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Clippers Need To Learn How To Win

After the Los Angeles Clippers defeated the Los Angeles Lakers 108-103 on Wednesday in the second of two preseason meetings between the teams, Lakers forward Matt Barnes took issue with the “Lob City” Clippers:

They definitely have a much improved team here and are looking to make a push towards the playoffs. “They have a lot of reason to be excited, but all the celebration after dunks and all that kind of stuff, I mean, I just kind of think it looks amazing and it makes ‘SportsCenter,’ but I mean, let’s just play basketball. They act like they won the dunk contest after every dunk. So, as players, people aren’t going to tolerate that.

Whether or not the last bit about “people aren’t going to tolerate that” is a threat to the Clippers is unclear, but Barnes did take exception in the third quarter of the game when he was assessed a flagrant 1 foul for shoving the Clippers’ Blake Griffin to the floor. Afterwards, Barnes spoke about the play and while he certainly disagreed with the call, he also accepted it:

I looked at [the replay] and yeah, my arms did get extended but [Griffin] flailed everywhere like I threw him to half-court. I just think the refs are so quick to judge. Even after looking at the replay, I heard initially they wanted to call a flagrant 2 and I’m just like, ‘Are you kidding me?’ I guess there’s just no hard fouls anymore. It was just a hard foul. That’s exactly what it was yesterday, my reputation. I’ve fouled people much harder than that. That’s all it is. … I have a reputation for stuff I’ve done, so I’ve earned it, so I can’t be mad at no one but myself, but that definitely wasn’t a flagrant foul.

When was the last time an NBA player said that he received a flagrant foul based on his reputation and then said that he “can’t be bad at no one but myself” because he earned that reputation? Countless players blame referees for assessing flagrant fouls based on reputation only. Almost no players admit that they earned that reputation and now have to live with the consequences. But Barnes stepped up and took the blame. He has certainly crossed the line in the past but at least he can admit that and live with it.

The final point Barnes touched on was Griffin’s inability to stay on his feet:

 He’s an amazing athlete and an amazing player but he does flop a lot. You’re too big and too strong to be doing that. Then he wants to talk. He’s a special athlete. Probably one of the best athletes I’ve ever seen, but all the flopping is unnecessary. That’s the way he plays and it works too, they call it, so you can’t be mad at him for it.

 Props again for Barnes giving credit to Griffin for flopping and getting the call. Griffin does go down easy. As Barnes eludes to, he’s one of the strongest players in the NBA and there’s no reason for him to flop. Beyond that, I disagree with Barnes that “you can’t be mad at him for it.” Sorry, flopping in any sport (soccer!) hurts the legitimacy of the sport. The goal of sports is to beat the other team, not to trick officials into helping you beat the other team. If the Clippers need to flop to beat the Lakers, then the Lakers are the better team.

But I don’t think that’s the case anymore. Last year, the Clippers went 28-54 so many teams overlooked the flopping and excessive celebrations because in the end, the Clippers just weren’t that good a team. The celebrations lifted the spirits for the players and fans who had to endure 54 losses. The flopping gave them a slightly higher chance of winning, though that chance was still low.

This year is different. With Chris Paul and Chauncey Billups in the backcourt, the Clippers are going to win a lot of games. Teams aren’t going to sit back and let them get away with those things anymore. Griffin and company need to grow up fast. Act like you’ve been there before. Beat teams fairly without flopping to the ground. Respect the game. With Billups in the locker room, he should be able to provide a veteran presence to teach this team how to be winners. If not, Barnes’ threat may just come true.

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