The Clippers are going to need a wing player like Nick Young to give Chris Paul some backcourt help. Photo by Ken Brooks
After struggling for nearly a month, the Clippers get back to winning at home.
By Jason Lewis
Sentinel Sports Editor
And Ken Brooks
Sentinel Sports Writer
A week ago the Clippers were in a tailspin. They were 11-14 in their previous 25 games, they had lost three road games on three consecutive nights, they had fallen to as low as sixth place in the Western Conference, they were on the verge of falling to ninth, and rumors were swirling around that they were on the verge of firing head coach Vinny Del Negro.
If any team needed a get back home, it was the Clippers, and they took advantage of playing five consecutive games at Staples Center. They finished a perfect 5-0 on their homestand, which was the third time in franchise history that they reached that feat (they did that twice in the 1978-79 season), and now they are right back in good standings among the playoff bound teams.
Three of those five victories came against teams who are playing for playoff spots.
At this point the Clippers would have to fall on their faces to miss the playoffs, and if they continue to win games they should have home court advantage in the first round of the playoffs.
Being a young team is benefiting the Clippers, as many older teams are starting to struggle with fatigue. The Clippers played 20 games in March, making them the first team since the Cincinnati Royals in February of 1967 to play that many games in one month.
Even with playing 20 games in 31 days, the Clippers finished that off by winning five consecutive games for the first time since the 2006-07 season, when they made it to the Western Conference Finals.
After picking up a win in Dallas on Monday, the Clippers pushed their winning streak to six games, their longest winning streak in 20 years.
March may have started ugly for the Clippers, but it ended on a high note. The schedule for April does not get much better though, because they will play nine of their final 13 games of the season on the road.
Point guard Chris Paul made the difference for them during their winning streak, as he was named Western Conference Player of the Week. He averaged 21.5 points and 11.3 assists per game while shooting 56 percent from the floor.
But if the Clippers are going to truly compete in the playoffs, they are going to need more than just Paul in the back court.
While Los Angeles native Nick Young was the final piece added before the NBA trade deadline to the already completely renovated Clippers roster, the jury is still out on his ultimate impact. He was acquired to solidify the shooting guard position by adding scoring punch with his perimeter shooting and has averaged 11.8 points in his first seven games.
Meanwhile, never has the conversation about defense in Clipper land been more prevalent as the Clippers are evolving into a more defensive minded squad. Although getting Young addresses offense, they typically cut things pretty close on defense allowing an average of just two points less (95.19) than what they score (97.19) per game.
Young was stuck in a defensive-less culture in Washington for his first four and a half NBA seasons. But even his comments suggest that he has bought into a different way of doing business in Los Angeles.
“We just focus on defense and stick to our game plan,” Young said when asked about the Clippers’ recent win streak.
A team-oriented psyche must be the priority if the Clippers are to get what they need from him. At 6-7, Young must meet the challenge of slowing down elite shooting guards and small forwards from Kobe Bryant and Stephen Curry to Kevin Durant and Rudy Gay. The Wizards had one first round playoff appearance and five coaches during Young’s stint with them. That alone speaks volumes to why he waived his no-trade rights to be become a Clipper.
In fact, Young says he joked and even sang to his teammates in jest, “I’m going back to Cali,” just days before the move actually happened. This was something he did occasionally, but never believed a return home would ever become a reality.
“We (players) felt that something was going to happen before the deadline, but we didn’t know what,” he said.
Del Negro gave Young the green light to be aggressive especially when he played specifically with the second unit. But with his first few starts behind him, his impact and long-term viability as a Clipper can begin to be truly assessed especially since his contract ends after this season.
Coming home was actually gravy for Young, who merely wanted to win first and foremost.
“I was just happy that a team that is a winner believed in me and felt they needed me. That meant a lot,” Young said. Being traded is one thing, but the fact that the transaction brought him home was overwhelming to which he said, “I found out that morning and all I can say is I was psyched!”
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