“I think Blake and DeAndre made the Clippers interesting, like they got something over there. CP, Caron and Chauncey [Billups] and all those guys came next and it was like, ‘Okay, they’re serious,’ ” said Jamal Crawford, a former sixth man of the year who signed last summer, along with Grant Hill, Matt Barnes and Ronny Turiaf. “What they did this summer, I think it changed the whole perception of the Clippers. I came here on my visit like, ‘The Clippers got all this?’ ”
Reserve forward Lamar Odom spent his first four seasons with the Clippers before scurrying to Miami the moment he became a free agent, calling the team “basketball hell.” Odom returned to the Clippers in a June trade from Dallas and hardly feels like he has come back to the same organization.
When Odom arrived in 1999, the team practiced at the gym of a small community college. Now it has a spacious, state-of-the-art practice facility, built in Playa Vista prior to the selection of Griffin. And instead of having a roster of young players competing for minutes, points and acclaim, the Clippers now have veterans who have achieved success and are eager to win.
“It’s totally different,” said Odom, who won two championships with the crosstown Lakers. “We got the perfect mixture of a Finals MVP over there [Billups], Grant Hill, players like Chris Paul, players like myself that have played championship ball. Got guys that are locked in and going to be here for a while. First time, you thought that you were going to lose. Now we’re fighting to have the best record in the league.”
The Wizards (11-35) won the draft lottery in 2010 but have continued to struggle in subsequent seasons, going just 54-140 (.278) since selecting John Wall and unable to acquire an all-star player of the caliber of Paul. Butler said he is surprised to see his former team continue to struggle, because “they are very talented” and he actually credits the challenges of his last full season in Washington for some of the success he has experienced in Los Angeles.
“Going through that struggle of being on a 19-win team, you learn to appreciate all of the little things,” Butler said. “Having success in Dallas and being on a team like this here, trying to implement all the little things, like preparation, professionalism, consistency. We’ve got that here, along with a lot of talent.”