If you were one of the few and the (not so) proud who chose to turn to NBA TV or desperately search the internet for a stream of Clippers-Raptors near midnight Pacific time on Tuesday night, your payoff was a delightful Clippers experience.
During the team’s preseason game in Hawaii, the Clippers went viral. Looking like a well-oiled machine possibly powered by the freedom of being unshackled from Chris Paul, the Clippers were back to being fun again.
At the forefront of this resurrection was recently acquired Serbian point guard Milos Teodosic, who plays like a young Steve Nash and looks like an old Steve Nash.
Why do all the best passers in the world come from Serbia? pic.twitter.com/Trb4FpnVKZ— Harrison Wind (@HarrisonWind) October 4, 2017
It’s mesmerizing how easy Teodosic makes outlet passes look. The 30-year-old rookie has the touch of Aaron Rodgers.
“He’s an interesting passer ... he doesn’t hold the ball a lot, the ball is not in his hands very much,” Doc Rivers said following Tuesday night’s game. “It’s out of his hands pretty quickly, yet he’s still effective. That’s hard to do.”
Teodosic changes the dynamic for the new-look Clippers. He will act as a facilitator and a perfect backcourt mate alongside the more defensive-minded Patrick Beverley. And because his natural instinct is to always be moving the ball, it will inevitably breed a culture of constant ball movement that will free up DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin, especially on pick-and-rolls and pick-and-pops.
The offense should, and will, run through Griffin, which makes Teodosic even more important. Like he showed Tuesday night, he already has the skills to put the ball in the right place at the right time. There is a precognitive accuracy to his game that feels unteachable, and there’s an effortless energy about him that makes the Clippers a lot more appealing when he’s on the floor.
When was the last time the Clippers were this promising or delightful? This is a franchise that was steeped in pessimism and hopelessness before Lob City. And even at their best, the Paul-Griffin Clippers were never able to fully escape the mediocrity treadmill.
Sure, Lob City was fun, but the Clips quickly became the team that complained too much and was despised by every other team in the league. “Clipping” actually became shorthand for premature postseason failure. This isn’t a complete overhaul for L.A., but new players coming in like Teodosic, Beverley, and Danilo Gallinari will add a different feel to a team that had become gas station sushi: bland and hard to swallow.
There are still questions heading into this season. Injuries have plagued the team, especially Griffin, for the past several years. Meanwhile, Doc hasn’t evolved as a coach while the league has changed, and his previous managerial decisions could come back to haunt him in the form of a questionable bench unit that includes Austin Rivers likely taking away minutes from Teodosic. Regardless, this is the start of a new era in Clipperland. It may not be as successful as the last, but at least it will be much more fun.