Trans. Oct 22 12:25 ET (Oct 22 12:25 ET ) So, now it’s on the players. Currently, Clipper fans don’t have to hate themselves, as they probably did at times, for paying to see a team owned by Donald Sterling. NBA fans, as we often did, don’t have to hate ourselves anymore while enjoying those late night, must-watch Clipper broadcasts on League Pass. The players don’t have to cringe anymore when Sterling goes meandering around the locker room. Doc Rivers won’t have to question his own ethics anymore. It’s over. (Shelly Sterling needs to go, to be sure, but it’s over.) What we have left, finally, is ball. Ball run by the league’s best point guard, one of its best coaches, and one of the NBA’s best players. Plays run by a supporting cast that is to be envied. Work run in the toughest conference in NBA history, one the Los Angeles Clippers have as good a chance as any at getting out of this spring, possibly representing the Western Conference in the 2015 NBA Finals. Such an idea was an uneasy prospect for the NBA and its fans for decades, because even though presenting a Conference championship trophy is a relatively new phenomenon, it would still include one Donald T. Sterling at the other end of the handoff. At the next stage, the thought of Sterling at center court, accepting a Lawrence O’Brien trophy alongside Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and Doc Rivers was even more nauseating, but this is what the NBA (and the media that covered it, myself included) allowed. Somehow, Sterling was removed from the league and from the Clippers’ media guide with relative alacrity, a credit to both the league’s new commissioner, and common sense. New owner Steve Ballmer works with an open checkbook, and while that won’t do much for the 15 on the roster (Sterling actually did compete and pay fair salaries over the last decade or so), it will do wonders for the coaches, employees, scouts, and various other personnel that had to fight for every penny. Fears will be lifted, and the team will be better prepared. Which means, again, that this will be on the players. Contributors like J.J. Redick and Matt Barnes can’t help that they were injured last year, and Rivers couldn’t help his team’s failure to fill that final rotation spot last season, but excuses have to be out the window. Chris Paul’s game figures to age well, but he turns 30 in May. Redick, Jamal Crawford, and Barnes are even older. DeAndre Jordan is in a contract year in anticipation of a summer that will feature scads of teams with maximum cap space. Blake Griffin is very, very good. It has to happen now. The Clippers worked their way into the league’s best offense last season even with again types like Hedo Turkoglu, Antawn Jamison, Stephen Jackson, Sasha Vujacic, and Danny Granger taking up space on the wing. The defense surprisingly held nearly as steady despite the coaching upgrade and influence of Doc Rivers, and Jordan will once again have to turn in a mindful campaign on that end. Griffin needs to continue to surprise offensively, thinking on the fly and not relying on pet moves, and for the second straight season Chris Paul will have to deign to give up the damn ball. Not every score has to come off of one of his assists, or one of his gorgeous floaters or mid-range shots. The trick is that we’re dealing with the Western conference. The Clippers could roar to the top seed, and it wouldn’t (and certainly shouldn’t) be termed an upset if the squad was upended by any number of Western opponents in the second or even first round. The conference is that good, and the quality of play is that high. The only disappointment in last year’s second round ouster at the hands of the Oklahoma City Thunder was in how the Clippers looked – clearly, they were ready for the season, and the Sterling saga, to end. It understandably drained them. That was also a second round matchup against a higher seed working with the league’s MVP on its side. Such is life in this conference. A conference that the Clippers could make their own, in 2014-15.
Phoenix Suns point guard Goran Dragic has seen his star rise considerably in the 2013-14 season. Entering the year set to form a potent backcourt combo with major offseason acquisition Eric Bledsoe, Dragic has somewhat unexpectedly become not just the Suns' most productive player, but an All-Star-quality guard. He's getting a lot more notice among NBA circles.
It would figure, of course, that Dragic would be even more popular in his native Slovenia, a country of a little more than 2 million people which nonetheless boasts a total of two active NBA players (Beno Udrih is the other, although Sasha Vujacic had a stint with the Los Angeles Clippers earlier this season). Well, it turns out that Slovenians are quite proud of Dragic, so much so that people are making songs about him. Below, check out the video for "Dragon, Dragone":
As the style of the video would suggest, it was the work of a comedian. Greg Esposito of Suns.com has more (via EOB ):
According to Dragic, the video is from a Slovenian comedian and impersonator named Klemen Slakonja -- we're guessing is the foreign equivalent to Frank Caliendo minus the Jon Gruden impression -- who has a national television show. The guard said a lot of it, including the scenes with the stone dragons, are filmed in his hometown. And, while we couldn't get him to sing it, the Dragon told us the lyrics are satirically praising his evolution as a basketball player.
Slakonja did some impressive research on his subject though as towards the end of the video he even parodies Dragic singing in a suit from his rookie season. The rendition of " Greatest American Hero " took place at the Suns Charity Gala in 2009. And yes, we have video evidence of that too .
While that description might seem to be making fun of Dragic, the translated lyrics — also available at Suns.com — are pretty darn positive, describing Dragic as the best playmaker in the league and "faster than a bird." I suppose the contrast between the lyrics and goofiness of the video is a joke in itself, but it seems pretty apparent that everyone involved likes Dragic a whole lot. And why wouldn't they?
The only problem, really, is one line: "And the team is playing like one big family." After the Suns lost to the lowly Lakers on Sunday night, Dragic openly questioned the team's desire to make the playoffs . Currently, the Suns find themselves in a three-way tie with the Dallas Mavericks and Memphis Grizzlies for the final two playoff spots, but on the outside looking in due to various tiebreakers. Perhaps everyone can look at this video together, share a good life, and get back to whatever worked for the Suns earlier this season.
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The Scoop:Doc Rivers reportedly wants to sign a big man instead, though that move might be delayed to allow for greater roster flexibility until the trade deadline passes. Vujacic shot 2-of-5 from the field in a total of 10 minutes of action for L.A.
The Clippers have signed Vujacic to a 10-day contract.
The Scoop:He was part of the Lakers' NBA championship teams in 2009 and 2010. The 29-year-old from Slovenia has also played for the former New Jersey Nets. He has career averages of 5.6 points, 1.9 rebounds and 1.3 assists during his seven years in the NBA. Vujacic most recently played for a Turkish team the last two seasons, where he averaged 9.9 points, 3.1 rebounds and 1.3 assists.
The Scoop:Vujacic will be playing on a 10-day contract and he's unlikely to provide more than occasional 3-pointers off L.A.'s bench. He last played in the NBA for the Lakers and Nets in 2010-11, when he averaged 9.8 points on 40.2 percent shooting.
The Scoop:Vujacic took a physical, and the deal could become official by Tuesday. This move would solely be to add depth to the Clippers backcourt, and it is extremely unlikely Vujacic would have any fantasy impact.
Feb 2 12:00 ET
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