LOS ANGELES -- Any notion that the Los Angeles Clippers' 93-77 win over the New Orleans Hornets on Wednesday night was just another win was erased moments after the game as players got dressed in the Clippers locker room.
As the Clippers celebrated a franchise-best-tying 11th straight win, Clippers owner Donald Sterling walked into the room with an entourage of about 10 friends who normally occupy the center courtside seats at home games.
It was the first time Sterling has entered the Clippers' locker room this season and the first time many of the new players on the team had even met him. As Jamal Crawford tied his shoes, Sterling walked up to him and said, "I love watching you shoot. When you shoot, everyone is quiet. I love it."
As Crawford shook his hand, Sterling said, "You're going to stay here forever, right? I love having you here. Thank you so much."
It's not surprising that Sterling would want to bottle this team up and keep it. Perhaps the most impressive accomplishment the Clippers have had during their longest winning streak since 1974, when they were the Buffalo Braves, was making a man who had just lost a $17.3 million lawsuit this week look as if he had just won the lottery.
Sterling even led the team in a "Hip, hip, hooray!" chant in the middle of the locker room that was as corny as it sounds and caused a couple of players to roll their eyes about it afterward.
So maybe the Clippers haven't totally washed their hands of their past. But there is so much good going on in Lob City these days that, like in most municipalities, it's not hard to ignore the mayor while you're having fun.
After the game, Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro tried to downplay the Clippers' winning streak and their franchise-best 19-6 start. "We don't even talk about it," he said. "It hasn't been mentioned one time. It's not important."
Of course, that's not entirely true. The Clippers know exactly what they are doing and they know what each win means -- not only this season, but historically.
"It gets mentioned for sure," Crawford said with a smile. "It gets mentioned. It's really cool."
No one was happier with the win and the Clippers' start than Chris Paul, who racked up his 5,000th career assist in the game. He has made it his personal goal to rewrite the Clippers' record book since he arrived in Los Angeles last year, and this was another one he was able to check off his list.
"It's pretty special, especially doing it at home, since it hasn't happened since '74," Paul said of the team's streak. "But we can't be satisfied. I think it's something that's great for the fans, great for the team, but we can't be satisfied. It's good when you win. Obviously, everybody knows that. The food tastes better, music sounds better, you sleep a little better. Everything's a little bit better when you win, so we just got to keep going."
The significance of the win wasn't lost on Del Negro, who celebrated after the game with his parents, who are in town for the holidays and visited his office after the game. Del Negro vividly remembers the Buffalo team that won 11 straight in 1974. He loved watching fellow Italian Ernie DiGregorio and still counts Dr. Jack Ramsay as one of his favorite people in basketball. He just wants his team to aim higher than the franchise's current record book for benchmarks of success.
"It was a long time ago," Del Negro said. "It was the Buffalo Braves. Most of our guys weren't even born. ... I think Grant [Hill] was 2. They're not worried about that stuff. They're worried about the Los Angeles Clippers and the opportunity for us to continually build on this thing. ... We want to make our own history. We want to do our own thing."