Clippers prove they are for real

ClipWith their 114-107 playoff victory over the Phoenix Suns on Sunday evening, the Los Angeles Clippers once again proved that they are for real.

But wait. You didn’t know that the Clippers are in the NBA Playoffs? And they’re winning?

Yep. These aren’t your father’s Clippers. These aren’t the Clippers that forever swam at the bottom of the aquarium otherwise known as the NBA. And these aren’t the Clippers whose listlessness once was as predictable as Portland rain.

Ladies and gents, meet the new Los Angeles Clippers: Elton Brand, Sam Cassell, Chris Kaman, Vladimir Radmanovic, Corey Maggette and Shaun Livingston.

Fronted by head coach Mike Dunleavey, the Clippers can and are doing it all in the playoffs.

Small ball, hard ball. Fast breaks and post-play. 3’s and down-your-throat slams.

In fact, don’t be surprised if the Clippers (after disposing of the Suns) give either the Dallas Mavericks or the San Antonio Spurs a good, seven-game run for their money in the Western Conference Finals.

The Clippers can ball. Moreover, they do it with smarts.

Cassell has to be the most average “unstoppable” player during clutch time in the league.

The 12-year veteran has come through so many times in the NBA-postseason that his name should be changed to Robert Horry.

Against the Suns on Sunday night, Cassell knocked down two 3’s in the games’ final two minutes that were the death-blows for a Suns team that had fought and clawed and fought some more before their lights were turned out.

Alternating smiles with vicious glares, Cassell is the truest definition of an NBA warrior. Overcoming age with tenacity; a lack of shine with grit, Cassell knows how and plays to win.

And that’s all that matters in the playoffs. Then there’s the NBA’s most underrated player: Brand.

Doing everything on a nightly basis besides folding down the seats and selling beer in the stands, Brand is a fascinating mix of throwback player/new look NBA.

Mixing post-moves with some of the snazziest footwork this side of Thriller-era Michael Jackson, Brand’s game should be transferred to DVD and used as an instructional series for every up-and-coming big man who has any hope of actually making it in the league.

Part Rasheed Wallace, part Kevin Garnett, Brand can rebound, defend, knock down the mid-range jumper and lead a team down the stretch.

He had 30 points, nine boards and eight assists against the Suns on Sunday. Nice numbers, if you can get them.

Plus, he’s from Duke. He’s smart.

Following Cassell and Brand, you have the second-best set of role players – the Detroit Pistons take the trophy – in the league.

Livingston is simply scary. Three-years removed from high school, he has picked up the NBA-game with deceptive ease. And the combination of he and Cassell is perhaps the best one-two point guard system in the game today.

Same goes for Radmanovic (when he’s on fire). Scary.

The Seattle Supersonics-transplant has burnt down the nets in two consecutive games, at times single-handedly keeping the Clippers on target.

Making it all the more remarkable is the fact that Los Angeles is still a young team. Other than Cassell, each of the Clippers’ star players is still looking at the primes of their careers in the far-off distance.

And other than Cassell, the upper regime in Los Angeles (finally beginning to see the light) has each player nailed down to a long-term contract.

Mark it down: Los Angeles is going to be the Clippers’ city for the foreseeable future.

As a team, Los Angeles had six different players reach double figures on Sunday night.

Riding atop the broad shoulders of Cassell and Brand, the Clippers once again had a Suns team (that normally looks like it must practice in the mountains of Colorado) gasping for air.

How much do you want to bet that Kobe wishes he would’ve thought it over a little longer when he re-signed with the Lakers last summer?