The Los Angeles Clippers had their best regular season in franchise history. They won 56 games, won their first ever Pacific Division, and looked like they were just getting started as the 2013 NBA Playoffs began.
Going into the Playoffs, the Clippers looked like a legitimate contender to represent the Western Conference in this year’s NBA Finals. Some sport talk show hosts were even giving them a chance to contend for the illustrious Larry O’Brien Trophy. When the Clippers jumped out ahead of the Memphis Grizzlies 2-0 in the first round of the Playoffs, they looked like the team to beat in the West. Russell Westbrook’s injury instantly made the Oklahoma City Thunder an after-thought. This gave the Clippers the chance they needed to rise to the occasion. All the Clippers had to do at this point was win two out of the next five games to advance to the Western Conference Semi Finals. Easier said then done and the Grizzlies made sure of that. They won four straight against the Clippers and for the second straight year, the Clippers find themselves watching the rest of the Playoffs instead of playing in them.
To say this was a wasted season for the Clippers would be the understatement of the year. This was supposed to be the season the Clippers finally got respect as an NBA franchise in Los Angeles. Being a team that’s supposed to win and a team expected to win are two different things. There are a a few teams left in the Playoffs that are expected to possibly win it all ( Miami Heat, Oklahoma City Thunder even though not as automatic without Westbrook, and the San Antonio Spurs). Then there are the teams left that are supposed to have a good run in the Playoffs because of what they were able to in the regular season that carries into the Playoffs. (The Chicago Bulls, the Indiana Pacers, and possibly the Golden State Warriors). The Clippers were not expected to win it all this season, but at the very least they were supposed to be in the conversation of the few teams that could stand in the way of teams expected to win.
With the uncertainty of Chris Paul’s future with the Clippers, and whether Vinny Del Negro will remain the head coach, it is hard to say if the Clippers can pick themselves up after their early exit in the Playoffs this year. With a history of Clippers’ owner Donald Sterling never keeping a good team together, it is easy for the average fan to look into their crystal ball and predict the Clippers will not be able to improve next season. They may even be on the decline depending on what moves they make this Summer. Starting with Chris Paul. However, the silver lining with the Clippers is that they already have Blake Griffin locked in for the next four years. Will they do the same for Chris Paul? That question will not be answered until approximately the first week or so of July when free agency begins. One thing is certain, if the Clippers want to be an elite team that is expected to win the Championship, and not a team that’s supposed to be in the Playoffs, then they will need to figure out how they are going to keep Chris Paul in their uniform for years to come.