Clippers will learn from latest setback

James Harden to go the basket against the LA Clippers in Game 4 of the NBA Western Conference playoff series. Photo By Tiffany Zablosky
James Harden to go the basket against the LA Clippers in Game 4 of the NBA Western Conference playoff series. Photo By Tiffany Zablosky

Sometimes in life you learn from your experiences. Some experiences are great. There are some experiences that we all would like to forget. Then there are others that we learn, grow and can build from. This is one of those moments for the Los Angeles Clippers.

The pain of losing a seven-game series, especially the way the team did against the Houston Rockets, can either be fuel for better improvement or an instrument that causes more despair for Clipper Nation.

The defeat to the Rockets should not viewed as some loss cause. I would guess that it hurts too bad right now for Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan, J.J. Redick and the rest of the Clippers to want to throw in the towel in their aspirations to chase down an NBA title. Unfortunately, it didn’t happen this year.

But at least they’re on the right track.

The Clippers came within one game to sealing the deal of a first-time ever appearance in the Western Conference. What the Clippers received instead was another second round playoff lesson. Paul and his teammates are probably tired of these so-called playoff lessons.

 Blake Griffin on the dunk for two of 28 points in second quarter in Game 6 of the NBA second round series between the Los Angeles Clippers and Houston Rockets. Photo by Jevone Moore
Blake Griffin on the dunk for two of 28 points in second quarter in Game 6 of the NBA second round series between the Los Angeles Clippers and Houston Rockets. Photo by Jevone Moore/News4usonline.com

In 2012, the Clippers were swept out of the playoffs in the second round by the San Antonio Spurs.  They fell to the Memphis Grizzlies in the first round in 2013. And just last year, Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and the Oklahoma City Thunder end the Clippers’ postseason in the second round.

The bright side for Paul, Griffin and Jordan  and the Clippers franchise is that they have made the playoffs in four straight seasons, something of an achievement in itself.

No other team in the organization’s history has made four consecutive postseasons. What the last four seasons represent for the Clippers is a model of consistency in winning.  Before their current four-year playoff run, the last time the Clippers made the playoffs was during the 2005-2006 season. And before that season, the team made a first round appearance during the 1997-1998 year. No,  these are not the same old Clippers.

This is a darn pretty good team. At its core, Paul, Griffin and Jordan are the catalysts of another five to six years of winning basketball for the Clippers. That’s saying a lot for a franchise that people used to ridicule with regularity. The Clippers are not laughing stocks anymore.

 Houston's Dwight Howard soaring high with 20 points in the game. Photo by Jevone Moore/News4usonline.com
Houston’s Dwight Howard soaring high with 20 points in the game. Photo by Jevone Moore/News4usonline.com

They are a team to be reckoned with. But they’re flawed. Their bench play can be upgraded. Getting more from the small forward position is a necessity.

In order to make it Western Conference or NBA Finals, the Clippers have to tweak their roster to where it is more complete and have stronger depth off the bench to better compete with the other elite team in the Wild, Wild West. There’s no doubt that coach Doc Rivers will get his team in better position to compete for a championship.

The Clippers will get there eventually. More importantly, though, what they have now is the stabilization as a franchise. Rivers is the cornerstone of that stabilization. The buy-in to Rivers’ basketball philosophy from the players, coaches and fans has been widely accepted. In just his second year at the helm of running the ballclub, Rivers has moved the needle in expectations from his team.

He is a high-profile coach with a high-profile resume that includes two NBA Finals appearances and a championship. It is because of that pedigree that Rivers brings to the table that the Clippers will be alright moving forward. This is not the time to panic or jump off the bandwagon. The fact that so many people want the Clippers to succeed is a beautiful thing.

Austin Rivers goes in for a layup against the Houston Rockets in Game 4. Photo Credit: Tiffany Zablosky/News4usonline.com
Austin Rivers goes in for a layup against the Houston Rockets in Game 4. Photo Credit: Tiffany Zablosky/News4usonline.com

The success of the past four seasons has raised the bar for more success. But molding a team into a sustained winner takes time. It is not going to be hit-and-miss. Under Rivers, the Clippers are not going to be one-hit wonders. You don’t have worry about the team’s winning ways vanishing into a cloud of dust.

Rivers and the Clippers can’t hide from the colossal collapse of blowing a 3-1 series lead to the Rockets, but you know they’ll rebound. Contending and winning a championship is tough business, especially if you’re a team playing in the Western Conference.  Durant, Westbrook and the Thunder are prime examples of this.

Durant won the NBA’s MVP award last season. The mercurial Westbrook is one of the top 10 players in the league. The Thunder has been a constant in the championship-contending conversation for much of the last five to six years, and yet they have managed just one NBA Finals appearance. And that was when a heavily-bearded fellow by the name of James Harden played for them.

Now there are going to be people who are going to look and point at the success of Golden State under first-year coach Steve Kerr, who just happen to have this year’s league MVP Steph Curry at his disposal, as this what is expected of Rivers and the Clippers. That’s a given.

In time, Rivers and the Clippers will get there. This is what the team and their fans have to hold their hats on.

Dennis J. Freeman
About Dennis J. Freeman 1066 Articles
Dennis covers the NFL (San Diego Chargers), NBA (Los Angeles Clippers, Los Angeles Lakers), Major League Baseball (Los Angeles Dodgers) and NCAA sports (USC, UCLA, Long Beach State). As a professional journalist, Dennis has also covered and written on topics such as civil rights, politics and social justice. Dennis is a graduate of Howard University.