How We'll Know When the LA Clippers Are Real Contenders

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How We'll Know When the LA Clippers Are Real Contenders
Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

The Los Angeles Clippers built a championship contender that history said could never be created and our eyes say may not really exist.

We can see what this franchise has built, but we don't quite know what that is. Three-plus months of mixed bag results has left us with a team whose ceiling stretches up to greatness and whose basement drops to disastrous levels.

It's incredible the Clippers have even made it this far. History and logic said it could never happen, but someone found a way to open the bank of owner Donald Sterling.

The notoriously frugal owner finally eased his death grip on his wallet, and suddenly the Clippers started reaping the rewards of having a Hollywood address.

Drafting starting bigs Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan helped, but prying Chris Paul away from the New Orleans Hornets in 2011 (with an assist by former commissioner David Stern) was the turning point.The Clippers quickly became a talk-show audience, and Sterling did his best Oprah impression—a max contract for Blake Griffin, another for CP3, $27 million for J.J. Redick and $21 million for coach Doc Rivers.

Sharing the Staples Center with the Los Angeles Lakers seemed to be rubbing off on the Clippers. L.A. had fans who had seen this type of spending before.

Of course, the money isn't the main story here. In fact, it's only the introduction.

What happens next will determine if Sterling sees some vindication for all those scribbled checks or puts his wallet back under lock and key. As the payroll has grown, so, too, have the expectations.

The Clippers are fully engaged in the title chase, but just how close are they to the finish line? The individual pieces are brilliant, but how will we know when the complete picture resembles a full-fledged championship contender?

 

Unless otherwise noted, statistics used courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com and NBA.com and are accurate as of Feb. 7, 2014.

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