Clippers earn first division title with win

PLAYA VISTA, Calif. – For a team that has never won an NBA championship but shares an arena with one that has many, a division title is no small thing.
 
The Clippers appreciate the importance of winning the franchise’s first Pacific Division crown, an achievement they didn’t attain in 27 previous seasons in Los Angeles – or in six seasons in San Diego or eight in Buffalo.
 
So the thought of hanging a banner in Staples – even if it pales in comparison to the 16 league championship banners owned by the Lakers – is one that is embraced by some players, although not all.
 
“I think that would be special because it’s a moment in history,” forward Caron Butler said Friday. “Winning 50 (games) is a special moment. Acquiring guys like Chris Paul and Blake Griffin and having the roster we have, expectations have soared through the roof. We’re trying to do big things and trying to build some momentum for years to come.”
 
The Clippers won their franchise-first 50th game Wednesday and extended history with a win over the Lakers on Sunday to clinch their first division title in franchise history.

Griffin, however, said he would prefer that the team not display a division banner inside Staples. If they hang it, he said, it should be in the team’s training facility.
 
“For me, I kind of have bigger goals than that for the team,” he said. “The team has bigger goals than that. We kind of expected to win the division. We didn’t come into the season thinking, ‘Oh, it would be great if we could win the division.’ It’s something to be proud of, and maybe there’s a banner that goes up in here, but it’s not something that we’re going to be like, it needs to go up in Staples and we can hang our hat on that.”
 
Even as they prepared for Sunday’s game, the Clippers were trying to defuse a newspaper story this week that claimed their team chemistry is on the rocks and that the immaturity of Griffin and center DeAndre Jordan is hurting their chances of winning a title.
 
“All in all, I think we’re fine,” said Chris Paul, who was unaware of the story. “We’re going to be all right.”
 
Griffin denied that he and Jordan exchanged words on the bench when the team played in Sacramento on March 19, as the report said. But he also said that disagreements happen occasionally in the course of a season.
 
“I don’t think it’s ever with bad intentions, especially in the heat of the game,” Griffin said. “Sometimes you’re going to say things. That’s the best thing about this team. We’ve been able to say things to each other and we know that it’s to help ourselves and get us to another level. When you’re winning it’s great, but when you’re losing somebody’s going to see it and embellish.”
 
Paul added the team had a good practice Friday and that any issues regarding discord were not a concern. Beating the Lakers, claiming the division title and preparing for the playoffs mattered most.
 
As for displaying a division banner, coach Vinny Del Negro is fine with it. But it’s just a start.
 
“It was one of our goals at the beginning of our season, but it’s not the ultimate goal we’re looking at,” he said. “It’s a step in the right direction. Whenever you do something first it’s very important. You’re trying to start a tradition, trying to start some type of consistency.
 
“Let’s start with, we’ve got 50 wins. That’s not enough for us. We want more. The division title is great, (but) it’s not enough for us. We want more. That’s our mindset, but you have to start somewhere, so we’re pleased with hopefully attaining both of them.”