Clippers just fine sans Baron Davis
Gordon and Bledsoe step up for L.A.'s first win and a glimpse of what can be
LOS ANGELES -- It's hard to say exactly what happened inside Staples Center on Wednesday night except that the Los Angeles Clippers beat the Oklahoma City Thunder 107-92 for their first win of the year, and Clipper Darrell staged one of the lamest strikes in labor history.
After saying on 710 ESPN Radio earlier in the day that he wouldn't wear his blue-and-red Clipper suit until his team won a game, the Clippers' superfan was rushing to the men's room in the third quarter -- with his team up by 15 -- to put on his suit again.
But besides any of that, it's hard to explain what in the heck happened. The Clippers didn't just beat the NBA's newest darlings, they crushed them. And leading the charge were rookie point guard Eric Bledsoe and third-year shooting guard Eric Gordon.
Chris Kaman continued his ice-cold start to the season, scoring only four points on 2-for-9 shooting.
And Baron Davis? He was on the bench again because of a sore left knee. He stood up and clapped a lot.
Which was nice. But on the court, the Clippers didn't seem to miss him much at all.
Actually, unencumbered by the perpetual frustration of "Waiting for Baron," the Clippers appeared to play better without him.
Their previously inept offense -- averaging a league-low 87.5 points a game coming into Wednesday -- looked as if it got a shot of five-hour energy drink before the game.
Bledsoe -- the rookie out of Kentucky you probably haven't heard of because there was this other really good point guard in Lexington last season -- was electric.
"I like the way he plays," said Gordon, who led all scorers with 27 points. "He's running full speed the whole game. ... He brings us a lot of energy. He pushes the ball. He really changes the game."
It's hard to describe what Bledsoe did Wednesday to finish with 17 points (7-for-10 shooting) and eight assists, but the kid does everything on the court so fast, it's hard to keep up.
"Whenever he slows down, he's going to be even better," Gordon said. "I don't really mean slow down. Just slow down enough that he doesn't run into things."
After three seasons of letting Davis try to lead this team, Gordon is taking matters into his own hands.
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He has been speaking up in the media about not getting the ball enough, he's demanding the ball on the court, and in games like Wednesday's when the team's two former All-Stars (Kaman and Davis) aren't getting it done, he's stepping into a leadership role in the huddle and on the court.
"I just need to step up my role," said Gordon, who won a gold medal at the FIBA World Championship with Oklahoma City's Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook over the summer. "I'm trying to get better every year, trying to be more of a leader, to talk more on the court and keep guys guided."
He's also experimenting with the idea of eventually transitioning from shooting guard to point guard at some point in his career.
"Later on down the line, I'd like to play point guard because I'm probably more athletic and physical than most point guards," Gordon said.
Gordon's statements about playing point guard came before the game, and as far as I know, unprompted from any of the Clippers' coaching staff or front office.
Still, it's hard to ignore the implication. If Bledsoe is ready to take over sooner rather than later, and Gordon focuses his energy on playing point guard and can spell Bledsoe ... do the Clippers really want to keep "Waiting for Baron"?
"We're not looking for anything negative," Gordon said, when asked if the Clippers were better without Baron. "When he plays, he can help us. We know he's a good player. We know he can help."
Fine. Go with that.
It's just that, you know, that Godot guy never showed up.
Ramona Shelburne is a reporter and columnist for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Follow her on Twitter.