The Clippers Chemistry Implosion

Written By: Spencer Fielding

The Los Angeles Clippers were set to win the title this season. They were seen as the Los Angeles Lakers biggest competitor to get into the NBA Finals. But, they were beaten in seven games by the Denver Nuggets. The Clippers lost a demanding 3-1 lead and the Nuggets went on to lose to the NBA champions in the Los Angeles Lakers. What happened to the Clippers? Why do they continue to make headlines for all the wrong reasons? According to them, chemistry is the reason.

Various Clipper players cited chemistry as the main issue. Lou Williams said “We came up short. We did have championship expectations. We had the talent to do it. I don’t think we had the chemistry to do it and it showed,” Williams then continued, “We had lapses on defense and on offense. I think guys have played in systems where they were expecting guys to be in certain spots offensively. A lot of different guys made adjustments. It showed. But at the end of the day, we were up 3-1 … we should have closed this deal out. We give credit to Denver. We take our lumps and keep moving,” I think there is truth to what Williams said but there’s also the issue that the NBA was on a 5-month hiatus before they returned. Could they not build chemistry then? Yes, it may have been difficult, but the Lakers were able to build chemistry with Anthony Davis. They were bringing a ton of new players in while the Clippers only had to integrate two or three new players. 

Paul George also cited chemistry as the issue. George said, “First year together … we can’t even say we want to change our roster; we like what we got. We’ve been saying it all year: just chemistry, being together. The more we’re together, the better we will be. It’s year one, year one. We’ve got a lot to reflect on.” This was a failure of a season.

Regardless of it being the first year or not, this team underachieved in the bubble and in the playoffs. George struggled at times during the playoffs, even though he picked it up against the Nuggets, his co-star Kawhi Leonard, then struggled. Something to note is that the pair failed to play well together. It was always one or the other playing well. Most dynamic duos play well together and that’s what made them so scary to play against. The Clippers never had that. 

According to Johan Buha of The Athletic, Patrick Beverly, Montrezl Harrell, and Lou Williams were “bristled” by how the Clippers managed Kawhi. Kawhi was allowed to live in San Diego, which often forced the team plane to leave late and they also noted how Kawhi was allowed to participate in “load management” and sit out games to take care of his body. Doc Rivers apparently had no choice when Kawhi played during the games. He would dictate when he played and when he sat. This all came as a huge shock over the past week. This has been a developing story. 

Another concern was stated by Stephen A. Smith. He said “They clearly need a point guard. Everybody knows it and Kawhi Leonard privately has clamored for one,” This is obviously a bad look. This would be a reason for Beverly to be angry with Kawhi.” 

Steve Ballmer, the Clippers owner, was reportedly livid about the Clippers ending to the season, according to the Ryen Russillo Podcast. Ballmer was very infatuated with Micheal Porter Jr. back in 2018, but many of the Clippers team officials told him that Porter was “undraftable” because of his injury history. They would go on to take Shai Gilgeuos-Alexander and Jerome Robinson before Porter. Both of those players are obviously not on the teams, with Robinson being the questionable pick here. Ballmer was so livid after the game seven loss to the Nuggets, that he fired Doc Rivers and he may make some more moves with this team. He is still pretty mad about this entire season.

At the end of the day, the Clippers have a ton of questions for this off-season. They have no first-round picks for the next eight years, because of the Paul George deal. They are going to have a very bleak future if they don’t get everything under control. This was their season to win. The Golden State Warriors and the Brooklyn Nets are back next season so there will be more competition. Hopefully, they can figure it out, but they have a long road ahead of them.

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