By DeArbea Walker
Over the last three seasons the Los Angeles Clippers have been considered one of the elite teams in the NBA Western Conference but haven’t been able to make it over the hump.
Yes, the past two postseasons the Clippers have eliminated the reigning NBA champions in the playoff but unfortunately have come up short during those two campaigns. During the 2014 NBA playoffs, the Clippers eliminated the Warriors in the first round before losing in the second round to the Oklahoma City Thunder. Their most notable defeat came during the 2015 post season against the 2014 NBA Champion, San Antonio Spurs, in seven games. The Clippers would later become just the 9th team in NBA history to lose a series after being up 3-1 against the Houston Rockets.Embed from Getty Images
After their lost to the Rockets during the 2015 playoffs, the Clippers went back to the drawing board. The team acquired Lance Stephenson and added free agents Josh Smith and Paul Pierce to add veterans and depth to their bench rotation.
The Clippers starting lineup at the start of the season included 10-time All star, Paul Pierce but Coach Rivers decided Lance Stephenson was a better fit for the Clippers to fill that role. After the Clippers acquired Lance Stephenson, Rivers had a clear role for the small forward. The intention to be a lift for the Clippers off the bench, but now the role is transitioning to Pierce. Paul Pierce filled a similar role during his time playing for the Wizards, but not in a competitive championship environment, which could potentially pose a problem for the Wizards.
As a fan of the game, watching Pierce for years, especially during his 2008 championship run, his ability to read the opposing defense on the floor and coach from the bench was an asset to the Celtics and was irreplaceable. Similar to Pierce, Chris Paul also has an excellent basketball I.Q. and can be the Clippers coach on the floor (Player-Coach). The only issue that could be problematic is if Paul and Pierce are on the floor together. A competitive environment for Pierce and Paul could raise their passion for the game leading to toes being stepped on. The fact that Pierce was moved to the second unit in some ways might alleviate the possibility of that happening but it won’t completely eliminate it.Embed from Getty Images
The issues of the teams chemistry and competitive environment combined with the distracting outside remarks being made to the media about the road to success of other NBA teams will be their Achilles heel this season. Taking a quote from the great John Wooden “Don’t measure yourself by what you have accomplished, but by what you should have accomplished with your ability.” In Doc Rivers defense, after seeing the Golden State Warriors win the NBA championship in the fashion they did, he felt his team wasn’t on the same playing level as the Warriors.
The acquisition of Stephenson and Pierce were exactly the types of players the team felt they needed to compete with archrival Golden State. With a team full of loud personalities, the Clippers will face the struggle of keeping everyone under wraps as they look to get everyone on the same page before the postseason arrives.