For most of their existence, the Los Angeles Clippers have been a symbol of ineptitude not only in the NBA, but in all of professional sports.
Last-place finishes, draft-pick busts and the long shadow cast by the 16-time champion Los Angeles Lakers have usually reduced the Clippers to a punch line for late-night hosts and sports writers.
That may have changed this week.
The Clippers acquired Chris Paul, widely considered the best point guard in the NBA, in a trade with the New Orleans Hornets. It pairs one the league’s elite players with an emerging star in forward Blake Griffin, and it snatches Paul from the Lakers, who thought they had acquired him the previous week.
It also makes a Clippers ticket one of the hottest in the NBA.
“We’re very excited,” Barry Rudin, owner of Barry’s Tickets in Los Angeles, told TicketNews. “The Clippers are now relevant.”
Within hours of the trade becoming official, Clippers season tickets sold out. There’s now a waiting list for season tickets, which is unheard of in the Clippers woeful history.
Rudin said his company, the official resale partner of the team, had seen plenty of Clippers sales and inquiries Thursday morning, December 15, in the wake of the trade.
“Absolutely, we’ve had 40 to 50 orders this morning,” Rudin said. “Right now, there’s a bigger buzz for the Clippers. Remember, Clipper face values are significantly lower than the Lakers, so in many ways it’s a better value.”
The team shares the Staples Center with the Lakers, but the Clippers haven’t shared the spotlight with L.A.’s marquee team since the franchise moved from San Diego in 1984. While the Lakers boast of current and future Hall of Famers — including current star Kobe Bryant — and a celebrity-filled fan base, the Clippers have had 18 losing seasons in the past 19 years.
The team boosted prices of individual tickets just before they went on sale Thursday morning, but that didn’t stop the December 30 home opener against the Chicago Bulls from selling out quickly.
According to ticket search site TiqIQ, the average asking price of a Clippers ticket on the resale market rose from $268.32 to $303.88 in five hours on Thursday.
Another search site, SeatGeek, showed the trade even impacted the Clippers’ exhibition games, a two-game series with the Lakers at the Staples Center on December 19 and 21.
“The home-and-home series between the Lakers and Clippers has seen average prices rise from $69 before the trade to an average of $94 within the last 24 hours,” SeatGeek director of communications Will Flaherty told TicketNews.
StubHub sold more than 3,000 Clippers tickets on Thursday, company spokesperson Joellen Ferrer told TicketNews. She said Clippers demand was running three-times higher than the Lakers.
The Paul deal has drawn criticism from the Clippers cross-town rivals. The Lakers had a three-team deal in place to acquire Paul last week from the NBA-owned Hornets with the Houston Rockets involved. But the deal was vetoed by NBA commissioner David Stern for not bringing enough in return to New Orleans.
Paul, 26, known as CP3 (his uniform number), averaged nearly 19 points and 10 assists last year for New Orleans and nearly single-handedly extended the Lakers to six games in a first-round playoff series.
While Paul’s eligible for free agency next season, the Clippers are no doubt hoping a partnership with the high-flying Griffin not only pays off in victories and highlight-reel dunks, but also in a long-term commitment from Paul.
“It’s the first time they’ve had a real superstar,” Rudin said. “In fact, it’s the first time they’ve had two superstars.”