The Los Angeles Clippers are a professional basketball team based in Los Angeles, California. They play in the National Basketball Association (NBA) and are members of the NBA Western Conference's Pacific Division. The club's home games are played at the Staples Center, which they share with the Los Angeles Lakers.
The Braves, in their eight seasons in Buffalo, played their home games at the Buffalo Memorial Auditorium, sharing the arena with another new franchise, the Buffalo Sabres of the National Hockey League, who also debuted in 1970. The team's first head coach was Hall of Famer Dolph Schayes, the franchise's first star players were Bob Kauffman and Don May, who were acquired in the 1970 NBA Expansion Draft. As typical of first-year expansion teams, the Braves finished with a dismal record, going 22-60, seven games ahead of expansion-mate Cleveland, which finished its season at 15-67. Kauffman, who averaged 4.3 points per game the previous year with the Chicago Bulls, led Buffalo in scoring with 20.4 points per game and earned a spot on the 1971 NBA Eastern Conference All-Star team.
The Braves repeated their 22-60 record in the following 1971-72 season, but did make good acquisitions that would make the club better. Buffalo drafted center Elmore Smith from Kentucky State University, and local favorite Randy Smith, from Buffalo State College. Schayes was replaced one game into the season with John McCarthy as the team's head coach. The team did not do much better in the 1972-73 season, as they went 21-61 under new head coach, Dr. Jack Ramsay. The Braves' big move that season was drafting forward/center Bob McAdoo, from North Carolina. The team finally made its first playoff appearance in 1973-74, where they faced the Boston Celtics in the first round and lost in six games.
In 1974-75, Bob McAdoo was awarded the NBA Most Valuable Player Award, averaging 34.5 points, 14.1 rebounds and 2.12 blocks per game, while shooting 51.2 percent from the field and 80.5 percent from the free-throw line. The Braves made a trip to the playoffs in the 1974-75 season and again during the 1975-76 season, which would be one of their last in Buffalo.
By the summer of 1976, the team's founding owner Paul Snyder was doing all he could to sell the team. The June 15, 1976 issue of Buffalo's Courier-Express blasted the headline "Braves Go to Florida, Leaving 'Hockey Town'". Snyder had a handshake deal to sell the team to Mr. and Mrs. Irving Cowan, who would move the Braves to Hollywood, Florida, yet the City of Buffalo filed a $10 million damage suit to block the move. The sale eventually fell through and the Braves and the city signed a new 15 year Memorial Auditorium lease in July with a provision that the lease could be voided if the team did not sell 5,000 season tickets in any season. Later that summer Snyder finally sold 50 percent of the franchise to businessman John Y. Brown, Jr., who had previously owned the Kentucky Colonels of the American Basketball Association. Brown later acquired the remaining half from Snyder sometime in the 1976-77 season. Brown, in turn, sold a percentage of the team to another businessman, Harry T. Mangurian, Jr. who later went on to own a portion of the Boston Celtics in the 1980s. However, a provision in the transaction stipulated that if Brown sold the contract of any Braves player, then the money would go to Snyder and the purchase price would be reduced. This subsequently occurred when the Braves sent McAdoo to the New York Knicks for players and cash midway through the 1976-77 season.
Because of the team's poor play in its final two years (30-52 in 1976-77 and 27-55 in 1977-78), along with rumors of the franchise relocating because of low season ticket sales, John Y. Brown met with the then-owner of the Celtics, Irv Levin and negotiated a deal in which the owners would swap franchises, in which Brown would take control of the Celtics and Levin would get the Braves. Levin was a California businessman, and wanted to own an NBA team in his native state. The deal was brokered by David Stern, the general counsel for the NBA who later became the league's commissioner in 1984. Following what would be the final season in western New York, the NBA owners voted 21-1 to let the Braves relocate. They moved to San Diego, California after the 1977-78 season, and became the San Diego Clippers.
In the team's first season in San Diego, the Clippers posted a winning record, going 43-39, under new head coach Gene Shue. However, that record was not good enough to advance them to the post-season, finishing two games out of the final playoff spot. As it turned out, it would be the Clippers' last winning season for 13 years. It was also in that first season in Southern California that long-time announcer Ralph Lawler began his association with the club. Randy Smith had another solid season, averaging 20.5 points per game, finishing second behind World B. Free, who was acquired in the offseason from the Philadelphia 76ers. Free finished second overall in NBA scoring average, with 28.8 per game, while George Gervin of the San Antonio Spurs had a 29.6 average.
The 1979-80 season was not much better, as the Clippers began to struggle, but not before they brought in San Diego native, center Bill Walton, who was two years removed from an NBA championship with the Trail Blazers. Walton was not much of an impact unfortunately, due to missing 68 games because of foot injuries, which he also suffered in his final years in Portland. San Diego managed to finish with a record of 37-45, despite the fact that many of their key players missed games due to injuries. Free continued his great scoring, again finishing second in league scoring, with 30.2 PPG. Paul Silas replaced Shue the following season, and the Clippers finished with a 36-46 record, once again missing the postseason. Walton missed the entire season once again due to chronic foot injuries. Free was traded to the Golden State Warriors in exchange for guard Phil Smith.
The 1981-82 season brought more changes to the Clipper franchise as Irv Levin sold the team to Los Angeles-area real estate developer and attorney Donald Sterling for $20 million. The Clippers' poor play in their final years in San Diego resulted in poor attendance with the team averaging only 4,500 fans per game. Sterling subsequently lobbied the NBA to relocate the team to his native Los Angeles.
The Clippers were mired for the next seven seasons, including a 12-70 record in the 1986-87 season, at the time the second-worst single-season record in NBA history. Marques Johnson and guard Norm Nixon were both injured. That season also brought in Hall of Famer Elgin Baylor as the team's vice president and general manager of basketball operations. In the 1989-90 season, Baylor made a trade with the Cleveland Cavaliers that brought Ron Harper in exchange for forward Danny Ferry and swingman Reggie Williams. That move, along with the 1987 NBA Draft of Ken Norman from the University of Illinois, the 1988 draftings of University of Kansas forward Danny Manning and Charles Smith from the University of Pittsburgh (Smith was acquired from Philadelphia in exchange for the draft rights of guard Hersey Hawkins), and the 1990 NBA Draft of Loy Vaught from the University of Michigan, formed a nucleus that made the franchise a playoff contender.
Midway through the 1991-92 season, the Clippers made yet another coaching change. Larry Brown, who was fired by the Spurs weeks before, was hired as the team's head coach in late January 1992. He replaced Mike Schuler, who had led the team to a 22-25 record before his firing. Brown finished the season with a 23-12 mark, for an overall record of 45-37. It was the franchise's first winning season in 13 years. The team also achieved a first that season-for the first time since moving to Los Angeles, the Clippers finished with a better record than the Los Angeles Lakers. The Clippers advanced to the playoffs for the first time in 16 years (since they were Buffalo), but were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs by the Utah Jazz, 3-2. Due to the late April 1992 Los Angeles riots, Game 4 of the series was moved to the Anaheim Convention Center, and the Clippers won that game. The Clippers returned to the playoffs again in the 1992-93 season with a 41-41 regular season record, but lost again in five games in the first round, this time to the Houston Rockets.
Brown left the Clippers to join the Indiana Pacers as their head coach, and Bob Weiss was brought in to replace him. That 1993-94 season proved to be one of the worst seasons in Los Angeles NBA history, with both the Clippers and Lakers going a combined 60-104 in the regular season. After one year on the job, Weiss was fired, and veteran head coach Bill Fitch was brought in to guide a roster of young and inexperienced players. The Clippers continued to make frequent roster and coaching changes throughout the next several years and made a playoff appearance in 1997, under Fitch. That team made the playoffs with a losing record (36-46) and were swept in the first round by the eventual Western Conference Champion Utah Jazz, 3 games to none.
From 1994 to 1999, the Clippers played selected home games in the Honda Center (known at the time as the Arrowhead Pond of Anaheim), sharing the venue with the Anaheim Ducks (then the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim) (hockey) and the Splash (soccer).
However, in 1999, the Clippers and Lakers both started to play in the Staples Center. It was in that first season at Staples Center that the Clippers drafted highly-touted, but oft-troubled, star forward Lamar Odom from the University of Rhode Island. The Clippers finished with a dismal 15-67 record. The team hired former All-Star (and Los Angeles native) Dennis Johnson, as an assistant coach. The team also hired Hall of Famer and former Laker great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as an assistant coach, to help tutor second-year center Michael Olowokandi. Johnson remained an assistant coach until the middle of the 2002-03 season, when he took over as head coach. Abdul-Jabbar lasted only one season on the job.
The 2000-01 season brought more changes. Reserve forward Derek Strong was sent to the Orlando Magic in exchange for second-year forward Corey Maggette and the draft rights to guard Keyon Dooling from the University of Missouri. The Clippers' two draft picks that year were childhood friends from Illinois: high schooler Darius Miles from East St. Louis (3rd overall pick) and Quentin Richardson, a guard/forward from DePaul University (18th overall pick). The team became popular among fans with their high-flying style of basketball and the Clippers did improve a bit with a 31-51 record, leading the NBA in bench-scoring with 37 points per game.
The 2002 offseason brought more changes, as Miles was traded to the Cavaliers in exchange for point guard Andre Miller, who led the NBA in assists in 2001-02 with 11 per game. Suddenly, with a good point guard in Miller, the playmaker Lamar Odom at small forward, one of the league's best power forwards, Elton Brand, the emerging center Michael Olowokandi, and a very good supporting cast off the bench, the Clippers could actually make a serious run for the playoffs. However, with poor team chemistry and injuries (the Clippers lost 293 man-games to injury), the Clippers finished with a very disappointing 27-55 record. Head coach Alvin Gentry was replaced by Dennis Johnson midway through the 2002-03 season.
In the 2003-04 season, the Clippers lost many of their core players to free agency (Miller, Odom, Olowokandi, and forward Eric Piatkowski--one of the longest-tenured players in Clippers history, while opting to retain Brand and Maggette with long-term contracts. They, along with Richardson, made up one of the NBA best high-scoring trios, with a combined 58 points per game. With new head coach Mike Dunleavy, Sr., the Clippers finished at 28-54, a lot due to inexperience and injuries.
The 2004-05 season saw the Clippers, although also missing the playoffs, finish with a better record than the Lakers for the first time since 1993 and have great hope for the future, with young rising stars such as Brand, Corey Maggette and Shaun Livingston. Bobby Simmons won the 2004-05 NBA Most Improved Player award after averaging 16 points, 6 rebounds, and 3 assists per game. As a result of that, Simmons cashed in on his newfound fame, and signed a 5-year, $47 million deal with the Milwaukee Bucks in July 2005, playing closer to his hometown of Chicago.
To counter Simmons' defection to Milwaukee, the Clippers announced days later that they would sign guard Cuttino Mobley to a contract similar in years (5) but less in money ($42 million) to what Simmons received from the Bucks. Mobley was the first significant free agent signing from outside the organization since Bill Walton in late 1970s. Mobley officially signed his contract on August 3, 2005.
More deals were made, most notably on August 12, 2005, where the Clippers traded guards Marko Jaric (in a sign and trade transaction) and Lionel Chalmers to the Minnesota Timberwolves in exchange for guard Sam Cassell and a lottery-protected 1st round pick in the 2006 NBA Draft. In relation to the lottery-protected pick, in order for the Clippers to acquire the pick, the Timberwolves would have to make the playoffs, or else Minnesota retains its draft pick.
During the summer of 2005, the Clippers announced that they would build a state-of-the-art practice facility (the first NBA practice facility within the four corners of the City of Los Angeles) in the Playa Vista development. Several current players on the Clippers' lineup live in the planned community. According to the Clippers' website, the new facility will open its doors for community programs in the off-season and will be surrounded by other community parks and recreation.
While the Clippers had a few stretches of poor play this season, resulting in some frustrating losses, they nonetheless were able to maintain a solid record, including posting several winning streaks. The Clippers achieved their first winning record in 14 seasons and clinched their first playoff spot since 1997.
By finishing sixth in the Western Conference, with a record of 47-35 (their best finish since the team left Buffalo), the Clippers benefitted from the current NBA playoff format of regular season records taking precedence over winning the division, and secured home court advantage over the Denver Nuggets instead of travelling to Denver for four games as a #6 seed would usually be expected to do. On April 12, 2006 the Clippers were #5 seed and would have played against the Dallas Mavericks in the playoffs, but the Clippers lost 5 of their next 7 games and the Memphis Grizzlies clinched the #5 position instead.
On April 22, 2006, the Clippers won their first NBA playoff game in 13 years. Two days later, they won their second playoff game, going 2-0 against an opponent for the first time in franchise history. Although they won the first 2 games, they lost Game 3, but they won Game 4. On Monday, May 1, 2006 they won Game 5 in Los Angeles and their first playoff series since they moved from Buffalo.
The team faced the Phoenix Suns in the Western Conference semi-finals. After losing in game one (130-123 in Phoenix), the Clippers beat the Suns in an impressive 122-97 victory in Game 2. The series shifted to Staples Center for game 3, and the Suns beat the Clippers, 94-91, as Suns forward Shawn Marion scored 32 points and grabbed a game-high 19 rebounds. In game four, Elton Brand posted 30 points, nine rebounds, and eight assists as the Clippers evened the series on May 14, 2006 with a 114-107 victory over the Suns. In game five, Suns guard/forward Raja Bell made a key 3-pointer with 1.1 seconds left in the first overtime to send the game into a second overtime. Phoenix beat Los Angeles in this double-overtime "thriller" game, 125-118.
The double-overtime loss for the Clippers, to say the least, was devastating, but they bounced back with a convincing, series-saving 118-106 Game 6 win over the Suns. Second-year defensive specialist Quinton Ross had a timely offensive game, scoring a then career-high 18 points. Elton Brand had another excellent contribution, with 30 points (his scoring average in this particular series), 12 rebounds, three assists, and five blocks. Corey Maggette came off the bench to score 25 points, with 7-8 shooting from the field, and 9-9 from the free throw line. Chris Kaman and Sam Cassell each scored 15 points apiece. Marion once again led Phoenix in scoring, with 34 points, with reserve guard Leandro Barbosa scoring 25 points off the bench for the Suns. The Clippers lost the seventh game to Phoenix 127-107.
Meanwhile in free agency, on July 13, 2006, the Clippers scored a major coup, by signing forward Tim Thomas away from divisional rival Phoenix, in a four-year, $24 million deal. That was to counter the defection of forward Vladimir Radmanovic to the crosshall Lakers in a somewhat similar deal to what Thomas got from the Clippers, except Radmanovic signed for an extra year, but both players would make the same amount of money annually, which would be $6 million.
Also on July 13, guard Sam Cassell (widely credited as the biggest reason for the Clippers' recent success) signed a two-year, $13 million deal. Cassell stated in interviews that once he retires, which would be likely after this contract runs out, he would like to join the Clippers' coaching staff under Mike Dunleavy, Sr. Also, on August 1st, the team signed veteran forward/center Aaron Williams (previously with the then-New Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets) to an undisclosed deal. Williams played for Dunleavy with the Milwaukee Bucks in the 1994-95 season.
To further their television commitment to their local fans, on August 11th, the Clippers and KTLA-TV announced a three-year contract extension, which would increase KTLA's annual 25-game commitment to 30 games a year, plus selected playoff games not airing exclusively on ABC or TNT. Just like during the last two seasons, KTLA will air all of its Staples Center-based Clippers telecasts in high definition. Until recently, they were the only local team to currently air its over-the-air broadcasts in HDTV; KCAL-TV aired its first HDTV Lakers broadcast on February 2, 2007, versus the Indiana Pacers at Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. Fifteen of the 30 annual KTLA telecasts air on KSWB-TV in San Diego, KTLA's sister station; although KTLA is already available on cable in the San Diego market.
The increased demand for Clippers games has also led to the scheduling of twelve true nationally-televised Clippers games on TNT and ESPN. The team will also have eight additional games on NBA TV; NBA TV normally uses the home team telecast's video feed and announcers, while using its own on-screen score and graphics, therefore, their presentations are not considered true, self-produced national broadcasts, such as the case with ESPN, TNT, and ABC. This brings the total of nationally-televised games to 20, the most ever in franchise history.
The team, though, did not fully perform to expectations, in comparison to the previous season. A lot of this has been attributed to lack of a team chemistry and injuries to several key players, including Cassell, Thomas, Livingston, and Kaman. Players such as Luke Jackson, Alvin Williams, and Doug Christie were signed to 10-day contracts to help solidify the team's bench. Jackson and Alvin Williams only lasted through portions of the January schedule and each had limited playing time, while Christie signed with the team on January 31st. Christie was not retained, and was suspended on the final day of his second 10-day contract with the team, due to Christie's desire to not return to the team, because of the team's lack of on-court direction. Christie was released from the team on February 21st.
In one of most of the devastating injuries this season, guard Shaun Livingston severely dislocated his left knee in which he tore every ligament in his knee. This occurred with 8:10 left in the first quarter of a home game versus the Charlotte Bobcats on February 26, 2007 at Staples Center, as Livingston was driving to the basket, where he missed the lay-up, and came down awkwardly on his left knee. The extent of the injury was so severe, local news outlets such as KCBS-TV/KCAL-TV and KNBC-TV elected not to air the clip of Livingston's injury on their sports reports. According to the team's lead physican, Dr. Tony Daly, Livingston's prognosis for him to return to basketball activity from the point in time of his injury is eight months (which would put it at around the first week of the upcoming season) to a full calendar year. The Clippers, which were expected by many to make the playoffs again after their surprise appearance the season before, finished the season 40-42, 2 games behind the 8th-seeded Warriors. On May 22, the Clippers received the fourteenth draft pick from the NBA lottery. The draft was on June 28 in New York. The Clippers selected Al Thornton a combo forward from Florida State University. The Clippers used their second-round pick to draft a point guard Jared Jordan with their 45th pick.
The 2007-08 season started off on a negative note, with Elton Brand on the disabled list because of a ruptured left Achilles tendon, and Shaun Livingston still out with the injury he sustained from the previous year. Brand missed most of the 2007-08 year, and the Clippers struggled to stay competitive in the Western Conference. Chris Kaman was one of the lone bright spots for the Clippers, and took advantage of a depleted roster by averaging 15.7 points and 12.7 rebounds per game throughout the season, but was limited to playing 56 games due to various injuries. The Clippers ended the season with a record of 23-59, 12th in the Western Conference and last in the Pacific Division.
The Clippers saw the departure of several players, including Elton Brand and Corey Maggette, and acquisitions of ten players either by draft, free agency or trades.
On July 1, 2008, Baron Davis, a Los Angeles native and formerly of the Golden State Warriors, verbally agreed to and signed (on July 10) a five-year contract with the Clippers, worth an estimated $65 million.
After a disappointing 2007-08 season, the Clippers obtained the 7th pick in the 2008 NBA Draft, and selected Eric Gordon out of Indiana University. The team also selected DeAndre Jordan from Texas A&M University in the second round (35th overall pick). Another second-round pick, Mike Taylor from the NBA D-League's Idaho Stampede and Iowa State University (55th overall pick), was acquired from the Portland Trail Blazers in exchange for a future second-round pick. Gordon officially signed with the team on July 7, while Jordan and Taylor both signed on July 15.
Also on July 15, the Clippers acquired forward–center Marcus Camby from the Denver Nuggets in return for a $10 million trade exception and the choice to exchange second round picks with the Clippers in 2010. On July 23, the Clippers also acquired guard Jason Hart from the Utah Jazz in exchange for guard Brevin Knight. On July 28, the Clippers signed guard Ricky Davis to a one-year deal, with a player option for a second year . The Clippers continued their active offseason with signing reserve forward–center (and one-time Clipper) Brian Skinner on July 31, and traded for reserve forward Steve Novak on August 6 for future second-round pick considerations, in a deal similar to the Camby trade.
Recently, the Los Angeles Clippers re-signed forward Paul Davis. The Clippers signed three Davises (Baron, Ricky, and Paul) in their "rebuilding offseason" in which they obtained key players such as Baron Davis, Marcus Camby, Ricky Davis, and Jason Williams. However, just prior to the start of training camp, Williams announced his retirement on September 26.
On October 7, according to reports from various sources including the Los Angeles Times, Orange County Register, and the team's own web site (Clippers.com), Elgin Baylor ended his 22-year reign as vice president and general manager of basketball operations. It was one of the longest such tenures in professional sports history. The Clippers have indicated that Baylor had retired from his post, and as a result, head coach Mike Dunleavy, Sr. will also assume the role as general manager, while director of player personnel Neil Oshley is promoted to assistant general manager.
In many of those same reports, including a related article in the October 8 edition of the Times, it was also indicated that Baylor had either been fired, resigned, or retired, depending on the source. According to similar reports, Baylor had been offered a different position in the organization, with the same salary, but with little to none decision-making power; Baylor refused. In fact, when pressed about his stauts with the franchise, Baylor had been advised by his attorneys not to say anything, indicating that the team and Baylor are in negotiations to work out a settlement agreement based on his departure. According to the above-mentioned article, Baylor had been working without a formal contract since the early 1990s.
Only two players have been inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame based significantly upon achievements while with the franchise:
One other Hall of Famer joined the franchise late in his career:
Two other Hall of Famers served the franchise in management positions:
McAdoo and Randy Smith (G, 1972-79, 1983-84) are also members of the Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame. Walton, a native of the San Diego area, is also a member of the San Diego Hall of Champions.
On March 23, 2007 the Utah Jazz (44-23 at the time) lost to the Clippers (32-36 coming into the match) 104-72 in Los Angeles. That was the largest margin of defeat by an NBA team at least 20 games over .500 to a team under .500 since the Houston Rockets lost in Orlando 114-82 on March 30, 1991.
The Clippers are currently the oldest NBA team to never appear in the NBA Finals.