Another week, another view into the dysfunctional organization that is the Los Angeles Clippers. In one week, the Clippers logged two wins and two losses coming into Sunday, maintaining the status quo and solidifying their place as middle of the Western Conference possible/probable playoff pack. With each victory, we see what they are capable of: resounding offense and blinding athleticism. With each defeat, another reminder that this is the Clippers, the other Los Angeles team, a team which has never been to the Conference Finals let alone win a championship.
It’s this team, our perennial heart-breakers, which we find ourselves dissecting and analyzing once again. Last year, when the Western Conference was predominate and unstoppable, the Clippers looked good. I mean, they looked really good. They finished with the #3 seed in the West and had a strong playoff run despite their inability to finish off the Houston Rockets. During the offseason, instead of making an excellent acquisition or finding some depth for the bench, they traded away several players like Matt Barnes and Spencer Hawes for Lance Stephenson. They did this all while knowing that they had a strong conference to be in, a conference which includes Steph Curry (who apparently wears the One Ring to Rule Them All), the San Antonio Spurs, and Oklahoma City Thunder.
But the West doesn’t appear to be quite as strong as it was last year and teams like Houston and Portland aren’t ripping opponents up anymore. Although, it’s appearing as though you can add the Clippers to that list of unintimidating opponents in the West. As the Western sun sets the Eastern sun rises on teams like the Atlanta Hawks and the Toronto Raptors, we find ourselves in unexplored territory. The East has been subservient to the West since Jordan retired for the second time (12 out of the last 17 championships have been won by Western Conference teams). There are currently 10 teams in the East at or above a .500 record compared with 8 teams in the West with a comparable record. This group includes our beloved Clippers who, despite all that raw talent and new ownership, are nine games back from the Warriors.
Even in a weakened conference, the Clippers need to figure out how to thrive in a world where the Warriors are 18-0. Doc Rivers needs to figure out how to use his excellent and talented first squad to dominate and move the ball in a harmonious fashion which is supported by a bench that isn’t mediocre and sometimes even boring to watch on television. Unless some changes are made to how the offense is run and how the team’s chemistry is composed the Clippers will continue to lose, despite the fact that Blake Griffin is in his prime and dropping 40.
Now that it is the holidays, and we are all thankful for something, allow me to tell you what I’m not thankful for: A weakened Western Conference which is completely dominated by teams like the Warriors, Spurs, and Thunder. A weakened Los Angeles Clippers’ team which traded away some excellent players in the last few years including Eric Bledsoe, who was once the Clippers’ backup point guard and is now averaging 22+ points a game for the Phoenix Suns. The Clippers’ current backup point guard, none other than coach Doc Rivers’ son, Austin Rivers, is averaging 8 points per game in an average of 22 minutes. All of which means that despite absolutely heroic performances by Blake Griffin, the Duke of Dropping Slams, and Chris Paul, the Prince of Lob City, the Clippers are only a middle of the pack Western Conference team.