basketball, Blake Griffin, Chris Paul, Clipper Nation, Clippers, J.J. Redick, Los Angeles, Los Angeles Clippers, National Basketball Association, NBA, NBA Finals, Sports Illustrated, Staples Center, Western Conference
Chris Paul doing his thing as one of the NBA’s elite point guards during the Clippers’ 124-84 blowout of the Phoenix Suns on February 22nd. Photo courtesy of newslocker.com
AN OPINION ON WHAT THE CLIPPERS’ FATE WILL ULTIMATELY BE AS THE REGULAR SEASON WINDS DOWN AND THE PLAYOFFS APPROACH
Current Record (after 56 games): 37-19
* Fourth place in the NBA’s Western Conference and second place in the Pacific Division, 13 and a half games behind the Golden State Warriors
One thing about these Los Angeles Clippers that personally stands out for me is their won-loss record since Blake Griffin got injured on Christmas Day – and hasn’t played since due to that and the broken hand suffered in that fight with that team assistant in Toronto:
20 wins and just six losses, including winning 11 of their first 13 games played in Griffin’s absence.
I’m sure folks are asking if I’m implying that the power forward is somehow a liability and is no longer really needed, being that his team has done so well in his absence?
In an emphatic word: No.
To say otherwise would be to ignore the huge impact that #32 has given the franchise, almost singlehandedly – along with Chris Paul, of course – making the Clippers relevant after once being chosen by Sports Illustrated as the worst franchise in North American professional sports.
What the team has done with Griffin out, rather, signifies something that needs to be greatly admired:
The fact that these Clippers are a true team, rather than a team needing one individual to make them successful.
One obvious question remains:
Do the Clippers have enough to break through their playoff ceiling and represent the West in the NBA Finals at long last?
I’ll offer my humble opinion with the same answer as the one regarding Blake Griffin being a liability: No.
They have a chance, of course, if the stars align perfectly and a bit of luck goes their way; I’m not saying their chances are zero and none.
Guard J.J. Redick, another factor in the Clippers’ overall solid play chatting with the fans at Staples Center. Photo courtesy of cincinnati.com
But there’s one significant reason why I feel the Clippers’ season will end in a similar way as recent seasons:
The Golden State Warriors.
Their fifty wins in 55 games are ahead of the pace set by the team considered basketball’s equivalent of the 1927 “Murderer’ Row” New York Yankees starring Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig:
The 1995-96 Micheal Jordan/Scottie Pippen/Dennis Rodman-led Chicago Bulls, who are still the only NBA team to win at least 70 games in a season and made things pointless in the playoffs, going 15-3 to win their 4th title in six years on their way to six NBA championships in their eight-year dynasty.
Indeed, although anything can happen once the postseason starts, and I’m certainly not handing Stephen Curry and his Oakland-based blue and gold-clad teammates the Larry O’Brien trophy just yet, those Warriors look next to unbeatable at this point, if not flat-out unbeatable.
If the Clippers are to finally join the Lakers in hanging a championship banner in Staples Center’s rafters, it’s the Warriors – as well as the San Antonio Spurs (I know, they beat them by nearly 20 points on February 18th, but still…) and the Oklahoma City Thunder – that they need to get past.
Which has been most difficult to do and will continue to be, as those clubs have put up a ceiling that’s been a bit tougher than glass for the Clips.
As the Western Conference has been the standard bearers of the NBA for the past several years, the other likely playoff teams – Memphis, Dallas, Portland and Houston – won’t be slouches either.
My Bottom Line:
My answer may be a bold no now, but it just might change in a month.
I’m looking forward to seeing where these stalwarts of Clipper Nation are at this time in March.
DeAndre Jordan has done more than step up with Blake Griffin out, blocking this shot during the Clippers’ most recent game as he has been a dominating force at center. Photo courtesy of arcor.de