The Los Angeles Clippers have been a rather scary team throughout the 2013-14 NBA season, but they're about to get even scarier.
Believe it or not, the entire team hadn't practiced together until now:
This is the first time everyone on the current Clippers roster has been able to practice together.— Arash Markazi (@ArashMarkazi) March 20, 2014
Despite the lack of chemistry-building exercises and the constant absence of at least one player, the Clippers have still managed to compile a 48-21 record. It's a mark that leaves them sitting pretty at No. 3 in the brutally difficult Western Conference, trailing only the San Antonio Spurs (four games back) and Oklahoma City Thunder (two games back).
So what happens now?
It's not entirely unreasonable to expect LAC to continue their ascent up the standings. This is a hot team, emerging victorious in 11 of its past 12 outings, and it's only now getting healthy. The eventual return of J.J. Redick and Jamal Crawford will only help add to the perimeter shooting and ball-handling of the Clippers, which should be a nice jolt of positivity heading into the stretch run of the season.
But that hasn't happened yet. Redick is still practicing, not playing, and Crawford's return date from a calf injury is still unknown.
"If J.J. comes back tomorrow, we're good," Doc Rivers told ESPN Los Angeles' Arash Markazi. "If J.J. comes back in three weeks, we're good. If J.J. comes back in eight weeks and we're still alive, we're good. I don't think there is a timetable."
In a way, that set of sentences serves as a microcosm for the entire season.
No matter what has happened, this team has remained elite. Even with Chris Paul separating his shoulder, Jamal Crawford missing time, the frontcourt thinning out, plenty of wing players going down and Rivers implementing a new system at the start of the season, LAC have just kept winning.
Do you consider the Los Angeles Clippers true contenders in the West?
"The Los Angeles Clippers seem to be coming together and getting some momentum right before the playoffs begin," writes CBS Sports' Zach Harper. "A recent loss to the Denver Nuggets snapped an 11-game winning streak by the Clippers on a roll for a while. They've done all of this without being full strength, but that could change pretty soon."
The roster might change, but the winning won't.
If the Clippers have done all this without playing at full strength, the rest of the Western Conference might want to watch out come playoff time. Well, they'll have to pay even more attention than they already would have.