LOS ANGELES-The Los Angeles Clippers are a work in progress. But at the end of the day when the postseason roll around at the end of this season, Doc Rivers’ team will be just fine. No worries.
After watching the Clippers pull off a come-from-behind win against the Portland Trailblazers at Staples Center on Sunday, Nov.9, it’s clear that Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and Co. have a lot of work to do to get to the point where they are clicking on all cylinders.
Bu they’ll take the 106-102 win against their Pacific Division rivals from the Northwest. And that’s pretty what you do at this point in the season. With all the new additions to the team, including a new owner, an overall of the coaching staff and adding and departing with pieces to what is perceived to be a possible championship puzzle, the Clippers are not going to be clicking right off the bat.
This is the time where players get in sync with the coaches. It’s going to take time for them to jell with assistant coaches Mike Woodson and Lawrence Frank, two former NBA head coaches replacing the likes of Tyron Lue and Alvin Gentry.
It’s going to be a minute or two before center/forward Spencer Hawes and point guard Jordan Farmer to work in concert with Paul, Griffin, DeAndre Jordan and the rest of the holdovers from last season’s team. That’s pretty a given.
It’s way too early in the 82-game regular season to give the Clippers a clear identity right now.
But what is clear is that the Clippers are deeper in talent and a year more seasoned. It is a tea, that know what it takes win down the stretch. After being bounced out of the playoffs in the second round last year to Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and the Oklahoma City Thunder in Rivers’ first stretch with the team as head coach, the Clippers are burdened with some heavy expectations.
For Rivers and the Clippers, expectations can sometime lead to the panic button being just a bad game away. An unforseen losing streak would call for immediate demands of things being shaken up. Let’s take the Clippers 121-104 blowout defeat to the new ‘Young Guns’ in the NBA-the Golden State Warriors as an example. After that debacle, stuff was written and said that the Clippers were not living up to expectations. Well, Steph Curry and the Golden State Warriors did take the Clippers to seven games in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs.
And the Warriors do possess, arguably, the best backcourt in the NBA with Curry and Klay Thompson. This duo can shoot lights out against anybody. But by the time May and June come around, the Clippers bigger bodies and strong presence in the paint as well as the fact that jump shooters’ legs get heavier at that time of the season, will prove superior and get them over the hump to an expected dance in the Western Conference Finals. The Warriors are a team built to put fans in the seats because of their fun style of play. They are not assembled together to win championships.
The Clippers have the look of a championship-caliber team. They’re just working on getting the kinks out now. In the preseason finale against the Trailblazers, you could see the Clippers working on the floor plan that Rivers and his staff has been trying to implement.
In Saturday’s game against the Trailblazers, the Clippers started slow, especially on the defensive side of the ball, giving up 38 points in the first quarter.
At times, the Clippers were down to the Trailblazers by as many as 14 points in the first half. But atypical of a Doc Rivers’ team, the Clippers played lockup defense the rest of the way, holding the Trailblazers to totals of 24, 17 and 23 points to come up with the win.
That should not come as a surprise.
This is how Rivers built his legacy as a championship coach. If you look at any of the past Boston Celtics teams in the past that Rivers was in charge of running, they were hard-nosed and played get-after-you defense. It’s an area, if the Clippers want that prize at the end of the rainbow, will have to execute consistently. They just have to go out and do it.