Los Angeles Clippers

Clippers fail to take advantage of the moment

It’s Thursday. Who are we blaming for the Clipper collapse today.

It’s been Paul George. Fifteen minutes later, it’s Doc Rivers. I even had one person blame Lou Williams wings escapade for the choking away a 3-1. It’s been everyone except Kawhi Leonard who was 1-11 from the floor in the second half of Game 7. Could you imagine if that was LeBron James? There would be a Skip Bayless marathon on television, social media, and radio. Instead Leonard has largely been given a pass. So has Jerry West. The Clippers ‘advisor’ had to have had a hand in Steve Ballmer agreeing to trade away a generation of first round picks for Paul George. Yes… that Paul George.

Where do the Clippers go from here? That’s a really good question. Outside of a handful of media, there’s no indication that Doc Rivers will lose his job. Not to say, he should but Rivers is the only coach to lose 3-1 series leads multiple time. After the loss to Denver, he’s up to three blown leads that are supposed to be insurmountable.

The Brooklyn Nets better take a look at what happened to the Clippers. Yes, Steve Nash has a great relationship with Kevin Durant but as the Clippers found out, integrating two superstars in a locker room full of sum-of-parts grinders isn’t a seamless transition. Long before Covid-19 shut the season down, The Athletic’s Jovan Buha and Sam Amick wrote about the issues in the Clipper locker room. If the Clippers struggled bringing in those guys into a locker room with vets, how much will the Nets struggle with having Durant AND Kyrie Irving?

The one major difference between the Clippers and Nets is the fact that Leonard and George have outs that could essentially make this rental situation. It’s hard to imagine if Leonard or both Leonard and George leave after the next season, that Doc Rivers will be back. That means Ballmer goes into a spanking new arena in a rebuild situation. Ouch. Unlike the Golden State Warriors, the Clippers can’t lean back on a handful of rings over the last few years.

It puts Rivers, Leonard, and George in a situation that screams “next year or bust”. That’s not as easy as it sounds. Depending on what the Los Angeles Lakers can do in the offseason, they will be tough again next season. Then you still have the Denver Nuggets and, presumably, a healthy Portland Trail Blazers. Then you have teams like the Dallas Mavericks and the Utah Jazz lurking in the background.

We haven’t even gotten to the Houston Rockets or up-and-coming franchises like the Phoenix Suns, Memphis Grizzlies, and New Orleans Pelicans.

It won’t be easy even to those who are blindly willing to blame it on the bubble and pencil in the Clippers as the favorites to come out of the west.

I’ve tweeted and said it to anyone who will listen. The NBA has changed. Three of the four teams left in the playoffs are sum-of-parts teams. Only the Lakers are a team built around two superstars and spare parts from cars in the junkyard. The other three teams were built smartly over the years with players playing roles established roles. When you look at the teams on the cusp, most are built in that form or fashion.

There’s a chance that when we look back at this version of the Clippers, it’s reads like a cautionary tale. That’s far from where we started when Leonard and George arrived in Los Angeles.

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