The Clippers have playoff flop written all over them.
With the addition of Chris Paul in a blockbuster trade with the New Orleans Hornets this offseason, the Clippers were seen as one of the favorites coming out of the Western Conference. The team defeated the Los Angeles Lakers twice in the preseason and basketball fans all over the world started to claim the Clippers the kings of Los Angeles.
They were also given the nick name "Lob City" because of Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan's reaction when he found out about the CP3 trade.
"Lob City" got off to a great start. They defeated the Miami Heat, Oklahoma City Thunder and the Lakers early on in the season. Then tragedy struck when their starting shooting guard, Chauncey Billups, went down with a season-ending Achilles injury on February 7th.
Before Billups went down with injury, the Clippers were second place in the Western Conference and looked like the only team that could bring down the San Antonio Spurs or the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Now the team is in fourth place. Although their record is a decent 29-21, the Clipps have been very inconsistent. Prior to their current three-game winning streak, the Clipps were on a three-game slide. This type of imbalance is what will destroy the team in the playoffs.
The Clippers are not a veteran team that can afford to limp through the regular season then heat up in the playoffs. This team was built a week before preseason began. They have only played a total of 50 games together and that will come back to haunt them in the postseason.
Are the Clippers the most overrated team in the West?
In the past 10 years, it has been teams with great veteran leaders that have won championships. Dirk Nowitzki, Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan, Chauncey Billups, Rasheed Wallace, Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce to name a few, were all considered veterans when they helped their team win a championship. All of these players were huge reasons as to why their team won because they know what playoff basketball is all about.
No one on the Clippers has this key intangible yet.
Although CP3 has been to the playoffs almost every year of his career, he has never gotten past the second round. Even if he did, the rest of his Clipper teammates have not even made it to the playoffs.
The Clippers' inconsistency and their lack of veteran leadership might be huge problems, but their biggest problem is their coaching. There have been reports that head coach Vinny Del Negro has "lost his team." This is not good news for anyone involved with the Clippers because if the team is not backing their coach, it will be very tough to make a strong playoff run.
Coaches are one of the most important formulas in a championship squad. In the past 10 years, every single NBA championship team had an elite head coach. Greg Poppovich, Doc Rivers, Phil Jackson and Rick Carlisle have all either won more than once or been to the NBA finals multiple times in the past decade.
If the Clippers want to find success in the playoffs, Del Negro needs to make sure he gets the best efforts out of his players and maintain control of his locker room.The playoffs are where a team grows together. There will be a lot of arguments in the locker room, a lot of finger pointing and a lot of turmoil. If a head coach has "lost" his players in the regular season, it spells danger for the playoffs.
According to a recent report, Clippers owner Donald Sterling gave Del Negro a vote of confidence. This should come as good news to Clipper fans, but it should be taken with a grain of salt. Although he was given a vote of confidence, he was not given a contract extension. Del Negro seems like a temporary head coach for the Clippers, and some players may not give it their all or respect him regardless of their owner's vote of confidence.
A strong playoff team needs veteran leadership, consistency and a head coach that has the ear of all his players. Some teams have won with only two of the three, but no team will be able to win if they don't have any.
The Clippers will not do very well in the playoffs this season, but this doesn't mean they won't do well next year. The team will grow over time and create their own veteran leadership. Now they just need to find the last piece of their championship puzzle and hire a new head coach. Until the Clippers do that, they will continue to be the second best team in L.A. and the most overrated team in the Western Conference.
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