x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

LA Clippers are champions of defeat

In North American professional sports, however, there is a singular club that is so reliably inept and so outdistances the field that there can be no debate.

The worst professional sports franchise ever. That would make for an interesting, if ignoble, list-topper. Contenders from all over the globe coming together for the ultimate contest in sports ugly.

In North American professional sports, however, there is a singular club that is so reliably inept and so outdistances the field that there can be no debate … the Los Angeles Clippers!

If nothing else, the "other" Los Angeles club are remarkable in their consistency. Bad today, bad yesterday, bad just about every day. They have six winning seasons in their 40-year history. In their 27 seasons in LA (previous stops: San Diego, Buffalo) they have managed two winning seasons.

The Clippers are one of only three NBA teams, along with the Memphis Grizzlies (founded in Vancouver in 1995) and Charlotte Bobcats (2004) never to have won a divisional title.

Now here they are again, version 2010/11, still the same not-so-lovable losers. The Clippers are off to an NBA-worst 1-13 start. Which doesn't even approach their 0-17 start of 1998/99.

Almost improbably, an attitude vaguely resembling "hope" had been associated with the team a month ago. Blake Griffin, a forward and the top pick of the 2009 draft, missed all of his first season with an injury but was back and looked impressive. The Clippers had an improved Eric Gordon, the guard who helped carry Team USA to the Fiba World Championship in Turkey. They added Al-Faroug Aminu, the No 8 overall pick in this year's draft. They brought in Vinny Del Negro as their new coach.

And they are the biggest losers in the NBA again. "Something has got to change," Griffin said after a 107-80 defeat to the Indiana Pacers on Thursday left them 0-7 on the road, though he did not indicate why change would happen now, after all these years.

A 40-year refrain. The faces change, but the results remain the same. All while playing in the same city as the NBA champions, the Lakers.

Over the years, the Clippers have had 29 top-10 draft picks. Three times they have had the first pick, most infamously taking all-time bust Michael Olowokandi No 1 in 1998. Their roster is continually being made over, as draft picks and free agents prove disasters, or those few who do develop eagerly await fleeing the moment they become free agents.

Last Monday the Clippers' starting line-up featured two 20-year-olds, a pair of 21-year-olds, and the 22-year-old DeAndre Jordan. They lost 110-96 to the New Jersey Nets. Baron Davis, the veteran guard, was meant to lead the kids, but he was out with a sore something. Mostly, the Clippers are disappointed he came to camp woefully out of shape. He was supposed to be their missing link when he signed for $65 million (Dh238.7m) in 2008. He has proven to be their latest fiasco.

The one constant for the past 29 years of this ongoing disaster is Donald Sterling, the owner renowned as the Scrooge of the NBA. He is being sued by Elgin Baylor, the former general manager, for "a racist attitude". Mike Dunleavy, the coach fired early this year, has filed an arbitration claim for $6.75 million for unpaid salary. And the defeats keep coming.


Players of the week
• Michael Beasley, Minnesota: The Timberwolves’ forward, pictured below, acquired from the Heat for a second-round draft pick as Miami cleared salary space for LeBron James and Co, averaged 28.6 points and 7.3 rebounds in three games.
• Tony Parker, San Antonio: Apparently not distracted by the announcement that Eva Longoria, his actress wife, will divorce him, the Spurs point guard averaged 21.3 points and 7.7 assists in three victories last week.
• Monta Ellis, Golden State: The guard averaged 33.5 points in two games with the Warriors. His season scoring average of 27.7 is second in the league.

Teams of the week
• San Antonio: The Spurs won three more to take their winning streak to 10. Their 11-1 record leads the NBA.
• Oklahoma: The Thunder went 4-0, including wins at Utah and Boston. Their last two victories came without Kevin Durant, the NBA’s leading scorer, who is out with a sprained ankle.

Dud of the week
• Ron Artest, LA Lakers: The hero of Game 7 in the NBA Finals is off to a rough start. In three games, he averaged five points and four rebounds.

Games of the week
• Miami Heat at Orlando Magic (Wednesday): The Heat’s signature victory was their 96-70 win at home over the Magic. Orlando get a chance to return the favour.
• Sacramento Kings at LA Clippers (Thursday): Of the Clippers’ next six opponents, the Kings are the only team with a losing record, and their best hope to avoid a 15-game losing streak.