Culver City Observer -

CLIPPERS PREVIEW: Is This The Year?

 

October 29, 2015

By Mitch Chortkoff

Sports Editor

We all know about the Clippers' history. They took a back seat to the Lakers for so many years. The Donald Sterling era was forgettable.

But in the last few years they've become better than the Lakers. They hired Doc Rivers, a coach who has won an NBA championship.

With Steve Ballmer, an energetic owner, they were a threat to go all the way last season but collapsed horribly in Game 6 of their second round series against Houston.

Same old Clippers. That was the reaction. Would it ever change?

Well, the Clippers begin a new season this week with a lot of hope. Their off-season mission was to significantly upgrade the reserves.

They did a terrific job. There's at least one quality substitute at every position. Blake Griffin and Chris Paul should get proper rest.

Lack of depth, a legitimate excuse for the playoff collapse, is no longer an issue.

"One thing about last season," Rivers said last week, "Chris had to defend every point guard we played every minute of every game. He won't have to do that anymore."

Josh Smith, Paul Pierce, Lance Stephenson, all the way to Cole Aldrich and ex-Laker Wesley Johnson are newcomers ready to relieve Griffin, Paul, J.J. Redic and DeAndre Jordan. Holdover Jamal Crawford will again provide valuable scoring as a reserve.

The Clippers are being forecast as a playoff contender on the heels of Golden State, San Antonio and anyone else seeking elite status like Houston, Memphis and Oklahoma City, which has Kevin Durrant back and Eastern Conference favorite Cleveland.

"I feel we have the depth to compete with anyone," said Rivers.

A very interesting few days of exhibition games took place last week.

The Warriors, clearly not focused on the task, played the Clippers at Staples Center and were embarrassed in a 40-point loss.

The players were told that such lackluster play isn't acceptable, not even in an exhibition game.

They got the message. Two nights later the Warriors crushed the Lakers, 139-97 in Anaheim.

Those games showed me how strong the Clippers can be on a good night and how far the rebuilt Lakers have to go to be taken seriously in this season's chase for playoff berths.

In a poll of NBA general managers Rivers was voted No. 2 in motivating players, one notch behind Gregg Popovich and one notch ahead of Steve Kerr.

Championship threat or not the Clippers should win a lot of game and entertain their growing legion of fans.

They'll open the season at home Thursday night against Dallas, the team that unsuccessfully tried to lure Jordan away from the Clippers during summer free agency.

 

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