The Blame game begins as the LA Clippers fail ... again

Utah Jazz v Los Angeles Clippers
Utah Jazz v Los Angeles Clippers / Harry How/GettyImages

It was supposed to be different this time for the Los Angeles Clippers. 

The plan was simple in theory: build a supernova around two of the sport's most gifted two-way players. Basketball banners would finally fly in LA that didn't dawn purple and gold. A history of perpetual scandal, draft blunders, and losing finally flipped on its head. Forget a pending move and aesthetic rebrand—it was their best shot at establishing a new identity. Kawhi Leonard and Paul George would bring the franchise its first championship. Friday night, that dream finally became a nightmare.

The lack of immediate success sparks the blame game. Doc Rivers was the first to fall victim. The coach whose legacy hinges on a title nearly two decades ago has made it a habit to fall short with star-studded rosters. It was a union long overdue for a split, and his blown 3-1 series lead in the bubble vs. the Denver Nuggets made that even more apparent. 

But the buck stopped there. Blame has long eluded the players as the narrative shifted to health or lack thereof. At some point, Leonard and George had to be healthy for a postseason push. Don't take my word for it—the club gave Leonard a three-year extension to help reset the timeline. 

In January, it seemed like everything was finally clicking. Tyron Lue had the team playing inspired hoops. The star duo, flanked by a recently acquired James Harden and a cavalcade of depth, looked like a team vying for contention. The defense was suffocating on the wings, with the offense prioritizing ball movement and efficiency.

That didn't last due to natural regression to the mean and injuries, but an extensive sample still showed that this year's group had the talent to get the job done. Drawing the scorching hot Dallas Mavericks led by Clipper killer Luka Doncic wasn't ideal, but they had homecourt advantage, and it was a perfect way to exonerate their demons. 

Instead, Leonard played sparingly, looking like a shell of the former Finals MVP when he was on the floor. Russell Westbrook, who was a lightning rod this season, dramatically fizzled out and became borderline unplayable. Terance Mann did his best to limit Luka, but he remains an offensive liability. Harden was as erratic as ever, adding to his checkered playoff legacy. 

But George, whose contract expires in the summer, was the biggest disappointment. The shot selection was disastrous and killed the flow of the offense. He was trying to get into a rhythm, but it seemed half-hearted. Defensively, he was average at best. At points, George just seemed checked out. It's not the level of play expected of a guy searching for a max deal in a few months. 

The series defeat looks like a bitter end to a once-promising season and perhaps the end of an era. 

Where do the Los Angeles Clippers go from here?

Is it worth keeping Leonard and George together? The latter recently turned 34 and likely wants to cash in one more time before he retires. Leonard is on the doorstep of 33, and he had his healthiest season since 2019 before suffering another knee injury. Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again while expecting a different result. Enough is enough. There has to be change. 

Forget stacking the marquee outside the new Intuit Dome—the franchise's long-term future is too critical. Stop gravitating toward name value and construct a sensible roster. Steve Balmer and team management must be honest with themselves and start a dramatic turnover. 

The Clippers need to ace this off-season. There are viable pieces in place, including an owner who desperately wants to succeed. Is that enough? We'll see. For now, the Leonard and George tandem will become one of the most shocking failures in NBA history.