Is 2015 the last chance for the Clippers’ Big 3?


Nov 26, 2014; Auburn Hills, MI, USA; Los Angeles Clippers guard Chris Paul (3) forward Blake Griffin (32) and center DeAndre Jordan (6) during the second quarter against the Detroit Pistons at The Palace of Auburn Hills. Mandatory Credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

When the state of California comes to mind, you may think of Los Angeles — you wouldn’t be the only one. A step further, and the image of the historical “Hollywood” sign may flicker in your mind. Many proceed down this path, succumbing to the appeal of L.A. daydreaming, while others aren’t fooled by the city’s lust.

Truth is, in a market as relevant as Los Angeles, expectations projected onto sports franchises (and entertainment industry hopefuls) are multiplied, even if they are not necessarily warranted, or fair, for that matter. This is especially the case when the organization in question hasn’t won a title in franchise history and has spent most of their 45 year existence in the shadows of the city’s other squad’s success.

Enter the Los Angeles Clippers.

For the first time in recent memory, the buzz surrounding the Clippers’ upcoming campaign surpasses that of the Lakers, thanks to an All-Star cast consisting of league stars Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, and DeAndre Jordan playing under the newly established Steve Ballmer regime. Jordan’s dramatic free agency two-part decision in the summer was controversial and procured bundles of national media attention. A newsworthy offseason for the Clippers produced yet another eyebrow-raising moment with coach/GM Doc Rivers’ comments in a recent feature story by Zach Lowe of Grantland.

Essentially, Rivers insinuated that this season could be the team’s last chance at making a meaningful playoff run. “I’m a believer that teams can get stale. After a while, you don’t win,” he told Mr. Lowe.

Hold the phone, Doc. You’re telling me that another empty postseason appearance justifies the idea of hitting the “reset” button on the roster?

That appears to be precisely what Rivers is saying and I agree. While a title-or-bust attitude appears a bit steep in the Western conference (that is bursting at the seams with talent), it is an appropriate mindset for the Clippers to adopt. An extension to the franchise’s title drought would mark the fifth consecutive year the Paul-Griffin-Jordan trio came up short of a title.

While the individual talents of Paul, Griffin, and Jordan can certainly be classified as elite, it’s becoming unclear if they will ever prosper in the playoffs as a unit. The trio continues to be terrific during the regular season before stumbling against intense postseason opponents. Playoff basketball is not easy, but the Clippers’ big three will need to overcome this lingering hindrance to conceal their place in history with the greats. Every season, the consensus is that the trio will benefit from more experience together; they currently have three years together in their respective primes under their belt. As Doc mentioned, perhaps the Clippers’ trio is near their expiration date and in danger of becoming stale.

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However, Clippers’ brass—led by president Rivers—appears to be determined to take their team over the hump. Rivers’ offseason, that was discreetly brilliant, brought in acquisitions that will help solidify an aspect that exposed itself as the Clippers’ major flaw last year: bench production. Along with annual Sixth-man award candidate, Jamal Crawford, the additions of Paul Pierce, Lance Stephenson, Josh Smith, and others will provide stability while the starters take a breather on the sideline. Last season, Clippers’ reserves ranked second to last in minutes per game and 23rd in scoring.

The anticipation for this upcoming season is exactly what this Clippers team needs, nearly as much as a Larry O’Brien trophy. A flurry of offseason moves has improved Doc Rivers’ roster core, and their “Big 3” inexplicably remained in tact. All eyes are on the Clippers and their trio heading into this year.

We know they are very good, but are they ready to be great?

Next: Trip to China gives Clippers perfect chance to develop chemistry