I still don’t get Rivers’ sudden move from Boston to L.A. Especially, since he left for the team that wears Red and Blue vs the team that wears Purple and Gold. I thought it was a mistake then, and it’s really looking like a mistake now. Leaving the Celtics organization, an organization that’s won 17 NBA titles for an organization that has never been to a conference final, is a lot like how it would be, if John Calipari left Kentucky to coach a team like Gonzaga. The transition would be similar.
Gonzaga, had been the poster child for mid-major programs in college hoops, until the George Mason’s, VCU’s and Butler’s came along and actually made the Final Four. Gonzaga continues to be a good program, but they’ve never gotten past a regional final. Much like Gonzaga, I wonder if the Clippers have missed their golden opportunity to be elite.
Kentucky’s tradition is unmatched in college hoops. Just like there are few teams that even come close to Boston’s tradition in the NBA. The Celtics are in rebuilding mode, which is the big reason Rivers left in the first place, but elite franchises like the Celtics always come back strong. Most times sooner than later. Don’t be surprised if the Celtics raise their 18th championship banner in the TD Bank Garden before the Clippers raise their first in Staples Center. Next to all those banners of their roommates. The L.A. Lakers.
The Clippers may soon be in a rebuilding mode of their own. Unfortunately for the Clippers, the Donald Sterling saga is probably just in its beginning stages. Sterling, reportedly has hired a lawyer and plans a lawsuit against the NBA. If you thought Sterling was going down quietly, think again. Who knows what the outcome will be, but if the dust settles and a Sterling is still in control of the Clippers. The effects could be catastrophic.
Even if, the NBA’s ban against Sterling stands, and he’s forced to sell the team, you have to ask yourself; how good are the Clippers?
While, the Clippers have a great deal of talent, chemistry is a big question. Offensively, as long as the game is up-tempo, the Clippers are fine. But, as soon as the game slow down, the problems start to occur. That’s even with huge improvements this past season from Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan. Griffin, turned himself into an MVP candidate, and Jordan, while still not a primary offensive option, made strides towards being a more complete player on both ends of the floor. The problem is; there wasn’t much improvement anywhere else. The Clippers enjoyed their best season in franchise history, but for a team led by arguably the NBA’s best point guard, Chris Paul, and Griffin, this season was very disappointing. Things look even worse when you consider it was mistakes by Paul at the end of Game 5 and blown opportunities by the Clippers as a whole to extend or possibly win the series against the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Who would have ever thought Paul, not Oklahoma City Thunder point guard, Russell Westbrook, would be the one to crumble in a clutch situation like he did in Game 5? By and large, the argument can definitely be made that Paul was outplayed in the series by Westbrook. Which, leads to even more questions about Paul’s career in the playoffs. He’s supposed to be the more prototypical guard, but Westbrook has an NBA Finals appearance and his team is still in pursuit of another. Yet, Paul hasn’t been out of the 2nd round. Was it just the limited roster of the New Orleans Hornets, that couldn’t get them past the conference semis, or was Paul more of a factor than we thought? While, Griffin is the face of the Clippers franchise from a player standpoint, Paul is supposed to be the heart and soul.
Yes. The argument can be made that the Clippers are still a work in progress, but there just doesn’t seem to be much upside to this roster, as it stands now. They’re not exactly a young team. In addition to Paul, there are players like Matt Barnes, Jamal Crawford, and Danny Granger that have had lots of playoff experience. So, it would appear that changes or additions need to be made, but if the Sterling’s remain in control, who will want to play there?
Which, brings me back to Rivers.
There are few coaches around today, that could have done as admirable a job, as Rivers did to keep his players focused during the scrutiny caused by Donald Sterling’s phone conversations. However, his biggest test is yet to come. The Clippers, while being much better than the Celtics and one of the best teams in the NBA, have teams like the Houston Rockets, Golden State Warriors, and Portland Trailblazers hot on their heels. It’s arguable that all three teams have more flexibility, where they may be able to improve their roster quicker than the Clippers. That doesn’t even mention the Thunder or San Antonio Spurs, who are battling for a trip to the NBA Finals, and aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. For Doc Rivers sake, the hope has to be that the Sterling situation is resolved ASAP, and that the Clippers can keep the team they’ve built-in tact. If not, the rebuilding job in L.A. won’t look much different from the one he left in Boston.