Photo Credit: Los Angeles Clippers
“ESPN: 33 Wins
Charles Barkley: 33 Wins
Vegas: 33 Wins”
Winning 11 out of their last 12 games, the Los Angeles Clippers have clinched a spot in the 2018-2019 NBA Playoffs. As of today, they have won 45 games with 7 remaining.
Since the departure of Chris Paul and Blake Griffin, everyone thought the old JV Clippers were back. Following that, it had seemed that the Clippers had found a new star in Tobias Harris. With questions surrounding free agency and Harris’ true ability to be a number one option, the Clippers decided to trade him this past trade deadline for more young assets and picks. At that point, nobody had the Clippers making the playoffs as the 2019 season passed the midway point. Welp. Doc Rivers had different plans for this squad. Here is a rundown of how much this Clippers team has changed in the past two years, and how they have rebuilt and created success simultaneously. Something most teams in any sport rarely ever do. It’s truly remarkable.
I am a die hard Clippers fan and the Lob City team is what made me fall in love. However, I think most fans can agree that this team has something that Lob City never had. They have heart and a family feel, something those CP3, BG, and Deandre playoff runs never appeared to have. They are extremely lovable and a team that I personally look forward to watching, even in blowout games.
Last week, I praised Montrezl Harrell and Lou Williams’ elite play, which you can read here. But this whole team is making career strides. Patrick Beverley is making a case for the All-Defensive 1st Team. Danilo Gallinari is having a career year in just about every statistical category, averaging 19.8 PPG, 6.0 RPG, and 2.5 APG, while shooting 46.3% from the field. Many thought the Clippers had traded their best player in Harris, but Gallinari was waiting on deck to shine. Many people don’t know Gallinari because he has missed a lot of time over the past four years.
Here is a nice tidbit:
Rookie Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, the young point guard the Clippers acquired in the result of the Blake trade, has been scorching in the month of March. He hasn’t shot many threes, but has been noticeably efficient from behind the arc. He is an amazing playmaker and seems to be beyond his age in basketball IQ. You could argue that he is the best rookie in the playoffs, with the other being Landry Shamet, also on the Clippers. The Clippers have one of the youngest starting lineups in the NBA and currently sit at the 5 seed in the crowded West.
The front office also deserves a huge amount of credit. Lawrence Frank, Michael Winger, Jerry West (of course), and Lee Jenkins (who came over from Sports Illustrated to help create an identity for the Clippers) have done a tremendous job. Reportedly, West tried to join the Los Angeles Lakers before he joined the best team in LA. Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka declined his help, wanting to complete the Lakers rebuild on their own. Who knows the full truth to that story, but it appears that they wanted to be successful and get all the credit. Everyone knows West is probably the greatest front office brain of all time and it is showing. Who knew Shamet was this good? Apparently only Philly fans. They just about robbed the Lakers for Ivica Zubac. By the way, the Clippers are 15-4 since acquiring Zubac and the Lakers are 5-14. JaMychal Green has also been huge for the Clippers since the trade deadline, as have the other role players and veterans that were stockpiled over the past two years. Not to mention, in all of this they have collected many future picks.
The Clippers are supposed to be huge players in free agency, but the future is still bright even if they strike out due to youth and picks. The young guys will only get better.
Lastly, I want to talk about the job Doc Rivers has done. This might be the greatest feat of his career, outside of his championship. It is definitely on the same level of his first year of coaching with the Orlando Magic, where they were supposed to be the worst team of all time and ended up winning 41 games. Rivers won Coach of the Year that season. I think it is time to start seriously talking about him winning it this year. The Clippers were supposed to be nothing this year as stated earlier, especially after the Harris trade. They have exceeded all expectations despite disrespect from the media, trades, and their youth. Who would have thought they would be better than the Lakers and clinch a playoff spot before the Utah Jazz, San Antonio Spurs, and Oklahoma City Thunder? I sure didn’t.
Clipper Nation, this is special and a great time to be a fan. Let’s ride.