Clippers have had some dark days. Dark decades, really.
But, of course, that has changed, and so, too, has the Clipper Nation.
So, with the Clippers notching a road victory against the Thunder and holding home-court advantage over the last five games of this series, what kind of home court do the Clippers have? What is the Thunder going to face in LA, where it must win at least once if it is going to win this series?
For starters, the Clipper fan base has grown considerably. Yes, Penny and Billy are still going to games, but so are 19,210 other folks. This season, the Clippers were one of only seven teams to average more than 19,000 fans and one of only eight teams to sell out the season.
My, how things have changed.
The Lakers, of course, have long been the team in Los Angeles. They’ve won the titles. They’ve had the superstars. They’ve been the darlings.
The Clippers, of course, have been on the opposite end of the spectrum.
So, there was an interesting dynamic when the teams moved in together in 1999. That’s when the Staples Center opened and brought the polar opposites together. They have different locker rooms. They have separate set-ups for their games, the floor, goals and signage getting changed out. Even the lighting is different.
Watch a Lakers game on TV, and the floor is spotlighted with the stands seemingly in the shadows.
Watch a Clippers game, and the arena is more uniformly lit.
But even as the Clippers did what they could to make the arena their own, it was still the Lakers’ house. All the championship banners. All the retired numbers. All of that hung in the rafters and over the Clippers.
Doc Rivers thought it was crazy that those Lakers banners were still visible during Clippers games. So, last fall before his first season as the Clippers coach, he asked that the gold and purple banners be covered for their games.
“Listen, I think this is our arena when we play,” Rivers told the Los Angeles Times then. “No disrespect to (the Lakers). But when we play, it’s the Clippers’ arena as far as I know.”
Now, the Lakers’ banners are covered by large panels with photos of some of the Clippers. Jamal Crawford. Blake Griffin. J.J. Redick. DeAndre Jordan. Jared Dudley. Chris Paul. Matt Barnes.
Has it helped the Clippers win any more games?
But it’s a sign of the change in the Clippers’ culture. No more deferring. No more playing second fiddle.
They’re even drawing more Hollywood types these days. Frankie Muniz has become a regular. Kanye West and the Kardashian clan made a cameo appearance earlier this season. Ditto for Kate Upton.
Have they jumped on the suddenly sexy bandwagon?
Have most of the folks who’ve taken to the Clippers?
But if you add the atmosphere that they’ll create to the talented team that the Clippers will put on the floor, Los Angeles will be a tough place for the Thunder to win. It’s no Peake, but it’s no piece of cake either.
Jenni Carlson: Jenni can be reached at 475-4125. Like her at facebook.com/JenniCarlsonOK, follow her at twitter.com/jennicarlson_ok or view her personality page at newsok.com/jennicarlson.