Remember all that talk in the preseason about Los Angeles now being a Clippers’ town?
Granted, we’re only nine games into the regular-season, but Monday night during L.A.’s 105-89 loss to the Bulls, the Staples Center rocked every bit as much as the house of Chicago as it did for the suddenly fragile Paper Clips, with scores of fans from the overflow crowd chanting “let’s go Bulls” for pretty much all of the second half.
And the way things are going for the Clips it probably won’t be the last. All of a sudden, a team projected to be among the NBA’s best is badly struggling and shows few, if any, signs of being fully capable of rescuing or even reviving itself.
“I thought our trust was broken today, offensively,” said a perplexed coach Doc Rivers following Monday night’s meltdown. For weeks now, Rivers has been desperately trying to gather a pulse for a team he seems to fear completely lacks heart.
Following their recent blowout loss to Golden State, Rivers ripped his team as “soft” and deadpanned “right now this is not the same group from last year, and we are the same group. So we have to figure that out.”
That appears to be a task far easier said than done. In the meantime what are the people of L.A., fickle as they are, to think or do? Not even the always highlight-reel ready Blake Griffin, predicted by many this year to be a leading MVP candidate, has been his same, reliable self. Sure, his numbers from this season are comparable to any of his first four, but the impact has been nowhere near the same.
“We’ve got to rebound better, clearly. He has to rebound better,” Rivers recently told reporters. “Listen, Blake is a great player, but if we give him no space, no room, there’s no ball movement, there’s no people movement and there’s no hard cuts, you can guard Blake.” And if there’s no heart, no passion and little execution the Clippers can be had and L.A. hoops landscape left for the taking.
This was groomed as the year of the Clippers, with Steve Ballmer finally replacing Donald Sterling as owner, and the organization finally ushering out all the evils reeked upon the franchise by the longtime tyrant. But with the Clippers being the Clippers, what’s new remains old.
And so, as the struggles continue, the Clips now embark on a seven-game, near two-week road trip that Doc Rivers can only hope over that time brings his men to understand their survival lies in supporting and bolstering one another.
“I like going on the road,” he said. “It’s an opportunity to find yourself.”
Or in the case of the unpredictable Clips, perhaps save a season, preserve an emerging reputation, or ready themselves to ultimately wave a white flag.