The Los Angeles Clippers are as good as they have ever been.
With a trio of healthy superstars in Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and Deandre Jordan, the Clippers boast enough fire power to take on any team in the NBA.
Head coach and basketball president Doc Rivers resigned Sixth Man of the Year Jamal Crawford and his own fiery son, Austin Rivers. Doc followed that up with the free agent signings of Mo’ Speights and Raymond Felton.
The moves helped to bolster the teams heavily criticized bench and took some of the responsibility off of the starters.
Now, heading into the 2016-17 NBA season the pressure is as high as it has ever been for the Clippers.Preseason rankings have Los Angeles between second and third in the Western Conference, swapping back and forth with San Antonio depending on your preference.
Blake Griffin has looked tremendous in the preseason, and is a sleeper candidate for the MVP race. Coming off of last years’ hand and quad injuries, Griffin feels great and his jump shot looks better than ever. With opening night approaching, the Clippers’ forward has exhibited poise and leadership.
“This is seven years now. I’ve played a lot of basketball,” Griffin said. “I’m happy to be back and playing, but opening night is opening night. It’s one of 82. It’s an exciting time, but you can’t get caught up in it. “I love watching games. To have two nights of watching games is fun for me. Yeah, you want to get out there and play, but like I said, in year seven now, you know what’s coming,” Griffin said. “You know you have 82 plus the playoffs. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.”
Austin Rivers oozed confidence in his squad after a solid offseason of training and rest.
“We can’t afford (for it to be too emotional), I’m so focused on this season. It’s a whole new year for us. I have new goals I want to achieve individually. More importantly, we have goals as a team. We can’t get caught up in what we did last year because it’s behind us. We’ve got a new and improved me. We’ve got a new and improved (DeAndre Jordan). We’ve got a new and improved Blake. We’ve got a new and improved CP. Everybody’s healthy.”
There are few teams that could challenge this years’ Clippers in a seven game series in either conference, with the exceptions of San Antonio, Golden State and Cleveland.
The biggest question for the Clippers going forward will be if they can ever make it out of the Western Conference, and if not, what should they do with their team?
Los Angeles is sure to advance to the playoffs with a high seed, but what happens when they run into the Warriors? Barring devastating injuries, the Clippers just can’t match the firepower of the Warriors, or so says the mass media.
Last year Los Angeles saw their bench players vaulted into dominant roles after injuries to their star players. Head coach Doc Rivers believes that may actually help them in the long run against the stiff competition out West.
“They showed great resilience. They actually showed it all year. They showed it last year, just without having Blake. Like, you still got to win. You still got to try to win the game,” Doc Rivers said. “It doesn’t matter like who’s on the floor. I thought that probably helped them in some ways. CP goes out, guys don’t flinch. Blake goes out again, they don’t flinch. JJ is hobbling around the floor and our guys just kept going. You want to have that same spirit and health. That’s a great combination. You don’t want to have it because of injuries. You want to have it because that’s just who you are. Listen, it may help us in the long run.”
The strengthened bench could very well be the difference maker that Los Angeles needs to make it out of the West. Going into the year with more experience and confidence is sure to help bolster the Clippers bench, who has become known as somewhat of an inconsistency.
Only time will tell if the Clippers can make a run for the title and take out their stiff competition out West.