*Exhale* One of the most roller coaster regular seasons in recent Clippers memory is finally over. We can all breathe… Kinda. As much as I love this team, I can’t stress enough how disappointing this season was. With Kawhi sidelined for the entirety of last season and PG essentially missing almost all of last year, ’22-’23 was the season to bring it all together. Unfortunately, the Clippers decided to give in to the media and player pressures and sign John Wall instead of re-signing Isaiah Hartenstein. This decision not only took a chance on a once-explosive player who hadn’t played in years, but also cost us an extremely valuable backup center who fit our identity like a glove. On paper the addition of Wall seemed excellent… if the year was 2017. Unfortunately this move by the front office proved to be one that they would regret as the Clippers were an incredibly mediocre 21-21 at the halfway point of the season. Changes needed to be made.
By the time the trade deadline rolled around, changes were most definitely made. The Clippers lost Reggie Jackson, Luke Kennard, and John Wall and added Eric Gordon, Bones Hyland, and Mason Plumlee. On top of this, they made the very risky move to sign Russell Westbrook. Since the trade deadline, there were many ups and downs, but the Clips finished the 2nd half of the season with a 24-18 record finishing the season 44-38, 5th in the Western Conference, setting themselves up for a Western Conference Finals rematch in the valley against the Phoenix Suns.
Man, this is going to be a tough one. An important truth to understand about being a fan of the Los Angeles Clippers is that we simply cannot have nice things. Since coming back from injury Kawhi has been having an incredible season, looking like he didn’t miss a day. Paul George was hooping as well, but suffered a tragically timed setback. In a game where George threw down a ridiculous 360 dunk in traffic, George suffered a sprained right knee just a few plays later. His status is up in the air, but Clipper fans shouldn’t expect him to return until very late in the first round or the second round… if they make it that far.
This injury is extremely frustrating for the Clippers as they have to face a ridiculously talented roster that the Phoenix Suns have. Without Paul George, an All-NBA caliber player, the Clippers are facing an extreme uphill battle trying to guard Kevin Durant, Devin Booker, Chris Paul, and Deandre Ayton, a lineup that hasn’t lost a single game (8-0) when they are all playing together. From the Clippers perspective, it’s going to take everything. And I mean, everything. Luckily, any time you have Kawhi Leonard on the floor, you’re giving yourself a chance. With Paul George out, this series is all about the others. Kawhi will get his. However, in order to win this series, we are going to NEED big scoring performances from Norman Powell. We are going to NEED Terrance Mann’s POA defense and his unrelenting pursuit of driving downhill. We are going to NEED Zubac to contain Ayton. And we are going to NEED to stay locked in and weather the storm that is the Phoenix Suns. It’s not going to be easy, but it’s also not impossible. We’ve been the underdogs before. What have we got to lose? Buckle up, because it’s going to be a good one. Clips in 7.