The age-old basketball conundrum now plagues the LA Clippers: they have added another superstar, but there is still just one ball.
The Clippers acquired James Harden in a trade with the Philadelphia 76ers at the start of the month. For the three-time scoring and two-time assist champion, the Clippers dealt away four of their wing players — Nicolas Batum, Robert Covington, Marcus Morris and KJ Martin — alongside multiple draft picks.
They have not won a game since.
But in Tuesday night's one-possession loss against the Denver Nuggets, the Clippers showed a glimpse of the kind of crowd-shushing, jaw-dropping basketball they are capable of playing. And with it came a blueprint of how to blend four distinct personalities and superstars into a singular team.
The Clippers' blueprint for success is already there
Even through the continued talks of either Harden or Russell Westbrook coming off the bench, Head Coach Tyronn Lue has kept the starting lineup in place. And there's merit to putting the team's best players, who boast a combined 32 All-Star game appearances, on the floor for the opening tip.
It looks good, it's intimidating and exciting, and it sells tickets. From a basketball standpoint, it doesn't make much sense to sideline either Westbrook or Harden. Westbrook is a vocal leader and an irreplaceable energizer that brings out the best in his teammates — especially in the first four minutes of a quarter, when others are sluggish and prone to throwing up bad shots.
Harden, who has a long history of drama, doesn't come off as the kind of superstar who would appreciate coming off the bench at this point in his career. At least not yet.