Tyronn Lue makes harrowing statement about LA Clippers

Are the LA Clippers soft?
Are the LA Clippers soft? / Katelyn Mulcahy/GettyImages

There's been a lot of handwringing about the LA Clippers' identity in 2023-24. Who is this team? How do they gain an edge? 

In theory, this team was built to assert two-way dominance. The Clippers are supposed to outscore you for two reasons: they've got better scorers, and they can stop you from scoring. So far, only the first variable has been significant this season. 

This is a strong defensive roster - on paper. If you haven't noticed, the game is played on the hardwood. Defense is about more than natural ability: it's about effort. It's about grit. 

According to Tyrone Lue, that's exactly what the Clippers are lacking this year. 

LA Clippers head coach makes bold statement about team. 

"Do we have an identity? I think, yeah, we're soft.""

Tyronn Lue

That is harsh. It hurts. That doesn't mean it's unfair. 

This comment came in response to a game in which the Clippers let the Pacers score 133 points. Sure, the Pacers are an elite offensive team. The point stands: nobody should be hanging 133 points on a prospective championship squad. 

Moreover, defense has been an issue for the Clippers all year. Their 115.6 Defensive Rating ranks 16th in the NBA. Sure, that isn't putrid - it's mediocre. The standard for an NBA title rises far above mediocrity. The Clippers need to be top-10 in this category at a minimum to accomplish their lofty goals. 

That's not the only indicator of this team's softness. The Clippers' 70.3 Defensive Rebounding % ranks 23rd in the NBA. They allow 15.1 fast break points per game - 23rd in the NBA. This team looks soft. 

How can they change that? 

LA Clippers leader returns 

Much has been made about Russell Westbrook's return. That makes sense. He functions as the heart and soul of this team. 

He also should help the Clippers toughen up. Westbrook can gobble up rebounds. More generally, he's known for his hyper-competitiveness. 

That doesn't mean he solves their problems singlehandedly. The Clippers can't rely on their backup point guard to fix their rebounding. If they're going to make a deep playoff run, they need everybody on the same page. 

That's how they'll toughen up and fix their identity.