Oram: In trading Blake Griffin, the Clippers gave up what they have so often been without — a superstar

first_imgA superstar.Being competitive and entertaining, while employing at least one future Hall of Famer suddenly isn’t good enough for the Clippers.Doc Rivers, thought to be a dead man walking after being stripped of his front office duties last summer, has capably guided the Clippers to a 25-24 record and should be in the conversation for NBA Coach of the Year. If you needed any more proof that he is no longer calling the shots in Playa Vista, this deal seals it.Flawed executive that he was, Rivers never would have cheerleaded this trade.The Clippers get back Avery Bradley, the former Celtic who will be a free agent next summer; Harris, who averaged a career-high 18.1 points through 48 games for the Pistons; and Boban Marjanovic, another player whose contract will be up in 2019.All of this paves the way for the Clippers to have scads of cap room in 2019, the summer Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson become free agents, with LeBron James another potential target depending on how this summer goes.C’mon. Quick, who is the best free agent from another team the Clippers have ever signed? Caron Butler? Cuttino Mobley?West and Rivers have gravitas and command respect in any free agent pitch, but it feels like a heck of a gamble to ask the Clippers to rebuild via free agency.Nonetheless, the Clippers appear to be pushing forth with the belief that they can accomplish something the organization has never done, lure a top free agent, just so they can do something the franchise has done only once: emerge from the shallows of NBA irrelevance to construct a roster that can contend for a championship.This season the franchise’s streak of five straight 50-win seasons will end. And it’s important to note that these are the only five seasons the franchise had ever won 50 games. Not just in Los Angeles, not just as the Clippers. Dating to the 1970-71 origins of this outfit, when Dolph Schayes coached the expansion Buffalo Braves to a mere 22 victories, the Clippers have never been as good as they were since Griffin arrived.He will be remembered for leaping over a Kia in the dunk contest and for his goofy commercials. No retrospective will ever be complete without mention of the night he punched a team equipment manager, his friend, in the face, breaking his own hand.Nostalgia would seem a silly measure of a trade, if not for the fact that was precisely what the Clippers sold Griffin on when they enticed him to forgo free agency and re-sign with them in July (albeit without the no-trade clause he might now wish he’d demanded).Griffin, who turns 29 in March, was guided into his own personal history museum inside Staples Center, replete with the Clippers’ public address announcer shouting out his career accomplishments as a No. 32 jersey was raised into the rafters.The Clippers have never retired a jersey, mind you. And as the Lakers’ plans to erect a statue in the honor of Elgin Baylor brought painfully to mind, no player in Clippers history is worthy of a permanent tribute.Griffin was likely that player (Paul would have been too, until he orchestrated his way out of town). But in today’s NBA, teams believe rebuilding can only be done by sinking like a stone to the bottom, collecting draft picks and swinging for the fences in free agency.It is downright galling that the Clippers would see that as their best hope when that strategy has repeatedly blown up in the faces of their supposed rivals, the Lakers, a team that actually has the rotting husk of a legacy to sell.The Clippers don’t even have that. They gave up on the possibility of having that.The reasons the Clippers are moving on from Griffin now are no different from the reasons they should have let him walk last summer. He is an injury-addled forward with diminishing athleticism, and with minimal draft assets the Clippers were left with the beg-and-hope approach in free agency.They collected Patrick Beverley as part of the return for Paul and acquired Danilo Gallinari in a sign-and-trade (three years, $64.6 million).At 28 years old, Griffin has already endured more injuries than most teams. His toe injury in the playoffs last April likely cost the Clippers a first-round series win against the Utah Jazz and greased the wheels for Paul’s power play out of town.The only thing that separates this from what the disgraced Donald Sterling would have done is that he would have never spent the money to retain Griffin in the first place.Given the events of Monday, that, sadly, would have been the right move. Hope you enjoyed it while it lasted.Because on Monday, barely six months after they convinced the best player in the history of their history-barren franchise to commit to them for the prime of his career, the Clippers traded Blake Griffin and summarily ended the only era of their franchise that has brought anyone any happiness.Ignore the pennies-on-the-dollar return and the implications for what remains of a season that has been so unexpectedly impressive. This is about loyalty, which the Clippers pleaded for from Griffin when he was a free agent last summer and then so callously dismissed after they conned him into committing for the next five years (at $173 million).The message is clear. DeAndre Jordan, thanks for your service. You’re next.Lou Williams, ye of the late-game heroics and the fun but futile All-Star campaign, your bags are packed and waiting for you at the door.This is an all-out fire sale from the Clippers and if, somehow, the Clippers fail to find new homes for those two players before the Feb. 8 trade deadline, then what in the world are Steve Ballmer, Lawrence Frank and Jerry West doing?The Clippers are trying to do the hardest thing in NBA rebuilding, which is to stay in the playoff hunt while also rebuilding. Tobias Harris, the best player coming back in the Griffin deal, is a valuable forward who can score from all over the court.And while there might be a reasonable basketball justification for this deal – Harris making up for much of Griffin’s production with fewer years committed – the Clippers (for the second time since June, when Chris Paul forced their hand) traded in the one thing they spent the majority of their existence without.center_img Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Errorlast_img

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