Just like the Lakers, Clippers entered season with high expectations, but have nothing to show for it.
The Clippers held a 2-0 lead against the Grizzlies, but they lost a handle on the series, and on their best season ever. Photo by Danny Johnston/AP
Please do not argue with the Sports Editor. That is like counting on the Clippers to compete for a championship. That still has not worked out. Illustration by David G. Brown
By Jason Lewis
Sentinel Sports Editor
The Clippers, after 39 years of playing basketball in Los Angeles, and 53 years overall, have finally matched the Lakers. They finally had the same expectations that the Lakers had, and they delivered the same exact thing. That would be a whole lot of nothing!
Like the Lakers, the Clippers entered this season with an expectation of competing for a championship, and just like the Lakers, the Clippers failed miserably. While the Lakers showed early on and throughout the regular season that they were not going to come close to living up to the lofty expectations, the Clippers had what was viewed as their greatest season ever.
The Clippers won a division title for the first time in franchise history, and they also won more than 50 games for the first time in their existence. This team was celebrated for the bulk of the season, and they were supposed to build upon their second round appearance from last year’s playoffs. They were supposed to take a step forward. At minimum make it to the Western Conference Finals, and possibly shake up the NBA by making it to the NBA Finals.
But the Clippers, in their greatest season ever, are still the Clippers, as they did not come close to their goals. A first round exit while being routed in the final four games of their series against the Grizzlies has labeled this season, pretty much a failure. Actually, just like the Lakers, this may be the Clippers most disappointing season ever, as this year was the first time they ever had any expectations.
Sure, Blake Griffin’s injured ankle hurt their chances, but he was perfectly healthy when the Clippers lost by double digits in Games 3 and 4. It can be argued that even if he were healthy, the Clippers still could have easily lost.
Even when the Clippers are at their best, they seem to be at their worst. They finally garnered the respect as being one of the best teams in the NBA, but they still fall on their faces. They have proven themselves to be the same ole Clippers.
Even when the Clippers were viewed as the best NBA team in Los Angeles, they still failed. To put the comparison with the Lakers into perspective, the Clippers had their best season ever while the Lakers had what may be their most disappointing season ever, and the results were exactly the same. Losing four games in a row in the first round of the playoffs.
At this point it is hard to say that the Clippers have anything to build upon. Last year was viewed as a success because they made it to the second round of the playoffs. Even though they were swept by the Spurs, it was still a step in the right direction. This season they held the best record in the NBA for a period of time before the All-Star break, and they were viewed as one of the best teams in the league.
But right now, all of that goodwill that they earned is gone, and moving forward the future does not nearly look as bright as it did a couple of months ago.
Chris Paul, who was almost a one-man team for the Clippers in the playoff series against the Grizzlies, is an unrestricted free agent. One thought was that if the Clippers made a deep run in the playoffs, Paul would sign a long-term contract with the team. But after failing to advance in the playoffs and the probable firing of head coach Vinny Del Negro, Paul is saying that he has a lot to think about.
That does not sound too good for the Clippers. Paul may take a look at his options before he decides where he will be playing next year. As great as Griffin’s future is, he is not the super star player that Paul is at this point. If they do not have Paul in the lineup next season, they will not take the next step towards becoming NBA Finals contenders, and they would probably struggle to make it to the playoffs.
Paul may be waiting to see what the Clippers do with their head coaching position, and what they do with other free agents. Chauncey Billups, Lamar Odom, and Matt Barnes, all key contributors, will also be free agents.
The Clippers, who were on a major upswing, are now in another transitional period, which they always seem to be in, and that is when they have made horrible roster decisions in the past. Keeping this roster together really means keeping Paul on board and continuing to build around him and Griffin.
Being at yet another crossroads certainly is not where Clipper fans envisioned this team to be right now.