The basketball gods are smiling down at the Los Anegeles Clippers — sheepishly. The Clippers have bolstered themselves into the class of NBA elite in the past six months, and they’re being tested early and often with a schedule of landmines early in this season.
The Clippers opened their season against the Los Angeles Lakers with whom they share a city and a floor. Yet the Lakers’ basketball acumen and success defines the very class the Clippers have been anointed. Last season’s Pacific Division champions had just 24 hours to shake off their eventual loss to the Lakers as they got set to host a Golden State Warrior team that mirrors the Clippers’ lack of championship success, premier talent on and off the bench, and escalated league power ranking.
An aggressive Chris Paul led his Clipper team to a road victory against the Warriors and on the second game of a back-to-back to face a Sacramento Kings team that gave their visitors little breathing room. Eventually, too much Paul awarded the Clippers with a win as they escape Northern California above .500.
Monday, somewhere in Los Angeles, there’s a familiar face who’s replaced his “Superman” cape with chip on his shoulder preparing to take his place on Staples Center’s court. The Houston Rockets are in town, and they bring with them their co-franchise player, Dwight Howard. The former Defensive-Player-of-the-Year stomached last season as a Laker. Subsequently, the city of Los Angeles never showed up at Howard’s residence with fresh baked cookies to welcome the future free-agent to the neighborhood.
A half-healthy Howard became the scapegoat for an underachieving Laker team in the 2012-13 season, forcing the fun out basketball for the center and into Houston to join the best shooting guard in game, James Harden, and head coach Kevin Mchale. The Rockets now have the best center in the game, healthy, and eager to take out the frustration of his old team on the city of Los Angeles.
Monday night it’ll be the Clippers standing in the way of a man looking to make a statement. It’s their third true test in four games, and they haven’t even left the state of California.
ChristopherBrown is an NBA writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @whatrockschris. Like him on Facebook-Christopher-Rant Sports.