Written by: Mr. Harper
Another year another early playoff exit for the Los Angeles Clippers. Five years ago things seemed promising with the acquisition of superstar point guard Chris Paul. Paul was set to go to the main attraction Lakers in a deal with the former New Orleans Hornets which was viewed by former commissioner David Stern as an unfair trade for the then league owned New Orleans Hornets. Desperate to leave New Orleans, Paul said he would happily play for the Clippers who were always in the shadow of the Los Angeles Lakers. In his first season with them they were able to finish 5th overall in the western conference and over .500 for the first time since 1992. The Clippers were able to make the postseason and win their first round matchup against the “grind it out” Memphis Grizzlies. They lost in the second round to a more experienced team in the San Antonio Spurs who would then fall to the up and coming Oklahoma City Thunder led by the trio of Russell Westbrook, James Harden, and Kevin Durant. Things were looking up for the new look Clippers. Blake Griffin decided that he needed a more offensive game to help when he wasn’t able to get easy looks at the rim. So that following offseason he worked adding a jumpshot and post moves into his arsenal. The following season the Clippers would win an additional sixteen games, while grabbing the fourth seed and also winning their first division title. Obviously, Paul was the heart of the team. His style of play benefited them greatly. One could argue that he should have possibly been a MVP candidate. They would fall to the team they defeated the year before the (Memphis Grizzlies). The Clippers needed more offensive players to help shoulder the load when the game started to slow down. This trend would continue as the Clippers regular season record would improve yet they would fall victim to early playoffs exits.
This was the time to get a more experienced coach in Doc Rivers who coached the Boston Celtics to a championship in 2008 against the Lakers. Rivers also managed to convince new owner Steve Ballmer that he could be GM as well as the head coach. Once again fans were ecstatic to see their beloved team build toward becoming a championship contender. In his first season as coach the Clippers knocked out the 6th seeded Warriors but ran into the dynamic duo of Westbrook and Durant. Once more depth was their downfall because they sustained an injury to a key player. Now in 2017 the same problem has arisen and the Clippers have fallen out of the playoffs. Another early exit, another key injury. It’s become clear that is officially tie to move on from the Lob City era. Chris Paul who is now 32 and injury prone is due 200M as a max player. Paul is their best chance at playoff contention but maxing a player whose yet to be to the finals isn’t exactly a wise move. Blake Griffin who hasn’t hit his 30s yet, but also injury prone is an upcoming free agent this offseason as well. Lastly, Deandre Jordan their best defensive player but he’s too much of an offensive liability for his contract without CP3. If possible, the Clippers should try to move all three and hit the reset. Not to mention JJ Reddick is a free agent as well. They cannot afford to lose Paul and Griffin for nothing, with new talent entering the league it would be wise for the Clippers to get a head start but owner Steve Ballmer needs to hire better and more experienced basketball minded people to his staff. Their current team has peaked and he has to understand that Paul and Griffin are his best options in getting some talent back. They will not be able to challenge neither the Warriors or the Spurs anytime soon. Deandre will be more difficult to move but he should to fetch a couple of draft picks. They should also fire Doc Rivers his run in LA is over and their recent playoff exit should have sealed his fate.
Youth should be the focus of their rebuilding. They might not be able to make the playoffs consistently for a while but having a young and entertaining team can still keep fans in seats. Scour the Development League and try to find a winner until you have draft picks. There is no guarantee that the new young players will pan out but that is a risk I think that is easier to take than being a treadmill team until Chris Paul decides to retire or maybe forces his way out (if he decides to return).
It’s time for the organization to move on from Doc Rivers as the general manager and head coach. He has had great regular season success but each of his playoff runs has been tainted by injury and the infamous 3-1 lead blown to the Houston Rockets. Over the next two seasons they have failed to make it out of the first round once again due to key injuries with no other players able to step up.
Steve Ballmer should start looking towards the future if he wants to be taken as a serious owner, from the start he seemed as if he was just rescuing the team from the previous owner. The Clippers do not have an imprint of him being their owner because he seems to be happy just watching them in the playoffs. It’s time for him to realize that his team isn’t going anywhere as they are. Someone in his camp needs him to have a sit down with his two star players. Ballmer needs to understand how losing them for nothing will severely set the franchise back while he’s left holding the bag.
In conclusion, yes, the Clippers will have to go back to basement dweller status. It’s important to clear the books, while acquiring young talent and to still have your fans interested enough to spend their hard earned money on a non playoff contention team. Hopefully the Clippers can find a successful young core and try again at another playoff run.