I am a big fan of the articles Steve Purciello writes where he shares his NBA random thoughts. So, with apologies to him for the blatant rip-off, here are my NBA Random Thoughts – Clippers edition!
The Clippers started the 2022-23 season as the 4th favored team to win it all behind the Celtics, Warriors and Bucks. This is nothing new to the LAC as they have been in the top 8 preseason odds since the 2019-20 season. That season, in fact, they were #1. Clippers fans have gotten used to great expectations from this team. Unfortunately for them, they are also getting more and more used to the hard reality of unmet expectations! The very best the team could muster over those 2 seasons from 2019 through to last season was their first Western Conference Finals appearance. They lost 4-2 to the Phoenix Suns.
The 2022-23 is the 4th season the Clippers have had two of the best players in the Association on their team. Now, you can argue that the pandemic and injuries both changed things. I would agree. But, the pandemic and injuries impacted everyone, every basketball team! In short, the Clippers had the team they wanted, the team they mortgaged their future to get and have – to date, nothing to show for it. Nothing outside of a Western Conference appearance which just is not enough!
This season was supposed to be different. The pandemic is over and the team is (mostly) healthy. So, this veteran Clippers team should be setting the Association on fire… right?
What happened to the Clippers?
On December 27th the Clippers beat the Toronto Raptors on the road to get to 21-15. Not an overpowering record, but certainly respectable and they looked like a team that would absolutely make the playoffs and make some noise once they got there.
They have not won a game since!
The team now sits at 21-21 and there are rumors of issues. At the most basic level the Clippers forgot how to play defense in their last 6 games. Over the course of the season they have averaged 110 ppg against which is the 4th best in the Association. Over the last 6 games they allowed their opponents to score 120ppg. That average would have them tied with the San Antonio Spurs for the worst in the NBA.
Blow it up?
This recently showed up on Twitter.
#Sources — LA Clippers could “blow it up” this off-season. Front office / ownership are losing patience on this title window. “One name to keep an eye out this off-season if the Clippers come up short in the playoffs is Paul George.” #NBA
— NBATradeReport (@NBATradeReport) January 9, 2023
ClipperNation was quick to call the tweet out for lack of named sources and an overall unwillingness to think it’s possible the team would pivot. Personally, I think the Clippers would be wise to explore options after the season if the team doesn’t make it to the Finals. Paul George will be 33 next season and Kawhi Leonard 32. A famous Los Angeles Sports Executive, Branch Rickey, is credited with saying it is better to trade someone a year too early rather than a year too late.
If the Clippers are able to make it to the Finals, then things change. But, if they flame out… again, it will be time to write up options on the white board at Playa Vista.
Time to become a team!
After their most recent loss Leonard said “This is the spot where [the Clippers] see if you really enjoy the game and if we’re a team, seeing if we can dig out this hole. It is fun. It’s a good challenge for us.” It’s the time to prove we are a team statement that really got me. One thing that has separated this group from others is consistency. Their core of Paul George, Kawhi Leonard, Reggie Jackson, Marcus Morris Sr and Ivica Zubac have been together for 3 seasons. They have been led all that time by Tyronn Lue who was recently voted as the best in the NBA for in game adjustments.
This is a team that knows each other. A team anchored by All-Stars and led by a very good coach; one of only 8 currently in the NBA that have won a Championship! This is a team that should already be… a team!
I get what Leonard is saying. Every season brings new teammates and each team has to work to become a “team”. Generally, that learning curve is smaller for a group that’s been together longer. It is frustrating to me that this team is still working to find themselves. Yes, there have been injuries, but every team has injuries! This team should be further along than they are. That being said, I’m not worried about the Los Angeles Clippers.
NBA fans are quick to complain during a losing streak. But, you know what alleviates those complaints? A winning streak! The road ahead is tough with games against the Dallas Mavericks, Denver Nuggets and Philadelphia 76ers. But I am certain that if the Clippers are able to put together a 4 or 5 game winning streak, especially against opponents as good as those that are coming to LA, that everything will be OK.
I’m not worried about the Los Angeles Clippers… yet.