first_imgSCHEDULE: A reporter called the Clippers’ first two games after the All-Star Break a “death back-to-back,” prompting this reaction from Doc Rivers: “That’s a hell of a way of wording it!” The reality is the Clippers face a tough road the next several weeks. They open Thursday at Golden State, against whom the Clippers haven’t even been close this season, and return home Friday to face the San Antonio Spurs (43-13). Five nights later, they host the No. 3 team in the West: Houston. If things don’t break the right way for the Clippers, they will find themselves even further from the top of a Western Conference they once had aspirations of claiming as theirs. Clippers pre-break reviewKEY MOMENT: Injuries to Chris Paul and Blake Griffin reset the course of a season that began with the incredible promise of a 14-2 record. When Griffin underwent knee surgery Dec. 20, however, and Paul tore a ligament in his left thumb Jan. 17, things began to feel much like they did in the injury-plagued 2015-16 season, when the Clippers were dispatched in the first round. This season’s injuries have knocked the Clippers down to fifth in the crowded Western Conference.MVP: It’s a shame DeAndre Jordan, in his first All-Star season, gets this nod only by virtue of staying healthy. Jordan has started each of the Clippers’ 56 games. When two members of your big three combine to miss 40 games, the third had better be consistent. And Jordan has. He is averaging a double-double for the fourth consecutive season with 12 points and 13.7 rebounds. It is not his best season, but for all he’s done to keep the Clippers in contention, it has been his most valuable.BIGGEST SURPRISE: There were plenty of guffaws around the league when Doc Rivers handed his son a $35 million contract last summer, but Austin Rivers has lived up to every cent of it. He is averaging a career-high 12.2 points per game while shooting 44.1 percent from the field and nearly 40 percent from 3. With Paul out, Doc Rivers has relied heavily on Austin Rivers and Raymond Felton, who have seen their minutes climb to more than 35 on some nights. In what should be an exhausting season, Austin Rivers never seems to get tired. Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Errorcenter_img BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT: Eventually people will stop counting on Wesley Johnson to change. Well before his Lakers days even, Johnson was a model of unrealized potential. Remarkably athletic, maddeningly inconsistent. The Clippers used their mid-level exception on Johnson last summer, investing $18 million over three seasons in a player who has averaged just 13.2 minutes per game and has scored in double figures just once since the end of 2016.Clippers post-break previewKEY TO THE FINAL 7 WEEKS: Staying healthy. Really. The Clippers may not be able to make a serious run at a title, not with the Warriors, Spurs and Rockets at the top of the Western Conference, but they owe it to themselves and their fans to at least be healthy enough to try. Last year’s postseason debacle, with Griffin and Paul suffering injuries in the first round, was disheartening and knocked the franchise back a peg from the contenders they believed themselves to be. A healthy trip to the playoffs is much needed.TRADE POSSIBILITIES: The same old question for the Clippers is whether they feel the time has come to break up their core and make a wholesale change to their organizational philosophy. A Blake Griffin trade, perhaps, before he enters free agency? Sell high on DeAndre Jordan? The most likely scenario is the Clippers will stand pat while continuing to explore minor deals that could help them on the fringes. As was seen in talks last month involving Carmelo Anthony, the most coveted players in trades would be Jamal Crawford and Austin Rivers, the latter holding the most value due to the combination of his age, favorable contract and recent productivity.BIGGEST CONCERN: That something goes terribly wrong and Chris Paul and Blake Griffin decide they’ve had enough. Both players can be free agents this summer, and while the assumption is that the band will stay together in Playa Vista, another first-round exit or discord between the stars is the sort of thing that could force the breakup of a stacked roster that, as of yet, has never even reached the conference finals.last_img

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *