Eisenberg: Emeka Okafor Could Change the Landscape of the Western Conference

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Western ConferenceAt this very moment, the fate of the Western Conference might be hanging in the balance of the Phoenix Suns’ front office.

Let me explain.

Let’s start out with a simple question:

Does anyone still take the Clippers seriously as Western Conference favorites? We’ve seen this act before: Chris Paul and Lob City put up highlights every night and make fans drool over the thought of a potential star-studded Heat-Clippers Final.

When the playoffs eventually come around, however, the Clippers recede back to looking like the fourth- or fifth best team in a loaded Western Conference. Sure, they pushed the Grizzlies to seven games last year. However, if you think DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin can effectively defend top-ranked opponents for an entire postseason, I’d like to invite you to play a quick game of “Name That Big Man.”

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Tweet of the Night: Clippers React To Big Win Over Bulls

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DerrickRoseFS1Life without Derrick Rose isn’t necessarily bad for everybody.

And while the Bulls have proven they can make noise without their All-Star point guard, the Los Angeles Clippers may have caught them at the best possible time: the first game after Rose was diagnoses with a torn meniscus.

Forget the Jerseys. Check Out the Awesome NBA Christmas Commercial

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By now, you’ve probably already had a peek at the jerseys NBA players will be wearing on Christmas.

Dwight Howard Rockets sleeves

Yes, they have sleeves.

Now, if Santa leaves one of these under your tree, you may not be so happy. They are clearly not conventional jerseys, which remain incredibly popular. And they are not quite T-shirts, either. They are somewhere in between.

The sleeved jerseys are unquestionably a marketing tool. In addition to being a new item that many fans believe they have to have, the sleeves have extra real estate not found on conventional jerseys that opens the door for – gasp! – branding on uniforms.

But before going all Grinch and labeling this as another unabashed money grab, you might want to get into the holiday spirit an bit early and take a look at the commercial the NBA put together to hype its annual Christmas quintupleheader.

I don’t know about you, but that was about a zillion times more impressive than last year’s ball-bouncing tune.

And if you’d like a peek at how they went about creating the advertisement, take a look at the video below:

FYI, here’s the lineup of teams that will be wearing the jerseys on Christmas:

At noon ET, the Chicago Bulls visit the Brooklyn Nets on ESPN. At 2:30 p.m. ET, ABC’s doubleheader begins with the New York Knicks hosting the Oklahoma City Thunder followed by the Miami Heat visiting the Los Angeles Lakers.

At 8 p.m. ET, it’s back over to ESPN for another doubleheader. First, the Houston Rockets visit the San Antonio Spurs before the Golden State Warriors host the Los Angeles Clippers.

Thirteen hours of NBA action, with cool commercials? Who needs a sleeved jersey?

Tweet of the Night: Matt Barnes says “I’m DONE standing up for these niggas!”

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IbakaThings got tense between the Los Angeles Clippers and Oklahoma City Thunder on Wednesday when Blake Griffin and Serge Ibaka got tangled up near the end of the second quarter.

After getting fouled by Ibaka on a shot attempt near the rim, Griffin got a hold of Ibaka’s arm and held on tight. The natural reaction by Ibaka was to set himself free from the hold, but it appeared as if he had shoved Griffin from the back in the process. Interjecting immediately with a shove was Matt Barnes, who is never one to back away from defending a teammate.

Things did not escalate from there, as Barnes, Ibaka and Griffin were all eventually separated. The refs, however, felt all the commotion was bad enough to eject both Barnes and Ibaka, while handing out a technical foul against Griffin. Some weren’t so appreciative of the ruling, as there appeared to be no need to hand out automatic ejections over one shove and a whole lot of talking:

Hubbard: Clippers Fans Acting Like Owner Donald Sterling

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Donald SterlingOver the years, bashing the Clippers has hardly been an art form primarily because if anyone can do it, it’s not art.

As lousy of a history as the Clippers have had, they have always been an underground favorite of writers. At certain points of the season, most writers have some sort of burnout. When that happens, Clips owner Donald Sterling will inevitably do something absurd and, boom, you’ve got a column.

The wacky Sterling stories are so numerous that it’s difficult to pick a favorite one. But as I was researching some of the stories written on him with the goal of better understanding Clippers mentality, one that seemed to connect the present with the past involved Baron Davis.

Davis averaged 14.9 and 15.3 points, respectively, in his two seasons (2008-10) with the Clippers but made only 37 percent of his shots the first season and 41 percent the second. He had some injury problems and certainly did not have a strong supporting cast – as seasons of 19 and 29 wins would indicate – but he did not play as well as he had before getting a five-year, $65 million deal. Sterling soon became disenchanted.

150px-Baron_Davis_has_the_sadSo how did the owner distinguish himself in handling that unhappiness? Like no other owner would. According to Yahoo! Sports, Sterling began taunting Davis during games from courtside. From Yahoo!:

“Among Sterling’s verbal barbs . . . ‘Why are you in the game?’ . . . ‘Why did you take that shot?’ . . . ‘You’re out of shape!’”

Sterling apparently did not confine his ridicule to Davis and reportedly heckled some of his other players. But it is the rare owner who verbally attacks a player during a game.

While that was hardly Sterling’s strangest performance, perhaps it provides insight on what happened last week when the Rockets visited the Clippers. I’m not sure that I can scientifically prove that fans of any team adopt the traits of the team owner, but let’s just say Clippers fans did not distinguish themselves admirably on Monday night when Dwight Howard returned to Los Angeles for the first time since leaving the Lakers for the Rockets.

The Clippers moved to Los Angeles in 1984, so for 30 years they’ve been trying to establish a rivalry with the Lakers and have largely failed because they’ve been so lousy. But to build a rivalry, you can’t like the other team. Clippers fans are supposed to treat the Lakers like fans from the Cubs treat the White Sox, or fans of the Jets treat the Giants. You don’t root for the rival that you are supposed to despise.

But not Clippers fans. They booed Howard when he was introduced and each time he touched the ball, which tells you all you need to know about Clippers fans. They were booing the player who would have made their in-town rival better.

Some might argue that when Kobe Bryant returns, the presence of Howard would have made the Lakers superior to the Clippers – indeed, the Lakers managed to win the first game of the “hallway rivalry” by 13 points with no Bryant or Howard. So why were Clippers fans upset with Howard? They should be cheering him for leaving.

crystalNow, I understand that there was an element of city pride involved. It is difficult for an Angeleno to understand why someone would rather live anywhere else.

Houston? Please.

But it would have been far more sophisticated to cheer Howard. Think of the message that would have sent to the Lakers and their fans.

Great move, Dwight. And by the way Lakers, you suck.

Then again, when you have an owner who badgers his own players during a game, it may be a lot to expect for the fans as a whole to be any sharper.

These are supposed to be new times for the Clippers. They have the best talent in their history. Chris Paul, who is a transcendent player and leader, is in his third year with the team. Blake Griffin, still unrefined offensively but still a scoring machine, is an elite talent. And Doc Rivers provides coaching . . . and apparently common sense.

One of Rivers’ first acts was to have all Lakers championship banners and retired numbers to be covered during Clippers home games. Why have the Lakers’ success slap the Clippers in the face on their home court? You can bet if Rivers had been in the stands last week, he would have been leading the cheers for Howard, not booing.

But there is just something about the Clippers. You know how certain people are special because they have the “it” factor? Whatever the opposite of that is, the Clippers have it. They are the “non-its” of the sports world.

One of the stories I found about Sterling, who has had his share of ugly headlineshad to do when he bought the San Diego Clippers in 1981. One of his first promotions was an event that was billed as “The First Annual New Year’s Eve Luncheon.”

It was held on Jan. 7.

Sometimes, I guess, it’s difficult to get those dates straight. And apparently knowing which team to cheer for can also be a challenge . . . for some.

CHECK OUT JAN HUBBARD’S ARCHIVE FROM SHERIDAN HOOPS.COM. TERRIFIC STUFF ON THE NBA, PAST AND PRESENT.

Jan Hubbard has written about basketball since 1976 and worked in the NBA league office for eight years between media stints. Follow him on Twitter at @whyhub.