The Los Angeles Clippers had one of their best seasons in franchise history. They were able to acquire “the difference maker” in Chris Paul, they won 40 games in a truncated season, and their hobbled team won an emotional Game 7 in Memphis. However the Clippers were out-manned, out-coached and out-played in this 4 game series with the Spurs. While the Clippers were an Elite 8 team in 2012, they were simply not a contender as they are presently construed. It is apparent about the brooms swept them out of Staples Center that they still have much to learn before the powers in the Western Conference start to fear them:
1. Chris Paul is a Superstar, but that’s Not Enough:
Paul struggled tremendously in this series thanks in large part to his numerous injuries (the compromised groin and sprained hip flexor) and the San Antonio Spurs game plan. Paul never publicly complained about his ailments but outside a few “small runs” here and there, Paul never looked elite in this series. More often than not, he looked like a shell of his former self, as couldn’t get to the basket and create space for his fade away. The Spurs also played a large hand in Paul’s struggled, as they clogged the lane and limited his pick-and-roll opportunities. The kryptonite the Spurs threw at Paul was five set of eyes staring at him at all times as Paul simply couldn’t beat the Spurs 1 on 5.
While Paul will recover from his injuries in the off-season, one thing both the Clippers and he learned from this season: Paul needs more help.
2. Blake Griffin is a star, but not yet a superstar:
Griffin is an athletic freak and his 28 points and 16 rebounds in Game 3 vs. the Spurs would have been legendary (had they won). However, for the gist of the series the Spurs exposed the weaknesses of Griffin’s game, most noticeably his inability to shoot outside the paint. The Spurs defenders played off him 3 – 5 -7 feet when Griffin was away from the basket, daring him to shoot. Griffin couldn’t take advantage of these mid-range opportunities and his defender clogged the lane, preventing other Clippers the opportunity to attack the basket.
Griffin showed composure and the ability to spin left, showing a soft touch around the rim in the low-block area. Blake Griffin needs to continue to build and refine moves with his back-to-the-basket and improve his ability to shoot from both outside the paint and from the free throw line.
3. Vinny Del Negro:
The coaching position will be debated and dissected this off-season. Many feel the Clippers overachieved in his shorten season while others were appalled by the “way” the Clippers lost playoffs games, most noticeably Game 3 at Staples. The Clippers were run out of their own building thanks to a Spurs 24-0 run that left many baffled at “VDN’s” inability to stop the bleeding. Vinny made many head-scratching decisions this season, such as leaving in Reggie Evans as the Spurs were employing their Hack-a-Clip strategy. Coach Del Negro can also be extremely stubborn with his rotations.
Overall without a true preseason camp and without the benefit of practice time throughout the season, the bottom-line in 2012 was that Coach Del Negro was able to keep his team together. He brought them to the second round of the playoffs for only the 2nd time since 1976. The Clippers have until June 1st to decide on his fate and with Stan Van Gundy recently fired by the Orlando Magic, one would imagine that the Clippers would at least “explore” that potential option.
The Clippers had a “fun” season. They made significant and undeniable strides. But they are not a contender and will have important both coaching and personnel decisions to make as they try to build off of an outstanding season.
This should be one of the most exciting off-seasons for the Clippers in recent memory and Rantsports.com will be there!
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