first_img Rites recall Christmas slaying victims Hermosa Beach man sets fire to house, shoots himself over money woes Everyone likes to talk about how tough a sports market L.A. can be, about how teams either win here or wither here.While that remains true, the Clippers also face the perhaps impossible task of trying to be relevant while reinventing themselves minus their most recognizable player and doing so in the shadow of the Lakers’ exploding popularity.In other words, same old Clippers, right?Not exactly. There’s more, which is to say, there’s less, potentially. The Clippers might not be very good anymore, either. They certainly aren’t expected to be as good as they were the past six seasons.The Westgate SuperBook in Las Vegas put the over/under for Clippers victories at 43.5, placing them just behind Denver and tied with Miami.That total would have them finishing seventh in the Western Conference and, based on the Westgate’s complete forecast, opening the playoffs against – Paul and the Rockets.OK, so that Clippers story would be tremendously relevant. Then again, ESPN just projected that, if things don’t go well for the Clippers, they’ll miss the playoffs altogether, for the first time since 2010-11, the season before Paul arrived.In a recent interview with the Los Angeles Times, owner Steve Ballmer acknowledged his team might stumble backward, a remarkably somber outlook for a man whose energy is usually as positive as it is pronounced.“I don’t know if we’re going to be worse than we were last year,” Ballmer said. “I don’t know that. … We’re such a different team. … We’ll see whether we’re different good or not.”We’ll see eventually – but perhaps not for a while. With a roster that includes nine new players, what the Clippers really need is time together, time to meld, time to create chemistry.Instead, too many of them arrived here Tuesday with time to kill, Danilo Gallinari, Austin Rivers and Sam Dekker each sidelined by injury.Then Patrick Beverley was ruled out for the reminder of the preseason because of a knee problem, and the Clippers, as a franchise, were left limping.Doc Rivers admitted he didn’t know which knee is hurting Beverley, but why does that matter?The reality is the Clippers’ new guard is one healthy knee short, and his team will now have to suffer right along with him.“I jokingly said before camp the one thing you don’t want to have is injuries to key guys in training camp,” Rivers said. “It’s not a joke anymore.”The absences almost certainly will slow the Clippers’ growth and impede the start to their season, one during which they are committed to playing at a faster pace and with increased defensive intensity.Given those goals, this probably isn’t the best place to mention that, in their most recent exhibition, the Clippers surrendered 134 points.True, nobody who really matters played as much as half that game. But, still, when you’re trying to rebuild who you are, every chance to establish a foundation is important.The Clippers played to 100 percent capacity at Staples Center last season, this team in recent years not struggling to fill its downtown home. That’s not the same, however, as generating a buzz beyond those arena walls.Rivers equated the loss of Paul to Tim Duncan retiring from the Spurs, a development that greatly altered San Antonio’s appearance.The difference here is Paul departed not at the end of his career but with plenty of basketball still to give, the Clippers greatly altered well below the surface, as well.“When you have a prominent player who leaves your team, your team’s different,” Rivers said. “There’s different leadership, different everything.”With the Clippers and their franchise history, the difference also is similar, this team once again playing from behind, trying to come back despite having never left, trying to be noticed in a place where there’s just so much to notice. Prep-JC Roundup: El Camino baseball team sweeps Fullerton Condors find rougher going in ’08 LOS ANGELES — They gathered at Galen Center on Tuesday to practice for the public, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan and the rest under the direction of Doc Rivers.Uh, wait a second. Blake? And D.J.? And Doc?You mean … the Clippers?Related Articlescenter_img Woman finds beloved dog dead in the oven They’re still here, even if it feels like Chris Paul hijacked the franchise when he left for Houston.They’re still here, even though they conducted training camp in Hawaii, 2,500 miles away, an entire team – appropriately enough – cast off to a remote island.They’re still here, even if the Lakers are again the local NBA entrant attracting all the attention, LaVar Ball easily supplanting Rivers as the most famous basketball dad in the Southland.The Clippers are still here, and they went out and proved it by staging a workout open to their fans.The event also was open to anyone who might have forgotten this team existed in the clamor surrounding the Dodgers and the Rams and whatever team the Chargers are playing. Yes, the Clippers! They’re still here, folks, one of the old standbys in a market now bloated with teams and teeming with stories. 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