After winning their first four games of the season and appearing to transition gracefully into the post-Chris Paul era, the Los Angeles Clippers have since turned into one of the worst teams in basketball and lost nine straight games. Their lone win over the past 10 games was against the hapless Dallas Mavericks, and their once-fearsome defense has turned pillow-soft and incapable of slowing anyone down. Blake Griffin appears not to give much of a shit about playing basketball right now, DeAndre Jordan isn’t playing near his terrifying peak, and the team’s lack of depth has left them uniquely befuddled in the face of injuries. Things are not good.
Last night, they reached a new low, losing by 22 to the Knicks. Griffin was overmatched against Kristaps Porzingis and outplayed by the Gumby-esque Latvian. He fouled out and got a technical with four minutes left in the fourth, which was a fitting end to a bad game. Patrick Beverly returned from an injury, but Danilo Gallinari and Miloš Teodosić are still out, so L.A. had to hand double digit minutes to Sindarius Thornwell, Willie Reed, and Jawun Evans. The injury bug can be chalked up to bad luck, but its effects are exacerbated by Doc Rivers’s failure to build a team.
“This ... feels like 100 losses,” Beverley said. “Straight up. This ... is weak. This ain’t how I roll. That ain’t OK and I won’t allow it to be OK as long as I’m here. That’s a fact.”
Beverley also said he was “pissed off,” called the team’s leaders and starters out, and said the Clippers needed to be more mature. He just got to L.A., but he’s not wrong. There’s a strange lack of energy to the team right now, which probably has a lot to do with losing their point guard/center of gravity. Chris Paul was a drill sergeant in high tops and after getting free of his unforgiving manner, the team is playing as if they’ve relaxed a bit too much. Beverley is as fiery as Paul, but he’s the new guy and he also can’t change a game like Paul.
The sad reality is that while the Clippers will get better, they’re still stuck in a worse version of the quagmire they’ve been in since Paul arrived; they are as top heavy as ever, despite getting a decent haul from the Paul trade, because of a complete inability to develop a worthy bench. This team still relies on very few players, and because those players are a bit worse this year and struggling to stay healthy, the margin between being one of the better teams in the West and being 1.5 games ahead of the diarrheal Sacramento Kings is thinner than ever. They are better than the 13th seed out West; how much better is still up in the air.