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Brad Rock: Clippers on the rise, but have company with Jazz

Published: Wednesday, Jan. 18 2012 12:00 a.m. MST

Clipper's assistant coach and former jazz player Marc Iavaroni talks with player Blake Griffin  as the Utah Jazz defeat the Los Angeles Clippers 108-79 in NBA basketball Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2012, in Salt Lake City, Utah.    (Tom Smart, Deseret News) Clipper's assistant coach and former jazz player Marc Iavaroni talks with player Blake Griffin as the Utah Jazz defeat the Los Angeles Clippers 108-79 in NBA basketball Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2012, in Salt Lake City, Utah. (Tom Smart, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — Yes, we heard all that. The Los Angeles Clippers are young, improved and terribly exciting.

So who forgot to tell the Jazz?

Call them slow learners, label them clueless, accuse them of being grossly out of touch. They don't care. As far as the Jazz are concerned it's still the late 1990s and it's still the Paper Clips.

The Jazz dominated in the paint and the open court, too, en route to a 108-79 win Tuesday at EngerySolutions Arena. Lob City Clippers? The Jazz are hearing none of it.

While the league's most proficient lob-and-dunk team did have its moments — including an alley oop to DeAndre Jordan and two prodigious jams by Blake Griffin — the Jazz responded with their own. Three were by aerialist Jeremy Evans. They totaled eight dunks for the game and stretched their lead to 34.

Utah's Devin Harris congratulates C.J. Miles, left, and Jeremy Evans as the Utah Jazz defeat the Los Angeles Clippers 108-79 in NBA basketball  Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2012, in Salt Lake City, Utah.    (Tom Smart, Deseret News) Utah's Devin Harris congratulates C.J. Miles, left, and Jeremy Evans as the Utah Jazz defeat the Los Angeles Clippers 108-79 in NBA basketball Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2012, in Salt Lake City, Utah. (Tom Smart, Deseret News)

Stars are born and broken every day in the City of Angels, kid.

Meanwhile, the Jazz continued to make an important point: Los Angeles isn't the only rising young team on the block.

That's not to say the Clippers haven't been a story. It's been a long time since fans came early (or at all) to see the Jazz-Clippers. The Clips rolled into town with a look sure to impress. And you thought the Lakers owned all the glamor. They do, but it's an older Jack Nicholson-Dyan Cannon variety. The Clippers are all about Jessica Alba, Rihanna, Beyonce and the ultimate sign that the formerly baby-soft Clippers are actually quite edgy: Charlie Sheen.

Fame is fleeting in L.A. and the Clippers know it. So when it appeared superstar Chris Paul would be moving from New Orleans to the Lakers, the Clips did what any self-respecting screenwriter would do: They stole the manuscript.

Utah's Paul Millsap drives between the Clipper's Randy Foye, left, and Reggie Evans as the Utah Jazz defeat the Los Angeles Clippers 108-79 in NBA basketball Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2012, in Salt Lake City, Utah.    (Tom Smart, Deseret News) Utah's Paul Millsap drives between the Clipper's Randy Foye, left, and Reggie Evans as the Utah Jazz defeat the Los Angeles Clippers 108-79 in NBA basketball Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2012, in Salt Lake City, Utah. (Tom Smart, Deseret News)

They, not the Lakers, landed the off-season's most prized free agent.

The Clippers have the NBA's most dramatic and proficient dunker in Griffin, the second-highest shot blocker in Jordan and arguably the best point guard in Paul.

"They just throw the ball up there because nobody can get up there with them," said the Jazz's C.J. Miles. "So we did a good job of sliding in front. They got a couple (of dunks) but they've been getting 10-12 a game from what I've seen."

While Tuesday's game promised to be glittery, there was one small detail: No Paul. The All-Star guard has been out since straining a hamstring on Saturday. Also missing was former Jazz guard Mo Williams. But that was partially offset by the absence of Utah's Derrick Favors and Josh Howard, both out with injuries of their own.

Clipper's Blake Griffin dunks as the Utah Jazz and the Los Angeles Clippers play NBA basketball Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2012, in Salt Lake City, Utah.    (Tom Smart, Deseret News) Clipper's Blake Griffin dunks as the Utah Jazz and the Los Angeles Clippers play NBA basketball Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2012, in Salt Lake City, Utah. (Tom Smart, Deseret News)

More than glamor, the game presented the Jazz an eyewitness look at the competition from another promising team. The Jazz have potential stars waiting to break out, but the Clippers have young stars who are already there. Or haven't you seen Griffin's ratchet dunks on the highlights?

Asked pregame whether the current Clippers bore any resemblance to those he played against, Jazz coach Ty Corbin said: "None," before kindly noting a couple of short Los Angeles rises.

He went on to add they have "put together a nice team rather quickly."

Even so, it was jarring to see a virtual sellout crowd. Traditionally, this was a game to give tickets to the neighbors. The Clippers have always been a minor blip in a major-league town. They drafted high but mismanaged, misused and miscalculated almost everything.

Utah coach Tyrone Corbin as the Utah Jazz and the Los Angeles Clippers play NBA basketball Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2012, in Salt Lake City, Utah.    (Tom Smart, Deseret News) Utah coach Tyrone Corbin as the Utah Jazz and the Los Angeles Clippers play NBA basketball Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2012, in Salt Lake City, Utah. (Tom Smart, Deseret News)

Now that all seems dated. The 7-4 Clippers practice at an airy, bright facility in Playa Vista, a far nicer spot than the Lakers' compound-like facility in El Segundo. The Lakers are aging, the Clippers rising.

Still, that had no effect on the 9-4 Jazz, who have won nine of their last 11. The Clippers have company in the kids-on-the-move department.

You might even say they're contemporaries.

Minus the celebrities, of course.

Email: rock@desnews.com

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