The Player's Prayer

The Player's Prayer
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The Los Angeles Clippers aren’t a team. They are a disjointed range of very good to very bad professional basketball players who rarely play as a team.

Beyond the problems with coaching, bench depth, and shooting percentage, the team itself is failing to to win. This problem, and other problems exhibited by the Clippers, can be chalked up to one thing: teamwork. Whatever squad Doc Rivers fields against an opponent fails to play cohesively as a team and, instead, operates as a fractured, but whole, lineup.

Today’s source of frustration lies in DeAndre Jordan, who, through his inability to make free throws, is currently causing the Clippers to lose to elite teams like the San Antonio Spurs. The perfectly legal “Hack-A-DJ” technique used by teams to disrupt the flow of the Clippers’ offense has shown to be effective. Elite coaches like Gregg Popovich use this method to destroy DeAndre Jordan’s confidence and subvert any progress the rest of the Clippers can make offensively. As long as the NBA maintains the legality of this abuse of fouling they neglect the purpose of free throws as a punishment to fouling rather than as a punishment for being bad at shooting free throws. But as a strategy it continues to work, as seen in the Dec. 18 loss to the Spurs.

DeAndre Jordan shot 20 free throw attempts and made just 8. In the Dec. 19 loss to Houston, he shot an even worse 30% from the line. While watching one of these painful attempts at self-validation, I saw something. On DeAndre’s right shoulder he has a tattoo which perfectly manifests the problem he is currently encountering at the line. It is what is referred to as the Serenity Prayer, a prayer originally written by an American theologian named Reinhold Nieburh and one which is known for its usage by Alcoholics Anonymous. Here is the text:

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change.

Courage to change the things I can.

And wisdom to know the difference.

If this is a prayer, or way of life, that DeAndre Jordan thought was important enough to get tattooed permanently on his body, why doesn’t he practice what it preaches? He, as a professional basketball player, should have the tenacity and courage to do the things he can do, like shoot a free throw effectively so that his performance at the line does not hinder the performance of the team. If he does not have the courage to do this, he needs to have the serenity to accept his shortcomings and demand that Doc take him off the court so that opponents cannot abuse the NBA’s broken foul system.

I find myself saying this prayer while watching the strategies employed by coaches like Coach Pop and how Doc Rivers reacts slowly and ineffectively to these strategies. I find myself saying this prayer when watching DeAndre Jordan shoots miserably from the line. I find myself saying this prayer when Austin Rivers and Jamal Crawford shoot a combined 2-13 in 47 minutes against a .500 team like the Houston Rockets.

However, despite DJ’s horrible performances from the line and the abuse of the fouling system by opposing coaches, the blame can’t be squarely put on his shoulders. Doc needs to take DJ out and field a lineup which can compete. It is becoming obvious to everyone but Doc Rivers that the Clippers’ bench is unable to perform at the level necessary for a contender. Therefore, God, give me the serenity to watch my beloved Clippers lose time and time again since, apparently, there is nothing Doc Rivers can do to figure out how to win.