Chris Paul is coming back through town. Blake Griffin is coming home. Sounds nice. Sounds quaint. Sounds like a slice of Americana.
Sounds can be deceiving.
This is not going to be pleasant. Not going to be nice. Our first NBA hero and our greatest homegrown hoopster might as well be wearing horns as they come to Oklahoma City. They are Clippers, and they are alley fighters, and they are enemies of the state.
The Thunder hosts the Clippers on Monday night in Game 1 of the Western Conference semifinals, and by the time this series is over, Paul and Griffin will be persona non grata. Unwelcome. Strangers in their own land.
That’s what playoff basketball produces. Familiarity feeds contempt. Night after night of rugged basketball will certainly bring familiarity. Think about it this way, Thunder fans. You’ve seen Marc Gasol and Tony Allen play more ballgames in the last two weeks than you’ve seen Trevor Knight or J.W. Walsh quarterback in their careers.
And you’re about to get more than your fill of Paul and Griffin. To know, know, know them is to loathe, loathe, loathe them.
CP3, a Hornet rookie in OKC when the world was young, and Griffin, OKC born and bred, plus an OU star to boot, are ballplayers of the highest order. Paul is considered the world’s best point guard, Griffin the greatest Oklahoma-produced basketball player ever.
They are the reason the Clippers were NBA relevant even before goofball owner Donald Sterling made headlines. Paul and Griffin have made the Clips title contenders.
They are exquisite athletes. They also are aggressive, which is a kind way of saying they are mean. Mean and edgy. They are agitator and instigator, as the Thunder broadcast crews are more than willing to remind you.
Which is OK, so long as you remember the truth. The Thunder isn’t countering with the Vienna Boys Choir. Oh, Kevin Durant probably could get admitted. But Kendrick Perkins and Russell Westbrook and Steven Adams? They’ve got a little mean themselves. Agitating and instigating are not averse to the Oklahoma plains.
No matter if this series goes four games or seven, it’s going to be contentious. Paul and Westbrook will get under the skin of multiple opponents. Griffin will scrape with Perk or Serge Ibaka or Adams or maybe all three. Boos, and not a few, will rain down from Loud City.
That’s just the way it goes. Not anything anybody could do about it.
If it was up to the citizenry, Paul and the Hornets never would have left. We’re the luckiest fan base this side of San Antone. An NBA franchise fell in our lap, just as a cool rookie point guard fell in its lap. But like good Okie Garth Brooks wrote, sometimes I thank God for unanswered prayers. Oklahoma loved CP3 and the Hornets, but nothing like it loves Durant and the Thunder.
If it was up to the citizenry, Griffin would have landed in OKC in the 2009 lottery. The Thunder settled for third pick that year and took James Harden, a wondrous selection that brought glory and angst. But add Griffin to a lineup of Durant, Westbrook and Ibaka. Are you kidding me? Who knows how it would have turned out. If you’re looking for a way to kill the lunch hour today, start a debate on whether Griffin would still be with Big Blue had the Thunder hit the lotto.
So it’s not like Oklahomans ever cut the cord from those two. Not like they shirked Oklahoma. Griffin was drafted by the Clips. Paul went back to New Orleans. Nothing anybody could do about it.
And there’s nothing anybody can do about their return. They are wearing red. Advancing to the West finals means more than some sentimental homecoming. They are trying to take the Thunder’s lunch money. And when this series is over, they are not going to be well-loved in their old haunt of OKC.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at . He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.