Joe Gray has become the third Harlequins player in the space of eight days to have his contract extended until 2014.Mike Brown and George Lowe recently signed new deals at The Stoop, where Gray, 23, has impressed since arriving from Northampton Saints two years ago.“I am really pleased to have re-signed,” said the former England Under-20 hooker.AdChoices广告“Since joining Harlequins, not only has my rugby improved but also my enjoyment for the game. The team plays a great style of rugby and I am excited about the future.”Quins director of rugby Conor O’Shea said: “Joe has made an incredible impact. The person, as much as the player, is an important part of what we believe in.“We believe Joe has the ability to get better and better, and we are looking forward to him achieving his goals with us over the coming years.”
AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREUCLA alum Kenny Clark signs four-year contract extension with PackersWho runs L.A.? For much of the Lakers’ and the Clippers’ cohabitation here, there hasn’t been much substance to the question. But starting Tuesday, when the two teams face each other to kick off the season, that will become one of the most interesting storylines of the season, with data points that will play out in nationally televised duels on the court.The conversation has never felt more relevant to Los Angeles than it does right now. And that might just be enough of a foothold for the Clippers to matter in a town whose basketball soul has long been defined by the stars and championships of the Lakers.“It feels like an opportunity,” said Gillian Zucker, the Clippers’ president of business operations, “but also a responsibility.”The Clippers aren’t taking direct aim at the Lakers in their marketing, but there certainly feels like a lot of subtext. Last season, they adopted the slogan, “L.A. Our Way,” and this week introduced this season’s “City Edition” jersey, featuring Old English script meant to evoke a connection to L.A. street art. They plan to give away “Hustle Over Hype” shirts for the season opener – against the Lakers.It’s not a surprise, given how hard it’s been to be a Clipper in a city that rolls out the red carpet for Lakers. Years of losing and poor management by former owner Donald Sterling tested even the most devoted Clippers employees. It didn’t help that the crosstown team always set the bar high, from “Showtime” to Shaq-and-Kobe. Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Error Brian Sieman, the Clippers’ longtime radio voice who is moving to TV this year, remembered being in Minneapolis the day the Lakers traded for Pau Gasol in 2008 – a move that spurred three consecutive NBA Finals trips and two more championships. He remembered commiserating with longtime play-by-play man Ralph Lawler, wondering if their time would ever come.“Ralph and I were like, ‘We’re never gonna get it right, man. We’ll never have that,’” Sieman said. “And now we’re that team at the trade deadline, where they’re like, ‘Your team just continues to hit grand slams.’ And it feels like it’s sustainable. … It’s such a fun turnaround to see. Now it’s eternal hope, eternal optimism.”Doc Rivers joked that he has a mind to design a shirt for fans who want to clamber onto the bandwagon – “I’m a Laker fan, but …” – based on what he’s heard from strangers around town. Previously, being the coach of the Clippers was often a short walk to the end of the plank with lots of losses and a tiny paycheck. These days, it’s a more upbeat path.“I hear that a lot, the ‘but’ part,” he said, “and that’s a good thing.”So far, the machinations of the Clippers seem far off the Lakers’ radar. The players and coaches aren’t keen to stoke the fires of any tangible crosstown rivalry, real or imagined.“That’s up to you guys to hype up the Clippers-Lakers rivalry thing,” said All-Star big man Anthony Davis, the Lakers’ key offseason addition. “We’re here to play basketball, and I’m sure they are as well. They have a great team, a great coach, great organization, but for us it’s all about getting better each time we step on the floor.”The biggest acknowledgment any Lakers player has made toward the Clippers came from LeBron James himself. Apparently shaking off any lingering disappointment about missing out on Leonard as a teammate, he suggested that local fans were being granted a rare opportunity to see him and Davis one night, and Leonard and George the next.“Everyone talking about the big winners of the summertime: is it the Nets? The Clippers? The Lakers?” he said. “It’s actually Staples Center. … The city of Los Angeles should be very proud of what is going on.”There’s a case that what’s good for the Clippers’ business is good for the Lakers’ as well. For as much as they’re pitted against each other, the teams are strange bedfellows – sharing a building in a revenue-sharing league. A narrative of two contenders facing off in the same city is more compelling than a little brother continually getting steamrolled.But it wouldn’t be genuine to say that any of these issues are weighing on minds within the Lakers’ organization. They want to win the four regular-season meetings, two of which will be nationally televised, this season. Beyond that, the Lakers say they have no marketing strategies, branding concerns or other community outreach events specifically geared to keep the Clippers from encroaching on their fanbase. As an organization, the Lakers are more likely to view the Boston Celtics as their true legacy rivals than the other in-town team.Tim Harris, the team’s president of business operations, says one of Jerry Buss’ key tenets in all of his sports teams dealings was that any league is only as strong as its weakest team.“I don’t believe you can do addition by subtraction,” Harris said. “If anybody in this building is spending their days trying to make a way so the Clippers don’t succeed, then we’re not doing our job. … We need to spend our time worried about growth.”The Clippers contend they’re not even targeting the same fans.Three years into Steve Ballmer’s ownership, they surveyed more than 100,000 people, asking stakeholder groups including fans, sponsors, players, alumni, media and focus groups (including one identified as “haters”) to share their feelings about the Clipper brand.“And what we were left with, was everybody saw us exactly the same,” Zucker said. “The Clippers were the underdogs, the grinders, we had to try a little harder and we had to be experts in blocking out the noise as people were saying we would never be great.“It was that research that led us to a clear, concise vision of who we were, and a real mandate from Steve to all of us that we would be disciplined in turning those words into actions.”Their marketing reflects what they like to call “blacktop” fans, those who don’t fit the Southern California stereotypes.“There’s a velvet-ropes-and-paparazzi side of L.A.,” Zucker said. “But when we think of L.A., we think of the brave, creative entrepreneurs and innovators who have always been a part of the fabric of this city.”For all the great teams they’ve put on the court over the years, a Lakers game has always been as much a social event as an athletic contest – a place to see and be seen. Denzel Washington sat courtside for the Lakers’ first preseason game at Staples Center last week when James and Davis didn’t even play.It would be hard to build an organic replica of the effervescent celebrity-laden atmosphere. And the Clippers aren’t trying. Their hope is to appeal to the blue-collar fan, one who can relate to the hounding defense of Patrick Beverley, or the willful smoothness of Lou Williams.Going forward, the Clippers are focused on a different kind of fan: the young ones.Everything in the past that weighs the Clippers down – losing seasons, historic draft whiffs, penny-pinching, the dark cloud of Sterling – won’t have the same residue for future generations as it does for those who grew up knowing the franchise as a punchline to a bad joke.Between the new stars and a plan to build their own state-of-the-art arena in Inglewood, there’s an opportunity to reshape the brand under Ballmer, who bought the team for $2 billion in 2014.Their community outreach efforts – such as donating $10 million to renovate public basketball courts throughout the city, or helping fund free eye tests and eyeglasses for children in L.A. Unified, Long Beach and Inglewood schools – have altruistic intentions. They also add a shine to the Clippers name and contribute to building a reputation among young fans as a team that’s both active in the community and worth rooting for.Adding homegrown talent like Leonard and George, who already have shown a willingness to connect to the local fanbase, adds gravitas to those initiatives.“I think that’s really what we’re doing to capture the hearts and minds in L.A. that draws them into feeling a connection to the Clippers,” Zucker said. “You see it in the work we’re doing in the community, and it’s not about words – although we do have a lot of words we attached to it, it’s really about the actions that back that up.”So far, any shots the teams have taken against each other seem to be friendly fire. While ESPN’s Brian Windhorst reported that Beverley went out of his way to find James and Davis at a Las Vegas restaurant to taunt the Lakers after the news broke that Leonard and George were joining the Clippers, the rhetoric has been tight-lipped.Danny Green, a former teammate of Leonard in San Antonio and Toronto, said he’s kept up with his new “rival” via text, but trash talk hasn’t really surfaced yet with both so new to their franchises.“I’m very new to this,” Green said. “The crosstown thing for me is not there yet.”Historically, not much has prevented the rivalry from being somewhat congenial. The two teams have never met in the playoffs, and typically when one has been good, the other has been subpar. The Clippers’ Lob City era – up until now the most successful stretch in franchise history – was contrasted by Lakers teams that didn’t make the playoffs.Whatever happens during the season, Sieman hopes that L.A. fans, regardless of affiliation, can pull for the Clippers to come out from under the eclipse of their more accomplished neighbor.“I love Laker fans, they’re awesome,” he said. “I just love NBA fandom. But when the day comes – and it’s not ‘if’ anymore – when that day comes, if you can’t say, ‘You know what, Clipper fans, good for you,’ then something’s wrong with you.”For as much as the Lakers and Clippers might stress that they’re running different races, their milestones in each are the same: championships.The Lakers know their standard is to add to their collection of the 16 NBA title banners that already hang in Staples Center. As General Manager Rob Pelinka said after executing the trade for Davis: “For us, anything short of a championship is not success.”The Clippers similarly understand that they’ll never be true peers of their neighbors unless they hang a banner themselves. Rivers was asked in February – as the Clippers were positioning themselves for their seventh postseason appearance in eight years and the Lakers were starting to slip – how the “other” L.A. team can permanently maintain its fanbase.The answer had nothing to do with marketing strategies, with adding stars, or with undermining a rival. It was much more simple.“By winning. That’s the only way,” Rivers said. “It really is. And someday being the winner. That’s when you really get them.” LOS ANGELES — The embrace of home, for Paul George and Kawhi Leonard, sounded curiously like rejection.For Leonard, it happened at the Coliseum: As his image flashed over the video screen at a Rams home game, the freshly minted champion and franchise star of the Clippers was showered with boos. George, a native of Palmdale, got similar treatment last month attending an MMA event – jeered in the very city he requested a trade to get to.This is, after all, still a purple and gold town. Even though the Clippers just enjoyed their fifth appearance in the playoffs during the Lakers’ six-year postseason drought, there’s never been much of a rivalry in terms of popularity. The Lakers still dominate local airwaves, revenue and raw fan totals. A Kobe Bryant jersey is forever in vogue.That might not change anytime soon, but if ever there was an opening for the Clippers to finally try to punch upward, this is it. The “other team” in L.A. just added two stars, both Southern California natives, to an established core of pesky, blue-collar role players. It’s a good place to start for a franchise that has rarely had many positive narratives to nurture.