JOHN IRELAND BLOG  |  ESPN Los Angeles

Dunleavy gets last word

Win argues Clippers aren't so bad after all

January 7, 2010, 3:01 AM

By: John Ireland

Guilty as charged.

That's my response to Clippers coach Mike Dunleavy, who called out 710 ESPN Radio and all of us who work there after his team upset the Lakers on Wednesday night. Dunleavy, who listens to the station even though it's the official radio home of the Lakers, felt that in some small way, we had mischaracterized the Lakers' three-year, nine-game winning streak over the Clips.

As the Lakers' radio home, we talk about the purple-and-gold every day, arguably every hour of every day. Dunleavy took particular offense to the fact that we continued to point out that the Lakers had swept the Clippers in each of the past two seasons, then beat them again in the 2009-10 season opener.

"710 and all of the people who are Lakers hangers-on," Dunleavy said, "have been touting all these streaks. Well, we've had guys in a medical ward. When you look at streaks, you gotta look a little bit deeper into it and to what it all entails."

OK, let's do that. Dunleavy (whom I like a lot, by the way) is the only guy in the NBA to hold the titles of both general manager and head coach. So that entails not only coaching the guys on the team, but actually deciding which guys make the roster. During the streak that he complained about, he had the power to cut, promote, trade or bench every player in all nine of those games.

Although I see his point about the "medical ward," he's the guy who signed all the players with long injury histories. Baron Davis, as great as he is, has never been able to stay healthy. Marcus Camby is the same way. Dunleavy extended Chris Kaman, who then got hurt and missed almost all of last season. Blake Griffin, Eric Gordon, Craig Smith and Sebastian Telfair have all been signed by Dunleavy and have all been hurt. (And trust me, that's not a complete list.) Most of that is unlucky, and has nothing to do with Mike. But anybody who touts a nine-game losing streak is supposed to ignore his role in all of that?

What other reasons might we have to suggest the Lakers might beat the Clippers? Let's see:

• The Lakers are the defending NBA champions with a record of 28-7, and the Clippers came in at 16-18.

• The Lakers have seven numbers retired from their Los Angeles era inside Staples Center along with seven championship banners. The Clippers have no retired numbers, no banners and nothing that indicates they even play in Staples Center. They might as well be from Pomona.

• Lakers coach Phil Jackson has been to the NBA Finals 12 times and won 10 titles. The Clippers' coach has been to the NBA Finals once -- with the Lakers -- and lost.

• Since arriving in Los Angeles in 1960, the Lakers have made the playoffs every year except two and have been to the NBA Finals 16 times. The Clippers have made it past the first round of the playoffs once. They lost in the second round.

• Even though this was a Clippers home game, more than 60 percent of the fans in the building were cheering for the Lakers.

You get the idea.

But to be fair to Dunleavy, there were some signs that the Clippers had a great opportunity Wednesday night. It was the second night of a back-to-back for the Lakers, and the Clips had won four in a row at home. At halftime, when the Lakers trailed by nine, assistant coach Frank Hamblen gave me an argument that made perfect sense:

"They've won eight out of 11," Hamblen said. "We played last night, and they didn't. We're not playing as hard as they are, and let's face it, they're playing for respect."

Not that the Clippers didn't try to keep the streak alive. The Lakers trimmed the lead to two in the third quarter, then caught up completely in the fourth.

But then, led by a brilliant (and yes, Mike, healthy) Baron Davis, the Clippers took over and the Lakers ran out of gas. It was the Clippers' first win over Kobe, Phil and the rest of the Lakers since the end of the 2007 season. At least for a night, the Clippers ruled Staples Center.

And Mike Dunleavy got the last word.

Thanks for listening, Coach.

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