T.J. SIMERS

On a team of fleas, Clippers' Chris Paul is the only one with bite

Chris Paul's talent and toughness are going to waste on a team that isn't fighting when it needs to the most in its recent games against Memphis.

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The Clippers' public relations department sent out a notice announcing none of their players would be available Wednesday.

It wasn't surprising to hear they lacked the backbone to own up to their own disappearing act a night earlier.

The PR notice said the players would be available to talk Thursday at 11:15 p.m. I'm sure the Clippers meant 11:15 a.m., but then I wonder — maybe they don't want anyone talking to them.

Why didn't they schedule exit interviews for the players Wednesday? The season is over.

Why weren't the Clippers walking the streets of Los Angeles all day long apologizing to everyone for being such failures again?

They should have invited every single season-ticket holder to the team's practice facility and had folks explain to the players how much Tuesday night's game meant to them.

Charles Barkley described the Clippers as being "softer than tissue paper," leading to a Page 2 column March 7 that began: "I worry Charles Barkley might have the Clippers pegged correctly as fool's gold.''

Maybe the Clippers will never be much more than fool's gold, having no idea what it takes to win when it's all on the line.

Now Barkley is saying the Clippers "have the mental toughness of a flea," and although none of us probably have any idea of the mental capabilities of a flea, it makes you wonder if he's being a little too tough on the fleas.

"The toughest player on your team can't be 6 foot tall,'' Barkley said in referring to Chris Paul, but he is.

The game over, his hand bandaged, Paul stepped into a crowded room full of reporters Tuesday night and said it was his fault the Clippers did not win.

They are lucky to have such a winner on their team, but what a waste to surround him with Clippers.

Paul is probably going to be as good a businessman as he is basketball player and return to the Clippers because they can pay him more than any other team.

But does he really want to lead such a group of heartless losers?

Throw me any excuse you want, but you are home, you are playing Game 5, and if you are a professional, you have to compete like this means absolutely everything.

But the Clippers did not. And Memphis did.

The Grizzlies dug deeper after losing the first two games of the series, being outrebounded in each of those games.

Memphis played harder, and as trite as that might sound, they went after the basketball like every possession mattered. And the Clippers wimped out.

Why should anyone think the Clippers have what it takes to dig deep now and find something extra to win, or even compete in Memphis?

When you have beaten Memphis as often as the Clippers have the last two seasons, it's shocking that they would gag now.

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