The Los Angeles Clippers are coming off an up and down season that saw them finish with a rather misleading overall record of 32-50.
At first blush, it seemed like a typical Clips campaign. They lost 50 games for the 19th time in their 27 seasons in L.A., good for a 13th place finish in the Western Conference and a hopeless 14 games out of the playoffs.
Upon closer inspection though, the Clippers are nearer to a postseason berth than you might think. After getting off to a horrendous 5-21 start, the young Clips finally seemed to jell and righted the ship, going an impressive 14-7 over the next six weeks.
Their final undoing came at the hands of a murderous February schedule. They played 12 of their 14 February contests on the road, enduring a grueling 11-game road trip along the way. The two games they hosted did not provide much respite either, as they came against the Bulls and the Celtics.
Oh, and to top it all off, they played that stretch without their leading scorer at the time and second-best player, Eric Gordon.
Despite a 2-12 February sending them toward yet another losing season, this young Clippers squad did not tank the rest of the season away. They soldiered on gallantly, finishing out the rest of their schedule with a respectable11-10 record.
Tack on injuries and youth to that unfavorable stretch of schedule, and you have a recipe for a record that looks worse than it actually is. Fourteen times the Clippers trotted out three rookies in their starting lineup, and in 13 games they started five guys who could all still have been in college.
Their two veteran leaders, Baron Davis and Chris Kaman missed 65 out of 140 possible games and started only 50 times combined. Eric Gordon missed 26 games right when the team had gotten on a roll. That's 91 games missed for three of the top four guys on the team.
With all the obstacles thrown at the Clippers last year, 32 wins (their most in four seasons) could be considered an achievement. This exciting young squad is poised to take the leap to the next level.
Here are six steps the team must take before it can realize its playoff aspirations.