Clippers vs. Nets: Loss Proves LA Is Still Far from Title Contender

Joseph ZuckerFeatured ColumnistNovember 23, 2012

NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 23: Chris Paul #3 of the Los Angeles Clippers dishes off the ball as he goes against Deron Williams #8 of the Brooklyn Nets at the Barclays Center on November 23, 2012 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. The Nets defeated the Clippers 86-76. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

The Los Angeles Clippers might be the kings of the city for the time being, but they have a long way to go if they're gonna wear the crown of NBA champions.

With an 86-76 loss to the Brooklyn Nets Friday, the Clips stand at 7-4 on the season, one game atop the Pacific Division in the Western Conference. Regardless, they have some work to do if they want to be considered an elite team in the league.

Some might point to the struggles that Blake Griffin has been having. He's averaging a rebound less and three points fewer than he was last season, and it gets even worse when you compare the numbers to those of his rookie season.

His shooting percentage has dropped, he's turning the ball over more and getting to the line fewer than he did last year. The Nets game was an average performance from Griffin as well. He had 14 points and eight rebounds.

Griffin is likely to pick up his game, but the league is also adjusting to him. He's not going to be able to embarrass guys in the post like he has the past couple of years. Coaches are learning how to defend against him.

And every year you hear about how an inside guy has been working on his mid-range game, and it's going to do wonders for his performance. Until that happens for Griffin, he and the Clippers are going to struggle.

More concerning should be who Los Angeles brings off the bench.

No matter how much of a physical specimen Griffin might be, he needs a rest. The options off the bench for he and DeAndre Jordan are Ronny Turiaf, Ryan Hollins and the shell of what's left of Lamar Odom.

Odom has to be the most infuriating for Clippers fans.

When he was traded to the Mavericks, his career took a massive nosedive. Rarely has a player's performance dropped as significantly in one season as Odom's did.

Most chalked it up to the fact that he didn't want to leave Los Angeles. His motivation level was next to none. A return to L.A., albeit with the Clippers, would be exactly what the doctor ordered.

It's been far from the truth, with Odom averaging just under two points and three rebounds in 12.5 minutes a game.

Looking at the Western Conference, it's hard to see how the Clippers are better right now that the Thunder, Spurs or even Grizzlies.

It was in the first round last year that Memphis gave L.A. everything they could handle. Memphis has looked like an improved team, whereas the Clippers are stuck in neutral.

Los Angeles was thoroughly outclassed in the conference semifinals by San Antonio last year, and if the same matchup were to happen, it would be the same result.