Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The Overreaction Threat Scale

The Clippers Game 7 win was big, but is it really a franchise changer?
For some unexplainable reason, the sports media has morphed into a giant panic button. Every recent contest is “the greatest,” every collapse “the worst,” and every story “the most shocking.” Talk shows thrive on inane “controversies” like the Jeremy Lin headline, and build entire segments around topics such as, “is Eli better than Peyton ?” simply because of one game.  How, in an arena full of objective statistics and game footage, did we get here?

Since this trend cannot go unchecked, I am instituting the Overreaction Threat Scale (OTS). Modeled after the now-defunct Homeland Security Terror Alert Scale, the OTS is Boris Diaw Time’s way of calling shenanigans on the sports media. As idiotic stories pop up, we’ll test them against the OTS and see just how big of an overreaction they are. Yes, for the first time, you’ll not only know that these stories are stupid, you’ll know EXACTLY how stupid they are.

The Scale

Green – Little to no overreaction
Blue – Mild overreaction
Yellow – Elevated overreaction
Orange – Heavy overreaction
Red – Severe/Ridiculous/Ludicrous overreaction


Overreaction Threat Level: Orange

The Situation

On Monday night’s Around the Horn, the panel discussed whether or not the Clippers Game 7 win over Memphis was a “franchise changing win.” ATH isn’t the only media outlet discussing this topic, as several other radio shows broached the subject as well. So, are they blowing the Clippers Round 1 victory out of proportion?

The case for this being a franchise changing win is quite obvious. It’s no secret that the Clips have struggled, to say the least, for pretty the much the entirety of their existence. In fact, you could easily argue for them as the single worst franchise in professional sports, especially since their 1984 relocation to Los Angeles. Consider the following:

The L.A. Clippers have an all-time record of 762-1420 (.349)
The L.A. Clippers have been to the playoffs just 5 times
The L.A. Clippers have won exactly 1 playoff series
The L.A. Clippers have not earned a seed higher than the 5-seed they earned this season
The L.A. Clippers have never won their division
The L.A. Clippers franchise record for wins in a season is just 47
The L.A. Clippers have more sub-20 win seasons (7) than they do 40+ win seasons (5)

For a franchise this pathetic, winning a gritty, hard fought series in a deciding Game 7 is definitely a big deal.  I mean, if you’re a Clipper fan, this win definitely ranks as one of the two or three seminal moments of your basketball life! “Finally, something good! Finally, one time when WE came out on top!” Those are powerful emotions for a sports fan, emotions you’ll never ever forget as long as you’re alive.

Not only does the victory create positive emotions, but it also triumphs over many, many negative ones. Remember, this is not the first time the Clippers have entered a season with expectations. They’ve had their fair share of talent roll through town, but each and every one of those teams fell far short of the expectations put upon them. And that, in a nutshell, is the norm for the Clippers. Underachieving, falling short, failing to live up to goals. That has defined this franchise and has been the basis for their status as an NBA laughingstock.

But, despite all the underachieving before them, the failure of this year’s team to even remotely live up to expectations would have easily been the most disappointing point in franchise history. After landing the best point guard in the world and pairing him up with Blake Griffin, how could this squad fail? Well, with Sunday’s Game 7 win, the Clippers ended any such thought, ensuring the season would not be a failure. While that might be a ho-hum thing for the Celtics or Lakers, you better believe the Clippers are breathing massive sighs of relief.

Of course, if you’re paying close attention, you’ve noticed a trend in the pro-franchise changing camp. Every single argument is based on emotion and feeling. The Clippers win created a positive “feeling” in the franchise…it erased negative “feelings.” Therefore, since emotion is almost always the dumbest possible route to a solution, and is often the cause of overreaction, let’s go ahead and discard it. Let’s toss out the good feelings that come along with a big playoff win, and let’s get down to serious business. That means understanding that the Clippers have been in this very position before.

Prior to the 2005-2006 season, the Clippers had missed the playoffs 8 straight times. Things did not look much better for that season either, as they were coming off a 37 win season and were stuck in the toughest division in the NBA. The key acquisition of the offseason was old-man Sam Cassell, whose primary responsibility was to be mentoring the young Shaun Livingston. By the end of the season, the Clippers had a franchise record 47 wins and had won their first ever playoff series before blowing Game 7 in the West Semi’s. The team was loaded with young stars like Livingston, Elton Brand, Chris Kaman, and Corey Maggette, and looked to be one of the top up-and-coming teams in the league. The term “franchise changing” was often thrown around in relation to the team, just as it is now. How did that work out?

Within three years, the Clippers were picking #1 overall in the draft again after a disastrous 19 win season. Sam Cassell would never play well again, Elton Brand would blow his knee out and screw over the franchise, Corey Maggette would turn into an inescapable black hole, and Shaun Livingston’s knee would eventually resemble a folding chair. They would not have another winning season until this year, and would not make the playoffs again until this year.

The reason 2006 wasn’t franchise changing is simple; nothing changed. The common equation of all those bad Clippers teams was not the players, it was the management. 47 wins and a taste of playoff success did not change who ran the team or how he ran it.

Similarly, a 5-seed and a big Game 7 win this year is not going to change the fact that Donald Sterling owns the team. Talk show hosts can wax poetic on the Clippers glorious win all they want, but the fact is that all they’ve accomplished so far is a first round win. Nothing more, nothing less. Unfortunately, it seems like we’re having trouble keeping that in perspective.

As I’ve pointed out, the Clippers have been in this exact same position before. Not long ago, they were the hot young team, ready to take hold and change the culture of the organization. Obviously it didn’t happen. That’s not to say it can’t happen now, because it certainly can. If Sterling is as willing to spend money as he seems, and if he’s got smart basketball people working for him, then this just might work. After all, a Chris Paul-Blake Griffin duo is certainly formidable. But let’s not get carried away with anointing them just yet. Remember, this is a franchise that literally gave away the Kyrie Irving pick just because they wanted to dump Baron Davis’ contract (a contract they could have amnestied after the lockout, by the way). This is a franchise that is paying DeAndre Jordan $10mil per year. This is a franchise that has set the bar for incompetence. Getting out of the first round isn’t changing any of that. Call me when they actually win something.

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