A brief overview of the Clippers off-season


Editor’s Note: Sam F looks over the Clippers off-season moves leading up to the NBA regular season.

Ten years ago, saying that the Los Angeles Clippers were a team fighting for the NBA Championship would have yielded patronizing questions such as “The Clippers? That’s the other LA team! Don’t you mean the Lakers?”

Today, saying the Los Angeles Lakers are a team fighting for an NBA Championship would yield a similar result. Funny how things change, isn’t it? In fact, just five years ago, saying Chris Paul was going to the Los Angeles Clippers was an extremely egregious and outlandish statement. Since 2009 this Clippers team has gotten stronger and they’re beginning to build an enticing case for their odds at the NBA Championship. Be it David Stern’s basketball reasons, luck, drafting, or just plain effective coaching and managing, the tides have turned in LA and and the Los Angeles Clippers are coming on strong for the Larry O’Brien Trophy.

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  • Let’s start from the top: the coaching.

    Last off-season, Doc Rivers left the struggling Boston Celtics after the departure of his 3 favorite players and his own pre-Lebron Big 3 – Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, and Kevin Garnett. He quickly signed with the lost-identity Clippers and thus far has done an not much more than an adequate job replacing the greatest guard of the 1990s, Vinny Del Negro. But hey, it’s an age-old sentiment that people need to settle in. After a year, and more importantly a new contract, it’s my belief that Doc will return to prime coaching form come November. Lord knows this team needs stable management to succeed. A major selling point for buying the Clippers championship sale is the simple, enticing name of Doc Rivers. Him becoming the President of Basketball Operations in July opens up a whole new world of possibilities that can remove the Clippers from their tired, unsuccessful style, and bring together a custom-made game plan for helping his new to get to the gold.

    While Rivers remains the president of basketball operations, everyone from my mother to Lebron James knows you can’t do it alone. Doc needs help. Another huge reason the Clippers may be on their way to victory is their addition of multiple well-known assistant coaches this offseason: Sam Cassell, Lawrence Frank, and Mike Woodson. That’s a pretty formidable coaching team and with each of their individual expertises’ coming together it’s a strong possibility that next season they will bring the combined necessary skills to handle most issues, disputes and pure basketball scheming that not long ago the Clippers had trouble dealing with, and they may even be able to do it better than the rest of the coaching staff’s throughout the league now. That’s a pretty fantastic upgrade.

    As head coaches, Frank and Woodson have had their troubles. A main issue with them was that they were too focused on one aspect of the game; as assistant coaches to Doc, these guys can each focus on their individual strengths. Based on these three guys’ prior coaching and playing experience, they should bode well for covering up Doc’s glaring coaching shortcomings. These hires by Doc brings in a new dimension to helping this squad, and like I said, this team needs stable management. I think they got it.


    Sep 29, 2014; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Clippers guard Jordan Farmar (1) during media day at the team training facility in Playa Vista. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

    At the end of the day, winning gets done on the court, not the sideline. Addition so far has been the name of the game, but not just coaching talent has been upgraded. This offseason, Los Angeles locked up a few new toys that may help push them over the edge this season:

    [table id=21 /]

    Last season, LAC’s front-court was comprised of Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan, Glen Davis, and a rock. They gained some stability and finally have a productive back-up unit in our frontcourt with the addition of Spencer Hawes: Davis at PF, Hawes at C.

    Last season, Griffin and Jordan were workhorses; you just can’t expect top-level performance from tired big guys. This adds underrated help during every games 48 minutes — a five-minute break for Griffin so he can come in fresher with two minutes left in game is a luxury that cannot be ignored. Hawes is also great at stretching the floor; he’s a productive outside shooter and is in some ways more shooting guard than center. Drawing defenders out of the paint with the constant threat of him shooting threes should open holes for Paul to drive and for fellow-backup Glen Davis to get some solid post-up attempts.

    Another helpful (and surprising) signing was wing Chris Douglas-Roberts. He’s quite the journeyman, traveling from New Jersey to Milwaukee, down to Italy, over to the Mavericks (and their D-League affiliate), to the Charlotte Bobcats, and now he’s found himself in LA.  He’s got swagger, and he’s even bringing back those John Stockton short-shorts. CDR can pop the three at any given time — and in todayss NBA, you really can’t get enough of that — especially when LA’s regular tjhree-point ace J.J. Redick is injury prone.

    Ekpe Udoh … simply put, this signing may become a steal. He’s defensive — he can block, he can defend, he can rebound. Can he score? Statistically, he has before. With Spencer now at the arc, it is a possibility he’ll get some open looks down low. Don’t expect much, but he’ll change the game in his own way next season.

    On the other side of the position spectrum, former Lakers point guard Jordan Farmar signed this offseason to replace Darren Collison. I’m on the fence about this signing. He always seems to find his way to teams and he always always seems to find ways to get waived. Jordan is the definition of a glue guy. Elmer’s is jealous. He’s not Eric Bledsoe, but relatively speaking he’s a sustainable backup for CP3. Throughout his career, his averages have been 19.8 minutes, 7.9 points and 3 assists, with a .425 FG%. Not bad numbers — OK numbers, glue numbers.

    However, his glue may not stick.  Four million over two years is a bit high. Let’s hope it works out. 

    What’s better than a breath of fresh air? After the whole Donald Sterling controversy, it must be reassuring and inspiring for these guys to be bought by former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer for a record 2 billion dollars. After the whole Sterling fiasco, I’d be hard-pressed not to say attitudes have skyrocketed with a new owner that seems as enthusiastic as Ballmer — he even wants his Clippers to become America’s Team. I’d guess CP3 and company would want to impress him. They probably have a newfound appreciation, too.

    In terms of talent already established in LA, it’s my thinking that Blake Griffin’ can only improve this year. His stats show an upward trend, and I expect his exponential results to continue going up this coming season.

    At small forward, Matt Barnes has slid into the starting spot. Now this is something I’m really excited about. Barnes is a hot head; but he’s our hot head. The guy’s a meticulous defender, something that is par for the course when facing guys like Lebron James, Kevin Durant, and Tobias Harris. For the Clippers to make a serious run here this season, Barnes has to be on point.


    On paper, each level of this team has been visibly upgraded: Ownership, with Steve Ballmer, coaching, with addition of three new assistants,  and lets not forget what it’s all  about, the good old-fashioned players: Spencer Hawes, CDR, Jordan Farmar and Ekpe Udoh. Tentatively speaking, the Western Conference hasn’t gotten much stronger, but the Clippers sure have.

    With the predicted effective production and solid coaching, I don’t see a problem en route to a deep, deep Clippers playoff run.

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