I want to take a second to apologize for my two-month hiatus. It has been rough. The last you heard from me, the Clippers were ready to take on the Timberwolves in the Play-In game. Unfortunately, they couldn’t hang on and were forced to play for the final play-in spot against the Pelicans in a dramatic win-or-go home battle. It wouldn’t be a regular NBA postseason if the Clippers didn’t get an untimely setback. This year it manifested itself the morning of that final play-in game when it was announced that Paul George was diagnosed with COVID-19. You really can’t make this up.
I also had the privilege to attend this game in-person with my basketball team. Shoutout to the USC Club Basketball squad, but the game was incredibly painful. Brandon Ingram was looking like Kevin Durant reincarnated and I knew it wasn’t going to end well. We somehow managed to climb out of a massive deficit and take the lead, but unfortunately, all good things come to an end, and the Pelicans ended up taking care of business and putting us away, eliminating the Clippers from playoff contention. Was it a frustrating result? Most definitely. Was that loss the reason why I haven’t been able to write about the Clips for the past two months? I’m also going to agree to that one. All jokes aside, the result stung, but it’s not going to take away from the incredible season we had this season.
Coming off a Western Conference Finals appearance where we took the Suns to 6 games without Kawhi Leonard, there was this confident aura that surrounded the Clippers. You could feel the energy. Without Kawhi, the expectations were definitely a bit lower, but this played right into the Clippers hands because the second you put them under the radar, they thrive. Paul George started off the season on a tear, entering the early MVP conversation averaging 25.6 points per game leading the Clips to an early 7-game win streak. Unfortunately, this tear would come to an end due to PG suffering from an elbow injury that sidelined him for 51 out of the 82 games this season. With Kawhi already out for the unforeseeable future, the Clippers were now down their two superstars that they built their entire team around. The rest of the season was looking grim…
Enter Ty Lue and his “Next Man Up” mentality. I could go on for hours about why I love this team, but reason #1 has to be their grit and toughness. They are never truly out of a game, which sounds insane. This season alone the “Comeback Clips” had a league-high 13 wins after trailing by double-digits, which is an NBA-high. Keep in mind, they had to pull some of these improbable wins off with starting lineups that included but were not limited to Justise Winslow, Keon Johnson, Brandon Boston Jr., James Ennis, and even Wenyen Gabriel… Yes, you heard that correctly. In my biased fan opinion, this is a testament to Ty Lue’s coaching ability. There’s a reason why coaches around the league have dubbed him as the “most dangerous coach” because “he’s willing to try just about anything.” This is the type of coach you need to win a ring.
The Clippers finished the 2021-22 season with a 42-40 record, finishing 8th in the west. Although their season came up short, it is not a season to be disappointed by. Considering the fact that they were severely shorthanded for most of the season, they exceeded expectations. On top of this, they added two massive pieces in Norman Powell and Robert Covington. I genuinely cannot wait to see how Ty Lue fits them into the grand scheme of things for next season. While I can sit around praising the front-office for what all the pieces they have put together for hours, I can’t help but acknowledge the frustrating effects that injuries have on the team’s success. One of the most classic phrases in basketball says, “The best ability is availability.” That phrase could not be anymore true. The injury bug caught the Clips in the playoffs last year and this season as well. At a certain point, you just have to cross your fingers and hope it goes in your favor.
’22-’23. This is the year. Kawhi back. Paul George back. Our surrounding pieces gaining more and more chemistry by the day. This is the year for Clippers fans. This is a championship or bust year. I know it. The fans know it. And I know for a fact that the players know it. Sadly, right when the stars all seem to align, the curse comes back. Charles Barkley announced on live television that he thinks the Clippers will win it all next year. I’m just going to leave it at that.
So… if we win, it was meant to be. If not? Let’s blame it on Chuck.