Is this the year the Los Angeles Clippers finally fulfill their potential and establish themselves as LA’s big guns?
2013-2014 record: 57-25
Key player: Chris Paul
Offseason Acquisitions: Spencer Hawes, Jordan Farmar
They have long been living in the shadow of their big brother LA Lakers but now the Clippers must step up and finally fulfill their potential as true title contenders. Through all the adversity of the Donald Sterling saga, the Clippers finished at 57-25 in the Western Conference last year but lost in the playoffs again. The urgency is evident among all the players and staff as the Clippers become the nearlymen of the NBA.
Shooting guard JJ Reddick perfectly portrayed this urgency and pressure in a recent interview.
“There’s absolutely a sense of urgency. … You never know how many opportunities you’re going to have like this, to be on a team that has a legitimate chance to win a championship.”
“Lob City” is now in year four since Blake Griffin arrived and Chris Paul became the face of the franchise but the Clippers still have yet to progress past the Western Conference semi-finals. Their up-tempo style of play does not lend itself to the physical rigours of playoff basketball. Chris Paul may be the best point guard but even he hasn’t been able to carry this team through the playoffs.
Jamal Crawford has long been the sparkplug for this offense and his outside shooting ability has carried the team to numerous regular season victories but has been stymied in recent playoff games. JJ Redick and Matt Barnes must be able to stay healthy and share the workload with Crawford. This outside shooting will aid the Clippers when Blake Griffin cannot score easily inside.
Coach Doc Rivers has put his faith in former Philadelphia 76er Spencer Hawes to backup Deandre Jordan who is prone to foul trouble. Hawes will help space the floor and allow driving lanes for Chris Paul to exploit. This acquisition has been lauded in many circles and could prove a shrewd move come playoff time.
The big test for the Clippers does not lie in making the playoffs or even in progressing through the first round but in making the Conference Finals. It is simply time for the Clippers to become LA’s team.
2014-2015 Prediction: Western Conference finalist.