Deja Vu-ing as Only the Clippers Can
The Clips, predictably, fall again. Is this getting old to anyone else?
It was never supposed to happen at all. That is what’s important to remember. The Clippers were supposed to go on being the (blah) Clippers forever. Blake Griffin’s knee knew the formula and did its part. Vinny Del Negro obliged. Donald Sterling lorded slums and kept upping the racism ante.
You know what happened. League officials vetoed a trade betwixt the New Orleans (then) Hornets and the Lakers which would have led to Kobe Bryant and Chris Paul trying to out scowl each other for a few years. Instead Paul was dealt to the Clippers and Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan reacted as though the hottest girl agreed to come to their party.
There are roughly 15,784 pieces written every hour chronicling the eschatology of the current Clippers. Some will focus on the unfortunate injury history. Others will cast blame on Doc Rivers. Still others will remark that the Clippers simply peaked at the wrong time, wedged between two great Western powers: the Spurs and Warriors. The autopsies will be interesting and insightful but all will basically serve the same purpose — making excuses for a team that should have been great, but never was. I’m not in the business of making excuses, I’m in the business of busting on Blake Griffin. I want to cast all the blame on the Clippers without reservation. They broke one of the greatest basketball players of all time — Danny Manning — and deserve eternal comeuppance! Here are a few things the Clippers should have done differently during the Scowling/Whining/Complaining era.
- Trade Blake Griffin
This decision is obvious and easy. It seems as though the Nuggets and Celtics were desperate for Blake last year. The Nuggets might have been willing to give up Nikola Jokic for Griffin and would have thrown in the rights to Dikembe Mutumbo’s voice presumably. The Celtics would have been forced to part with one of their 729 wings and the treasure trove of draft picks they’re sitting on like Smaug the great and terrible. All these rumors existed during the previous off-season…AFTER(!!!) Griffin missed time for literally punching his much smaller and less physically imposing friend in said friend’s head so hard it broke his hand. Griffin was the first NBA star to truly be defined by the twitter and vine (pour one out) means of media consumption. He was a 140-character comet best viewed on six-second loops. When he had his very special episode moment in which he informed us he wouldn’t dunk anymore I don’t remember feeling impressed by improving basketball acumen. I do remember not caring. Blake was trying to turn himself into a small-ball power forward when in reality he wasn’t going far enough — in today’s NBA he could be a more offensively gifted Draymond Green. Griffin could drag Western Conference bigs to the perimeter (lol @ Pau Gasol trying to stay in front of Blake in that situation) while giving the Clips the versatility necessary to hang with the lineup-of-death Warriors. This isn’t possible while also playing DeAndre Jordan (don’t worry, we’ll get to him). Imagine Wilson Chandler or Ryan Anderson or Kevin Love (I know…I KNOW!) spotting up opposite J.J. Redick on Chris Paul/DeAndre pick and roll action. None of those players would dunk over KIA Sorrentos, but my guess is that none would have slugged a team trainer either.
2. Let DeAndre Jordan walk
I blame Paul Pierce specifically for the return of the giant State Farm Sidekick. Pierce’s role in emoji-gate was truly inspired. He tweeted a rocket ship emoji in an attempt to convince DeAndre to stay in LA. Who knows what the hell it meant. Maybe Pierce was saying he’d let DeAndre have his seat on the SpaceX to Mars once we finally win the war against the ozone. Maybe the implication was that the Clippers would reach new heights. Maybe Pierce knows what we all have come to realize, that emojis are most fun when they make no damn sense. At any rate, DeAndre stuck around, Mark Cuban’s heart broke and no product on Shark Tank could heal the wounds.
The rationale for allowing Jordan to depart is not an indictment on who he is as a player. Jordan tied a career high in points per game and logged his second highest rebounds per game total. He grabbed one fourth of all possible rebounds and blocked nearly five percent of all opponents shots while he was on the floor. All this to say: Jordan is not Dwight Howard. Yet DeAndre will always be a liability in waning minutes and his offense is so straightforward it’s a compliment to suggest it’s “one-dimensional”. Jordan has never added the Shaq-esque “bludgeon the poor fool with my shoulder before tossing up a push-hook” or a Yao-mimicking short jumper. Jordan’s athleticism would always be a problem for teams, but his presence made for less anxiety in regard to game-planning. The aforementioned strategy using Griffin as a center would make life miserable when trying to contain the Clippers’ offense.
3. Keep Donald Sterling.
4. Utilize Austin Rivers
Are y’all holding on to something? Hold on to something…Give Austin Rivers more run (*ducks*). Rivers played nearly twenty-eight minutes a game and started almost thirty due to injuries around him. I think Austin Rivers should be a regular starter for an NBA basketball team. I have not been drinking. Rivers has improved according to traditional and advanced stats in each season. He shoots over 37% from three and plays dedicated defense. His length and strength would allow him to guard the opposing team’s best guard while sharing the court with Chris Paul. Paul was an elite-level defender who’s quickest days are behind him. However his wheels could be saved if he didn’t have to stay in front of the newest point guards in the league. His genius-level basketball IQ allows him to wrangle a couple steals a game, which could increase should he be allowed to take a less…immediate role defensively. In this scenario J.J. Redick would come off the bench and adopt his pre-ordained role as lead-eraser/extender while starters rested. Jamal Crawford plays defense the way I approach going “no-carb”, it always sounds noble but ultimately yields zero amounts of fun. Only Russell Westbrook and the Clips’ bench has such a dilemma regarding ball-sharing. Mo Speights loves shooting. Jamal Crawford loves shooting. Raymond Felton loves dribbling the ball into submission. Yet a second string featuring Redick in place of Crawford maintains firepower while encouraging common sense. No one loves a Jamal Crawford heat-check more than me and Jamal Crawford, but at some point one must admit that doing the same thing over and over again is in fact insane.
Watching the current Clippers iteration is a bit like unwittingly picking the most boring outcome in a “choose your own adventure” book. The story was fun and compelling, but you’ve been sent to page 96 and it’s eye-rolling anti-climax. But, then again, it was never supposed to happen at all. Eventually we will wonder if it ever did.