Culver City Observer -

Clippers Are On Their Way But Not There Yet


By Mitch Chortkoff

Sports Editor

They blew it. There’s no denying that. The Clippers had an excellent chance to end 31 years of falling short but couldn’t hold a 19-point lead in the final quarter of Game 6 and then fell flat in Game 7.

So the Houston Rockets advanced to the Western Conference playoff finals, a place where the Clippers have never been.

The talk show guys have been running wild in the last few days. One even suggested the Clippers hang banners in Staples Center for winning the first round, something they’ve done four times. It wouldn’t come close to matching the Lakers’ 16 NBA championship banners but it would be better than nothing.

Pardon me if I’ve been through this several times in my sportswriting career.

It’s been a huge event, everyone has an opinion and some opinions are outrageous.

I’m hearing suggestions such as trading Chris Paul, not resigning free agent DeAndre Jordan and Doc Rivers give up some of his many jobs with the team and concentrate on coaching.

A wise man named Jerry West, the former great Laker player and general manager, once taught me to be patient right after a season ended in disappointing fashion.

“It’s the worst time to make decisions about changes,” he told me.

He pointed out things would calm down in a month or so and people would be thinking more clearly.

Listening to him, I fast forward a few months in my mind and realize the Clippers took some positive steps this season, winning 56 games, eliminating the defending champion Spurs in the first playoff round and coming so close in the second round.

The Clippers are on their way because their stars, Paul and Blake Griffin, provide a terrific nucleus, because Rivers is a championship level coach and because new owner Steve Ballmer brings much-needed stability to the franchise.

But it’s not perfect. Some changes are necessary.

The bench must become stronger. Without better substitutes the Clippers will continue to struggle in the playoffs. They suffered from a lack of quality depth when they had to go the full seven-game distance against both the Spurs and Rockets.

J.J. Redic and Matt Barnes, both a major part of their success all season, both failed to score in the final game.

Fatigue. That’s my answer.

When the Clippers signed free agent Spencer Hawes to a four-year contract it seemed like a wise move. He was outstanding for the Philadelphia 76ers last season. Adding a seven-footer who shoots well from outside appeared to give the Clippers another weapon.

But Hawes had a terrible season.

“I still have confidence in him,” said Rivers.

Jamal Crawford was the only member of the second unit who provided consistent scoring. Quite simply, the Clippers need another scorer like him. Sign a free agent or make a trade that solves this problem.

But don’t forget the considerable progress that was made this season.

The Clippers are the best NBA team in Los Angeles. They figure to be better than the Lakers again next season. When I searched the Staples Center stands for empty seats this season I couldn’t find any.

Clipper fans are understandably sad about the outcome. My advice is to get over it and start fresh next season.


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