LOS ANGELES -- When things are going well, the best part of Lob City usually doesn’t take place above the rim.
It takes place on the bench at the end of the game as Caron Butler does his best Mark Madsen impersonation after a Brian Cook jump shot.
It takes place in the locker room after the game as Blake Griffin tries to intentionally photobomb a DeAndre Jordan interview by drying himself off and staring at the camera.
It takes place on the team’s charter after the game as Jordan takes a picture of any player or staff member that dares to sleep on the flight and tweets it out with a simple hashtag that has become a common phrase in the locker room: #GotEm
Lob City at its best has very little to do with the highlights you see at night and more to do what happens off the court and how a completely new roster of players has blended almost seamlessly in a couple weeks. They resemble a college basketball team in the midst of a tournament run rather than an NBA team in the midst of a regular season grind.
“We’re a family,” Jordan said, while trying to keep his composure while looking at Griffin trying to make him laugh. “We try to have as much fun as possible.”
Of course, having fun on and off the court doesn’t always equate to wins and championships. It was, however, the biggest change Chris Paul wanted to make when he was traded to the Clippers.
He wanted the team to go out to dinner together as on the road, he wanted everyone to get to know each others’ families and not have the locker room divided by cliques and groups that have doomed other potentially good teams in the past. During the Clippers’ recent 6-game, 11-day road trip, the team ate together almost every night and Paul rented out a movie theater in Dallas so the team could watch Denzel Washington’s new movie, “Safe House.”
“I’ve never been in a situation where more than seven guys are going to eat on several occasions,” Clippers guard Randy Foye said. “In some cities guys go out to eat and others they don’t but with this team it seems like everything we do is together and every single player is involved. That’s important on the court too.
"If I’m hanging out with someone and going out to eat and building a relationship with them, it’s going to make it that much easier to build a relationship with them on the court. I know they have my back.”
Their relationship is never more evident than at the end of lopsided wins like Wednesday's 102-84 win over the Washington Wizards. The starters are on the bench falling all over themselves as the reserves are on the court doing their best attempt at lob dunks. Butler will do some crazy dance, Jordan will wave his towel and Griffin will jump up and down and yell the name of whatever reserve made a big play like a crazed fan.
“We talk about it all the time,” Paul said. “We really have a team here. Everybody supports each other. We really have a family here and we want everyone to succeed.”
Much like lob dunks and exciting plays, there are no awards for having the best team chemistry and sideline celebrations, but for a completely revamped team still getting to know each other, it certainly can't hurt.
“No matter what it is, unless it’s crunch time, we’re having fun,” Griffin said. “Whether it’s on a plane or in the locker room, wherever its we’re having fun. It’s hard not to with this group.”