Albert Einstein once said the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
Since acquiring All-Star Point Guard Chris Paul in 2011 the Los Angeles Clippers have not made it past the second round of the Western Conference Playoffs.
The Clippers formula is simple: an All-Star Point Guard, Power Forward, and Center, three point shooting expertise, a perennial sixth man of the year candidate, a plethora of veteran role players, and a coach who has raised the Larry O’Bryan trophy before. This formula has led the Clippers to finish in the top half of the Western Conference each of the last four seasons. But their problem hasn’t been the regular season, it’s been the post season. The past four post seasons have yielded two first round exits and two second round exits, and in both instances they barely made it out of the first round. Those second round exits both came after a game seven home win.
This team isn’t constructed for first and second round playoff exits. You don’t pay top dollar to keep names like Chris Paul and DeAndre Jordan to not have a Western Conference Finals appearance. The Clippers need to compete with the Western Conference elite, like the Thunder, Rockets, Warriors, and Spurs. Their record against those teams so far this season? 3-4 including 24 and 26 point loses. The Clippers need to compete and they need to do it now because time is ticking on their aging roster. Their formula only works as long as the Clipper’s core continue to stay productive and healthy, neither of which are guarantees.
The 28 year old DeAndre Jordan is locked in for two more seasons, but the question marks lie with power forward Blake Griffin and point guard Chris Paul who both could become a free agents if they decline their player options at the end of this season. Lob city could be over for Los Angeles as soon as this summer, but don’t worry LA fans, that probably isn’t going to happen. One major factor points to Lob City continuing for the near future – the money.
When Chris Paul isn’t dishing out assists he moonlights as the president of the NBA players union. The players unions recent agreement to the new labor deal did more than prevent a lockout, it also included a clause to help franchises hold onto their high caliber free agents. Starting this off-season organizations will be able to offer some of their players a six year contract extension opposed to other teams only being able to offer a four year deal. For max players like Paul and Griffin this means the Clippers could offer $162.5 million dollars more over any other team over the course of five years. Paul and Griffin will most likely opt of out their player options at the end of the season and then resign with the Clippers. So Lob City likely remains intact, but that isn’t what the Clipper faithful should be losing sleep over. What they should be worried about is if Lob City is the best chance for a championship banner.
If you are a Clipper’s fan how much longer are you okay with early post season exits? The Clippers aren’t suited for a seven game series with the Warriors or the Rockets. They don’t match up well for a high scoring shootout and so far this season haven’t shown any ability to slow either of those teams’ explosive offenses down. If the Clips get lucky and somehow don’t face either of those foes they would be looking at a potential match up with the Spurs or Thunder. Pick your poison in that one: seven games against the coaching mind of Popovich or trying to stop the triple double machine that is Russel Westbrook.
The Clippers have found themselves firmly entrenched between a rock and a hard place. They are a good team, a perennial contender in the West, but just a contender and nothing more. Unless the stars perfectly align the Clippers will once again find themselves on the outside looking in when it comes to the Finals. In the off-season they will likely resign their starters and the cycle will repeat. New Year, same Clippers.