Reasons I love this series:
There is legitimate bad blood in this series which always makes for some fun moments. Just last month the Clippers (namely CP3 and JJ Redick) got into a couple of dust ups with one Rudy Gobert. Rudy is one of the guys whose rise I predicted before his draft and it has been fun to watch him grow both physically and as a player. He’s now an enforcer around the rim and also not afraid to mix it up if someone steps to him. With the Clippers being composed of floppers and fake tough guys this was bound to happen and Rudy did not back down. Both teams have already been asked about the bad blood and acknowledge that it exists and will likely continue. Because of the Jazz style of play and the pressure on the Clippers to make something happen I expect this to only fuel Rudy (I swear to God he better be the NBA’s defensive player of the year) and his teammates as they look to put Utah back on the map.
The key to this series will be Gordon Hayward however.
First of all Gordon Hayward is a basketball minority. In a league where the White American superstar is pretty much extinct, Gordon Hayward is here to fuel the dreams of white ballers all across the nation that aren’t 7 feet tall. To put this into perspective there are only 5 White American players in the top 100 in PPG (#6 is actually Frank Kaminsky at 112) and Gordon is the only one who is the #1 option on his team. Some people won’t like that I bring that up but I think it’s relevant. (There’s a great article about this written by Marc Spears for The Undefeated–> (Link)). I feel like Gordon Hayward’s success is important to the league and as a fan of his since the Butler days (maaan if he had only hit that shot) it’s important to me.
This year he made the All-Star game and that is only the first real step on his rise to superstardom. He’s 27 so he’s just reaching the beginning of his prime (27-32 for most players) and now he has an opportunity to get the Jazz to the second round of the playoffs for the first time since the 2009-2010 season- the year before he was drafted. His first and only taste of the postseason came in the 2011-2012 season when they were the 8 seed and were swept by the Spurs. Gordon started every game averaged 7 points, 3 rebounds, and 3 assists per while shooting a miserable 18% from the field and 8% from 3 (No, these are not typos. It was bad.) Now he comes back as a 20 point per game scorer with expectations on his head and a player option for next year looming over him. At this point he is the most underappreciated star in the league and I’m looking forward to that changing.
As for the Clippers, what isn’t there to hate? They have to be the whiniest team in the league and it starts at the head. Doc Rivers is an overrated coach who has been propped up by winning due to the sheer talent he’s had at his disposal. Chris Paul runs this team and therein lies the problem. CP3 flops and cries all game and will go off on his teammates in the middle of crunch time when they are about to lose an important game. That’s fine if your teammates respond to it but the man children that are Blake and Deandre do not respond well and thus the postseason failings of the team. I said a long time ago that if Blake ever wanted to achieve post-season success he needed to get his big ass onto the block and develop two strong post moves. Instead he spent that time working on his jumper so he can shoot slow motion 3’s and contribute absolutely nothing to his team’s ability to control a lead or game down the stretch. With that said, I did see him post up a few times in a row down the stretch of a game recently as they looked to secure the 4 seed so perhaps it’s finally gotten through his head but I doubt it.
This is a make or break post-season for the Clippers and I think the Jazz are perfectly positioned to do the breaking.
My popcorn is ready.