Clippers Should Try Winning Through Intimidation


Seemingly a long time ago now, before the 2014-15 NBA regular season started, a large number of Los Angeles Clippers fans believed that if the stars stayed properly aligned, then their team would be the next NBA champions. Despite the Clippers’ poor preseason play, long-time fans still expected nothing less than a ring by season’s end. Then, the regular season started and suddenly for Clipper Nation, it became clear that the road to the Larry O’Brien Trophy would be a steep, zig-zagging trail, with sharp turns and a bumpy ride.

…If you don’t intimidate your opponent, they won’t fear you. If you can’t intimidate them, they’ll punch you in the face.

If first impressions mean anything, then the Clippers clearly have A LOT of work to do. On paper, they have more than enough talent capable of carrying the team to a championship run, but then again, so do about six other teams. Still, with a top-level coaching staff, and new, energized ownership, the players should all be chompin’ at the bit, ready to smash any foe that comes out of the visitors’ locker room.

November 5, 2014; Oakland, CA, USA; Los Angeles Clippers center DeAndre Jordan (6) dunks the basketball against Golden State Warriors guard Brandon Rush (4) during the fourth quarter at Oracle Arena. The Warriors defeated the Clippers 121-104. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

That’s because in sports, intimidation is the one calling card that separates good from great. If you don’t intimidate your opponent, they won’t fear you. If you can’t intimidate them, they’ll punch you in the face, knowing you won’t retaliate. So now, fans, coaches and even the players themselves are wondering when the team will finally embrace this concept, and act accordingly.

None of the Clippers’ first four opponents–not the injury-riddled Oklahoma City Thunder, not the still winless Los Angeles Lakers, not the youthfully exuberant Sacramento Kings, nor the equally youthful Utah Jazz were intimidated by the Clippers’ defensive assignments. In fact, all four teams seemed to score at a comfortable pace against the Clips, leaving the outcomes of all of those games in doubt until the final seconds of the fourth quarter.

Although the Clippers won three of the four games, their uneven play on defense and their inconsistent outside shooting gave all four opponents the confidence to nearly pull off four improbable victories.

Fortunately for the Clippers, their offense, with all of its early-season flaws, is actually what has kept them in all four contests. With an improved jumper in his back pocket, Blake Griffin is well on his way to becoming an unstoppable force, while Jamal Crawford is well into his campaign for a second consecutive Sixth Man of the Year award. If when the Clippers’ three-point shooting improves, then their offensive efficiency could rival their top rating of last season.

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So, what’s the problem? Again, it’s the intimidation factor. Most good teams use intimidation as a key component to winning. If they use it the right way, then they‘re probably an elite team that convincingly wins most of their games regardless of the opponent. However, if they don’t intimidate their opponents, then they’re probably a team that does things fairly well or even really well, proclaim how much they want to be champions to anyone who will listen, but when push really comes to shove, they don’t have what it takes to hoist the Larry O’Brien Trophy (see, for example, the Sacramento Kings of the early 2000s, Steve Nash’s Phoenix Suns teams, the Indiana Pacers of the past few seasons, or Chris Paul’s Clippers teams). It’s THAT simple.