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May 2
Clippers are Led through Playoffs
Known no more as the “worst franchise” in pro sports, the Los Angeles Clippers advanced to the second round of the playoffs and now wait to see if they will face their cross-hall rivals, the Lakers, with whom they share the Staples Center.

In reality, this is the first playoff series win for the Clippers forever although some people will remind you that the club advanced as the Buffalo Braves in 1976, a few seasons before the team moved to San Diego, but I digress.

The Clippers handled the Nuggets without much trouble with the Nuggets only able to get one win in the series in game three. What I remember about that game was when the buzzer sounded, Cassell gathered the team around him and delivered a passionate speech. He didn’t wait to get to the locker room. He had something to say right then. Despite all the mayhem in the Nugget arena, all of the player’s eyes and ears were focused on Sam. Such leadership has made the difference in this series.

The Clippers are no fluke and had a solid season (47-35) given their history. The success is a combination of coaching, young talent and solid leadership. The Clippers’ turnaround can be traced simply to the resolve and vision of Coach Mike Dunleavy, the leadership and experience of Sam Cassell and the consistency and patience of Elton Brand.

Coach Dunleavy came to the Clippers with little more than a dream and a plan. But those are the tools a leader can use to produce eye-popping results. 

"It's a great accomplishment, a great feeling, to be able to accomplish everything you set out to do," Clippers coach Mike Dunleavy said Tuesday. "Everything we've done has basically followed the script. I'm very pleased." Dunleavy’s vision and commitment to a team and organization that had never produced is remarkable. clippers.jpg

Add to Dunleavy the bookends of playoff experience - Sam Cassell and Elton Brand. Cassell has logged more playoff experience than his Clipper teammates combined. During his career, he played in 108 postseason contests including a critical role with the Houston Rockets when they won NBA championships 1994 and 1995. Juxtapose Elton Brand. Until a few weeks ago, he had never been to the playoffs in his seven-year NBA career.

Nevertheless, both the veteran point guard Cassell and All-Star forward Brand are leaders on the Clippers. Cassell leads with his intensity, playoff mentality, poise and confidence that is infectious. Brand leads by delivering consistent performance, work ethic and effort. One without the other and you fail. Together? We have yet to find out. Dunleavy thinks he has not seen the best of the Clippers.

"I'm not going to jump ahead of myself," he said. "I've felt like this team can achieve more. I think all the way. I know it's not in everybody's eyes a realistic thing to do. We'd have to play very well. I think we have the tools to do it."

When the Clippers acquired Cassell from Minnesota in the off-season they got much more than a career 16 points and six assists a game. Cassell brought confidence and swagger to the downtrodden Clippers. He became an extension of Dunleavy on the floor and has brought them to the next level.

The OC Register notes that Cassell and veteran guard Cuttino Mobley

“are fearless, consistent on the court and have become the unflappable fountains of wisdom.”

Brand has toiled away as a Clipper, year in and year out, producing 20 points and 10 rebounds night after night. Brand played in 544 regular-season games before making his playoff debut. With a career high in points per game, field goal percentage, free-throw percentage and defensive rebounding, Brand has been the rock for a Clippers franchise that appears to have finally broken out of the never-ending rebuilding cycle it has pursued for decades. Brand was the recipient of the 2006 the Sportsmanship Award that honors the NBA player who exemplifies the ideals of sportsmanship on the court - ethical behavior, fair play and integrity. Sounds like a leader.

Vision, commitment, intensity, poise, confidence, character, hard work, patience. These are the leadership qualities that transformed the Clippers franchise. Stay tuned.

How poor are they that have not patience!                                                                    - Shakespeare

AP Photo/Jeff Lewis

1 Comments/Trackbacks

Hal, the energy in this story sends motivation into my plans for a busy day here at MITA.

As I read this inspiring story of achievement in sports, I wondered why we inject so little movement and bodily kinesthetic "knowing" into our everyday lives. What do you think?

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