For the time being, the tide has changed tremendously in Los Angeles. The Dodgers are finally back to where they should be, the Kings are winning, UCLA has dominated USC for the past two years in college football, and the Clippers, yes people, the Clippers, dare I say it, have a shot to go to the NBA Finals.
Of course, this wouldn’t have been possible without a little help from former NBA Commissioner David Stern (Basketball Reasons) but that’s beside the point. The Clippers have taken over Los Angeles as the better basketball team. Now, don’t get me wrong, the fans and people of LA are still Laker fans first and foremost. Los Angeles still bleeds Purple and Gold; however, these Clippers are exciting, dynamic, and skilled. But are they ready?
This years Clipper team is stacked with talent and experience. It would seem that these Clippers are poised to stage a major run in the Western Conference Playoffs. They have remained steady and consistent throughout the course of the season. Even when people felt that their season would take a dip after losing Chris Paul to a shoulder injury for about a month, they rose from that as Blake Griffin carried the team and kept the team in the upper echelon of basketball teams in the West and in the NBA. But for the last two seasons the Clippers have made it seem like they were ready to take the next step only to see both seasons end in early round exits. So what makes this season any different? What is so special about this Clippers team? What makes me believe that this Clippers team may have what it takes?
Two words, one man, Doc Rivers.
For the last two seasons the Clippers have been known as a high flying act and probably the most exciting team to watch. They never failed to deliver highlights for Sportcenter. But what they largely lacked was discipline on defense and great coaching.
Lets be brutally honest here. Talent is talent. The last two seasons the Clippers haven’t been short in talent across the board; however, talent only gets you so far. It takes a great coach to instill a winning mentality and motivate his players. Up until this season the Clippers just have not had that type of coach. With all due respect to Vinny Del Negro, he just has not had the success or the credentials that Doc Rivers has, thus making it a much more difficult task for him to motivate guys throughout the season and especially in the playoffs.
But enough with the motivational talk, let’s get to the stats. Doc Rivers has this Clippers team sitting with the best Defensive Efficiency rating in the NBA. He’s got Blake Griffin playing MVP caliber basketball and shooting a career best 70% from the free throw line. DeAndre Jordan is the league leader in rebounds with 14 a game and FG percentage of 67%. Doc Rivers has also revitalized a veteran in Hedo Turkoglu and given players who were released by their previous teams key and effective roles like Danny Granger and Glen Davis whom he coached in Boston.
Doc Rivers didn’t change the face of Clipper basketball. No, David Stern did that with “Basketball Reasons”. What Doc Rivers did do was elevate the Clippers franchise into another stratosphere and has them playing elite, championship style basketball. If you asked me, I’d tell you that these Clippers just might be serious, and if you don’t watch out, they will be sitting at the top of the mountain come June. Only time will tell if the Clipper have what it takes. But for now they have a legitimate shot and, more importantly, the players know they have a shot. That is the difference Doc Rivers has made.