For the Los Angeles Clippers, There’s Nowhere to Go but Up


Now that the Los Angeles Clippers’ roster for the 2014-15 season has rounded into shape, old-timers like myself look forward to an exciting season and a successful outcome, whatever that is.

Nearly five years ago, we could only wonder. That’s because back then, the tandem of Chris Paul and Blake Griffin didn’t exist. Neither did a coach named Doc Rivers or a billionaire owner named Steve Ballmer for that matter.

If ever there was an opportunity for a newcomer to so become the next iconic face of the NBA, so, Mark Cubanisque, that person would be Ballmer.

So it’s no coincidence that between drafting Griffin and transferring ownership to Ballmer, the Clippers nicely positioned themselves to be the ‘Next Big Thing’ in the NBA. The journey to get there however,  got pretty bumpy at times, and towards the end, there was ‘a whole lot of shakin’ goin on’.

During that exorcism, the old Los Angeles Clippers became the new Los Angeles Clippers, signaling a complete metamorphosis of the organization, in every aspect but name. However, for better or worse, the Clipper’s ongoing makeover had little measurable impact on their basketball success. Through it all, the glass remained either half empty or half full.

Aug 18, 2014; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Clippers owner Steve Ballmer at fan fest at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

To be sure, most long-time Clipper fans are ecstatic at where things currently stand, mainly because they’ve never seen anything like it before in their lives. Still, after five years of merely sniffing the edge of a championship, the organization finally seems  positioned to actually claim one as their own. As they size-up the competition, they see the same teams, same names, all blocking the pathway to the penthouse. Again. Clearly, if this Clippers squad wants to distinguish itself among its peers, then there’s nowhere to go but up.

For Mr. Ballmer, success at his level, means being a mover-and-shaker among NBA owners. If ever there was an opportunity for a newcomer to so become the next iconic face of the NBA, so, Mark Cubanisque, that person would be Ballmer. Of course, it helps to be a billionaire 20 times over, with an up-and-coming glamour franchise, located smack dab in the middle of Hollywoodland. So, when it comes to influencing league business, or freaking out Laker Nation creating the next ‘America’s Team’, Ballmer should be a huge difference maker both locally and nationally.

Speaking of difference makers, when it comes to coaching, the Basketball Gods:

Nov 6, 2013; Orlando, FL, USA; Los Angeles Clippers head coach Doc Rivers talks with shooting guard J.J. Redick (4) and point guard Chris Paul (3) against the Orlando Magic during the second half at Amway Center. Orlando Magic defeated the Los Angeles Clippers 98-90. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

"‘Hath bestowed upon thy beleaguered franchise (Old Clippers), a savior of whom is thine own prodigal son (Glenn A. Rivers, 91/92 Clippers guard) and whom hath forever forsaken his evil associations (Boston Celtics) and blessed thy namesake (New Clippers) with his wisdom and presence’."

For starters, let’s be clear that nobody expects Coach and President of Basketball Operations, Glenn (Doc) Rivers to be anything less than a good coach, if not a great one. His effectiveness in basketball operations however, will be another topic altogether.

Having successfully withstood the winds of change that blew out the notorious Donald T. Sterling, Rivers is now free to pursue his championship aspirations, on his own terms (five years, $50 million). If his early preseason moves are any indication, it looks like he’s prepared to do it with mirrors if necessary, especially given the unique skill sets and the overall balance of his new supporting cast. One thing is for sure, though–opponents will get a lot of different looks throughout the season. Beyond that, it will be interesting to see if his team plays defense as hard as he’ll be preaching it from the sidelines.

So barring injuries, it should be a piece of cake for Doc is to improve upon last season’s record. His rotation could easily run ten deep, and they all seem ready to roll. But if he wants to get closer than sniffing distance to a championship, then the good doctor better strap-up for a seriously bumpy ride, cause towards the end, there’s gonna be ‘a whole lot of shakin’ goin on’.