We continue previewing the Pacific Division with the LA Clippers. You can read past previews here.

by Seth Ferranti

For a minute this offseason it looked like the Clippers finally put all the pieces together. With a potential lineup featuring two legitimate All-Stars – Baron Davis and Elton Brand – it looked like the Paper Clips would be able to contend in the powerful Western Conference.

But alas, it was just a pipe dream, because as soon as Baron Davis signed, Elton Brand bolted to Philly. It seems that the woeful Clipper management lowballed Brand and he decided to get the hell out of town. To a lifelong Clipper fan like me that really bites it, but I am used to disappointment when it comes to my team.

I am a long-suffering Clipper fan. I’ve followed them since the days of Randy Smith and Swen Nater. I remember the Bill Walton fiasco and World B. Free firing-up shots from everywhere on the court. I witnessed the highs of the Danny Manning- and Ron Harper-led Larry Brown playoff teams to the hopes of the Lamar Odom, Darius Miles, Q. Richardson squads to the recent Sam Cassell and Brand playoff monsters that were almost there. They were so close but now it has all imploded again. But still I have faith in my team.

I forgive them for being an NBA laughingstock and cellar dweller. I forgive them for past mistakes like drafting Benjamin Benoit and Michael Olowkandi. I forgive them for letting Elgin Baylor mess up, again and again and again. My love for the Paper Clips is everlasting. I’m not a new age Hollywood fan like Billy Crystal, I’m a lifelong fan who was born and raised in San Diego and remembers the Terry Cummings for Marques Johnson and Byron Scott for Norm Nixon trades with distaste in my mouth. But it’s all good so I’ll stop reminiscing and tell you about my hopes for this year’s team.

It would have been nice to keep Corey Maggette, but the Duke product was allowed to bounce up the coast to the Warriors. In Clipper Nation, we are now looking at a starting lineup of Baron Davis at the point, Cutino Mobley at the two, Al Thorton at the three and Chris Kaman and Marcus Camby in the power spots, not a championship lineup but a playoff lineup nonetheless, and the Clips will make the playoffs. The seed just depends on Baron’s health. Baron Davis is that transcendent player that the Clips have never had.

That guy with Superstar potential who can put a team on his back. Baron Davis can win the MVP. He has that type of talent. It’s just a big if to see is his body will hold up. He was the force that put the Warriors on his back and led them to their recent success. After being written-off due to his injury plagued years with the Hornets, he made it all the way back to the limelight with his play on the Warriors. This Clipper fan is hoping he can make it a special homecoming in LA and bring that energy, fire and star status to the Clip Nation. I put it all on Baron Davis’ shoulders – the Clips will live and die with him.

Other than Davis, who is the only bona fide star on the roster, the Clips have a solid crew of supporting players and potential. Camby is a beast and knows how to win, when he is healthy that is. But if you look at it like a straight trade, Davis and Camby for Brand and Maggette maybe the Clips got the better deal. Mobley is solid if not spectacular. Kaman is a potential top five center if he stays focused, After his Olympic debut as a German, here’s hoping he can give the Clips his all, because they will need him to get a double-double every night. If Kaman and Camby can give that type of production along with big man defense, look out. Al Thorton is only getting better and his energy and hustle are very desirable traits at the three. He just needs to improve his outside shot. So the starting five is solid. Now to the bench.

Ricky Davis and Tim Thomas are big question marks because you never know what you will get. Both players always had the potential to be scary good, but both players never lived up to the hype. But I think in roles off the bench, they can contribute. If either of them start, then the Clips are in trouble. Brian Skinner and Paul Davis are serviceable backups at best – if either of them start, the Clips are in very big trouble as well.

Now we get to the potential: Eric Gordon. If Gordon can be that scoring spark off the bench while being groomed to take Mobley’s place, the Clips can compete in the West’s upper echelons because for real, this kid can be crazy good. All the elements are there and this team looks a lot better going in then last year; it’s just a question of all the players staying healthy and playing ball because the talent is definitely there. I applaud Elgin Baylor and Mike Dunleavey for putting this team together and can’t wait to see them on the floor together.

My prediction is 50 wins and a mid-table playoff spot, maybe the 5th seed. We will see. All hail to the Clipper Nation. Don’t jump on the bandwagon when the going gets good. If you are a hater, then stay a hater because the Clipper Nation doesn’t need you. Enough said.

You can order Seth Ferranti’s books, Street Legends and Prison Stories, at gorillaconvict.com. Also check out his work in Don Diva, Feds, Street Elements, Street Lit Review and urbanbooksource.com. If you want to get the 411 on convicts, street legends, prison gangs, the Mafia and life in the belly of the beast then check out Seth’s blog at gorillaconvict.com/blog.