Tuesday, December 13, 2016

J-Speaks: Clippers' Lead Guard and Commentator Make History

After a stellar beginning to the 2016-17 NBA campaign at 14-2, the Los Angeles Clippers have had their struggles of late. They looked particularly bad in a nationally televised contest against their bitter Western Conference and Pacific Division rivals the Golden State Warriors, who defeated them 115-98 last Wednesday night. This past Saturday, they seemed to get back on track and in front of their home crowd at Staples center, their quarterback along with their longtime play-by-play announcer made history.
In the Clippers (18-7) 133-105 win back on Saturday night versus the beat up and struggling New Orleans Pelicans (8-17) to snap a two-game losing streak and registered their eight win in a row at home versus the Pelicans, perennial All-Star point guard Chris Paul had 20 points, an NBA season-high of 20 assists, five rebounds and zero turnovers.
It was not only the first 20-point, 20-assists game of Paul’s career, it was the first 20-20 game in Clippers’ franchise history. Paul joined former NBA floor generals John Lucas (1983) and Ricky Green (1984) as the only players in NBA history to register 20 assists in a game without a single turnover.
“Did not know that I was the first Clipper ever to do that. No that’s cool,” Paul, who was not as exhilarated about his performance said to FOX Sports’ Prime Tickets Jeanne Zelasko after the game.”
Clippers center DeAndre Jordan, who had 19 points and nine boards showed a lot of love to his teammate during the postgame interview.
The first thing that Paul said after the game that he looks at in the box score is how many turnovers he had in the game. On this night, he had none, which is very different from the 22 total miscues he had the last seven games.
He looked more like himself this past Saturday night and was a big reason the Clippers shot a season-best output of 133 points on 57.4 percent shooting from the floor. They also made a season-best 17 three-point field goals on 36 attempts; out-rebounded the Pelicans, who played without All-Star Anthony Davis 40-34 and had 10 steals.
One big reason the Clippers got back on track, particularly at the offensive end this past Saturday night Paul said to Zelasko, all be it against an inferior opponent who they beat for the second time this season is because of they had a chance to practice on Thursday and Friday of last week and it showed, particularly in how they moved the ball offensively with 34 assists and just 10 turnovers.
“A lot of times you have a great practice and it doesn’t translate right away,” Clippers head coach and President of Basketball Operations Glenn “Doc” Rivers, who team won for the just the third time in their last eight outings said after the win on Saturday night. “I thought yesterday was the start of how we played tonight.”
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, this was the fifth time this season that Paul did not commit a single turnover and he became the first player since at least the 1977-78 NBA campaign, which was when turnovers were first recorded that an individual player had 20 points, 20 assists and not one miscues.
“We shared the ball. We moved the ball. We put up 130 or something like that,” Paul said to Zelasko. “So that means we played the right way. Still got to clean up the defense, but it’s a good win.”
Paul’s stellar performance came on a night when longtime Clippers’ play-by-play announcer Ralph Lawler commentated his 3,000 regular season Clippers telecast.
The 78-year-old Peoria, IL native and three-time L.A. Emmy Award-winner joined longtime announcer for the Phoenix Suns Al McCoy and longtime announcer for the Detroit Pistons George Blaha as the only active NBA play-by-play announcers to have called 3,000-plus contest with one NBA franchise.

At one point in the game at center court, Lawler was presented with a beautiful photo of him holding a FOX Sports microphone, with the number 3,000 in the background. Zelasko also said to Lawler during the interview after the game that the picture was made up of 3,000 images that were chosen to make up the picture.
Many of the other NBA analyst from the FOX Sports affiliates said their congrats to Mr. Lawler like Charlotte Hornets color analyst of FOX Sports Southeast Dell Curry; Defending NBA champion Cleveland Cavaliers play-by-play commentator for FOX Sports Ohio Fred McLeod; NBA on TNT play-by-play analyst the legendary Marv Albert; NBA on ESPN/ABC color analyst and former Clipper Mark Jackson; Indiana Pacers game announcers Chris Denari and Quinn Buckner of FOX Sports Indiana; Oklahoma City Thunder color analyst and another former Clipper Michael Cage of FOX Sports Oklahoma; Golden State Warriors longtime color analyst for Comcast SportsNet Bay Area Jim Barnett; Orlando Magic play-by-play commentator for FOX Sports Florida David Steele; New Orleans Pelicans play-by-play analyst for FOX Sports New Orleans Joel Meyers and play-by-play analyst for the rival Los Angeles Lakers for Spectrum Sportsnet Bill Macdonald. 
Earlier this year, the 38-year voice of the Clippers, whose famous catchphrases include ‘Oh Me, Oh My!” which is his twitter handle, ‘Bingo!’, ‘The Lob! The Jam!’ was inducted into the California Sports Hall of Fame and back in March received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Last season, STAPLES Center honored Lawler by renaming the venue media entrance at Stairway 18 the, “Ralph Lawler Media and Team Member Entry.

After the game, Lawler spoke with Zelasko about this great milestone, saying that he was very honored that the Clippers and FOX Sports Prime Ticket did a wonderful job of making him feel very special.

"It was a special night. One that I'll won't soon forget," Lawler said to Zelasko. "Somebody asked me do I remember my first game with the Clippers? I said, 'No. I don't have any recollection of it at all. But this one I'll remember. I promise you.'"
While he has become known as the “Voice of the Clippers,” Lawler is just a handful of announcers to do play-by-play in each of the four North American professional sports. He was the radio voice for the San Diego Chargers of the National Football League (NFL); he broadcast games for the Philadelphia Flyers of the National Hockey League (NHL), the Phillies of Major League Baseball (MLB) and the Philadelphia 76ers (NBA).
His diversity in broadcasting accomplishments also includes the former American Basketball Association (ABA) and college basketball, golf tennis, track and field, auto racing, boxing, and college football.
Of all his famous in game catchphrases though, his most famous one is “Lawler’s Law,” which states that the first team to score 100 points in an NBA game will win. “It’s the law.”
Along with his signature catchphrases, Lawler is famous for doing his play-by-play of games using a handheld microphone. Most play-by-play and color analysts use headsets when calling games.
It was a special Saturday night for Clipper nation. The fans and those watching at home saw All-Star Chris Paul post his first 20-20 game of his career and the first in Clippers’ franchise history. They also saw the longtime voice of the team and one of the very best play-by-play men in North American sports make history calling his 3,000 game.  
For much of their 39 seasons in the “City of Angels,” L.A.’s second basketball team was in the shadow of the 16 World Champion Los Angeles Lakers, who late great announcer, Francis Dayle “Chick” Hearn, who passed away 14 years ago, is also from Illinois as he was born in Aurora.
In the last five seasons, they have been the toast of the town and through it all, they have had one voice calling their games and that is Ralph Lawler and the one fan who was their at Staples and the old Los Angeles Sports Arena actor and comedian Billy Crystal. 

Lawler, mentioned to Zelasko that during his high school days back in Illinois that being a broadcaster was something that he liked to be. He did not know though that it would have been a broadcaster for the NBA. 

"I had great role models in Peoria, IL because "Chick" Hearn was there. Bob Star was there. Tom Kelly was there....It was a great place, like a laboratory growing up and all the Chicago stations would move into Peoria and I would here all the [Chicago] Cub games and White Sox games," Mr. Lawler said to Zelasko. "I had a real good chance to hear some of the best."

Besides having the respect of the players, fans and his colleagues in his profession, one person that respects and enjoys Lawler the most is Rivers.   
“Listening to Ralph Lawler has defined Clippers basketball for so many fans, over so many years,” Rivers said of the Lawler, who and his wife Jo have three children and seven grandchildren. “It’s an honor to coach in his 3,000th regular season and I look forward to him broadcasting many more Clippers games.”
This was a night that will go down as one of the best in Clippers' franchise history. A night where Paul joined the 20-20 club and a night where one of the best broadcasters in pro sports was honored for reaching a great milestone and is going as strong as ever.
"All 3,000 really means is that I've grown old here and it's been fun growing old with this group of watching this game I love so much," Lawler said to Zelasko.
Information, statistics and quotations are courtesy of 12/11/16 6 a.m. edition of NBATV’s “Gametime,” presented by Kia Motors with Kristen Ledlow, David Aldridge and Sam Mitchell; L.A. Clippers Press Release from www.nba.com/clippers, “LA Clippers and Prime Ticket to Celebrate Ralph Lawler’s 3,000th Regular Season Broadcast;”  12/18/16 2:30 p.m. edition of Clippers Weekly, presented by American Airlines with Mark Rogondino; www.nba.com/games/20161210/NOPLAC#/boxscore/recap/matchup; http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Los_Angeles_Lakers; http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Los_Angeles_Clippers_seasons; http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chick_Hearn; http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ralph_Lawler.

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