For the sixth year in a row, the Los Angeles Clippers are having the exact same season. At one point this year, they were 14-2. This month, they’ve won four of their last 10. After Thursday’s loss to the Nuggets, the team’s 40-29, and the players seem glum.
As things stand, the Clippers will be the fifth seed in the playoffs, and would face a tough first-round matchup against the Jazz. Or, they’ll keep struggling, the Thunder will pass them, and they’ll face an even tougher task against the Rockets. Somewhere behind them, if the Clippers improbably win, lurk the Spurs and Warriors.
In all likelihood, this will be the sixth straight season the Clippers get bounced before the Western Conference Finals. For all of those seasons their core has been Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, and DeAndre Jordan, and for four of them they’ve been coached by Doc Rivers. Sure, they’ve had to deal with issues such as the Donald Sterling tape coming out during the playoffs, unfortunate injuries, and blowing a 3-1 lead to the Rockets in the conference semifinals, but the fact remains that every season the Clippers are a good team near the top of the Western Conference, and nothing more. There is never a serious thought that they’ll win a title.
Can anything be done about it? Griffin’s name has been bandied about in trade rumors for years, but they can’t get anywhere near commensurate value for him. Besides, for all of his flaws, Griffin is still a top-20 NBA player. And there’s little logic behind trading Chris Paul.
Both Paul and Griffin have early termination options after this season. Steve Ballmer wants to re-sign both players, and can pay them more money than anybody else. But maybe after six years, could one or both of them be frustrated enough with the routine of it all, and walk away? It’s certainly frustrating to watch them.