In the pantheon of Los Angeles play-by-play announcers, Ralph Lawler is not the most renowned. After all, he’s competing against the likes of Chick Hearn (Lakers), Vin Scully (Dodgers) and Jaime Jarrín (Dodgers, Spanish-language). But, after 40 years of calling Clippers games, Lawler is not far off, and he certainly knows more about losing than any of his peers.
In perhaps the greatest example of cheerful optimism squaring off against relentless failure, Lawler, who retired from the booth in April of 2019 at the age of 81, has never, not one single time, witnessed the Clippers advance past the Western Conference semifinals.
So it’s not surprising that, even in retirement, Lawler has kept a close eye on this year’s Clippers team, one of the most talented in franchise history. But Lawler knows better than most that in order for all that talent to bear fruit, the Clippers will need to check their excuses at the door, take advantage of opportunities and have their stars show up each and every night.
And he’s not afraid to say so (though in the nicest way possible).
Lawler Believes Clippers
In the wake of the Clippers’ 112-109 Game 1 loss to the Utah Jazz on Tuesday, during which the Jazz missed 20 straight shots in the first quarter and Paul George went 4-for-17 from the field, Lawler was only slightly less active on Twitter than your average millennial.
First, Lawler lamented the missed opportunity to steal a game on the road.
And, believing that the Clippers should have led by more than just seven points following Utah’s disastrous opening frame, Lawler has been indefatigable in his stance.
When some observers suggested that the loss was a result of fatigue — L.A. having finished up their seven-game series against Dallas only two days prior — Lawler pulled out the ol’ “back in my day” card:
And when it came to George’s less than stellar performance in Game 1, Lawler didn’t make any declarative statements. But he did make an observation off a tweet by @pickuphoop that pointed out how George has now shot 25% or less, on 15 or more shots, 10 times in his playoff career.
‘The Timing Stinks’
It’s hard to derive much from Lawler’s comment on George’s playoff duds, but the fact that he zeroed in on the tweet in the first place could be construed as a souring on George’s ability to lead a team to a title.
Back in September of 2019, four months after he retired, The Athletic’s Jovan Buha wrote that Lawler had been overjoyed at the news that George and Kawhi Leonard would be joining the Clippers:
On the night of July 5, Lawler was in bed around 11 p.m., falling asleep. He was beginning to worry the Clippers were going to strike out in free agency. His gut told him to check his phone one more time before going to sleep. He swiped it open to see a flurry of texts and tweets confirming the shocking news: Leonard and George were Clippers.
Lawler, feeling a wave of euphoria, started jumping up and down in bed. He then turned to Jo and hugged her.
“Holy cow, look at that,” Lawler muttered to himself.
Believing that he may have retired just before the Clippers finally won a championship, Lawler expressed to Buha a twinge of regret.
“The timing stinks,” Lawler said. “I wish I’d have done all this a year ago or put off retiring for a year. It’s going to be hard to miss what’s going to be a golden year for this franchise.”
Lawler’s FOMO was, of course, unjustified in George and Leonard’s first season together — in fact, he was probably thankful to not be around for L.A.’s disastrous fumble of their 3-1 series lead to the Nuggets in the second round.
And as far as beating Utah? Lawler is unsure. But after 40 years of watching the Clippers, he has plenty of reason to feel uneasy.