One of the best LA Clippers teams assembled during the Kawhi Leonard and Paul George era was the 2019-20 team, when the duo first arrived in town. With a host of talented role players, that squad won 68% of their games and finished with the second-best record in the Western Conference.
They were considered one of the top title contenders in the league, and many analysts picked them to win the Finals that season. Of course, what changed everything for the Clippers in 2020 was the NBA Bubble.
The Clippers seemed to be a different team after arriving in the Bubble, and their strong season came to a disappointing end after blowing a 3-1 lead in the Western Conference semifinals to the Nuggets. One of the top bench scorers on that team, Lou Williams, recently voiced his belief that the Clippers would have won a championship if not for playing in the Bubble.
Lou Williams says the Clippers lost their focus in the Bubble
Appearing on Trae Young’s “From the Point” podcast, Lou Williams detailed how much of a struggle it was for the Clippers to even get to the Bubble. “We didn’t even want to go,” said Williams. “So I think mentally, we came into it without the right mindset to finish the job. We didn’t even want to be there.”
The Clippers’ collective mindset was understandable. The NBA’s shutdown in March 2020 forced each team in the association to spend several months without playing while the league worked on a solution to finish the season.
By the time a plan was devised by the NBA, many players did not feel it would be worth it to compete for a championship with no fans in attendance. Early on, this was a sentiment even LeBron James shared.
“We were starting to hear the rumblings, like, ‘nobody’s going to respect this chip’ and all of that,” said Williams. “And so I think we just took our foot off the gas.” For all the talent and chemistry the Clippers had in 2019-20, it is certainly a disappointment that things played out the way they did.
It is entirely possible the Clippers may have won the championship had the season been finished in arenas packed with fans that year, but the truth is that none of us will ever know for sure.