2019-20 Los Angeles Clippers

That was an implosion of epic proportions.

Jim Rome
September 17, 2020 - 2:01 pm
Paul George

USA Today


It’s been about 36 hours since the Los Angeles Clippers completed their collapse. And 36 hours later, that collapse isn’t any less spectacular. That was an implosion of epic proportions.

Not just because they had a 3-1 series lead and double-digit leads in all three games, but because this was a team that was built to win a championship this year and they’re heading home in the same round as the Rockets.

And the fallout is starting. You’ve already heard from CJ McCollum and Damian Lillard, but former Clipper Josh Smith jumped into the fray as well. Before he joined the Clippers, Smith was on the Rockets team that came back from down 3-1 to beat the Clippers and he posted a pic from that series on Instagram with this: We’ve seen this movie before. In fact I wrote the script. #Bye Doc #The3-1Bum

I’m not sure what kind of ax Smith has to grind with Doc, but Rivers is not a bum. That’s just a fact. I know that series did not go well for him at all, on any level, but calling him “The 3-1 Bum” is absurd. And it certainly isn’t opening the door for a particular brand of humor that some of you ghouls love. Keep moving on to something better…

Like this report from Chris Haynes who shared this “heated verbal exchange” between Montrez Harrell and Paul George in Game 2.

Early in the second quarter, a struggling George had committed two careless turnovers in less than a minute. The second mishap was a half-court pass to Harrell, who was near the paint but surrounded by Murray and Michael Porter Jr.

Murray picked off the pass. Seconds later, the Clippers called a timeout.

Harrell approached his teammate about the risky pass, with George not taking responsibility and arguing the pass could have been caught had Harrell made the right play, sources said.

Let me just jump in here for a moment to say: UH-OH!

If you commit two careless turnovers in less than a minute, when you’re asked about it, you better not be saying the pass could’ve been caught if the guy trying to catch it made the right play.

And sure enough, as Haynes writes: This set off the NBA Sixth Man of the Year.

Harrell responded with something along the lines of, “You’re always right. Nobody can tell you nothing,” and expletives were uttered from both players, sources said. George eventually toned down his rhetoric, but a heated Harrell wasn’t having it. Teammates began clapping on the sideline, in part to disguise what was going on and in an attempt to defuse the situation.

That is outstanding. Look, exchanges like that happen on every team and in just about every game. But you don’t need teammates to clap on the sideline to drown out the argument and defuse the situation.

And it goes to the larger issue that kept coming up from Clipper players after they completed their swan dive – conditioning and chemistry.

Let’s talk about conditioning for a second. If that really is why they lost, that is really, really weird. And really really lame. The Clippers were built on depth. Only two Clippers averaged more than 30 minutes per game in the playoffs. Jamal Murray is averaging more than 39.

Also, how are you gassing out in the second round of the playoffs?!? Let’s not act like we just watched the Finals. There are still at least eight more games to win and the possibility of 14 more games for the eventual champion. You cannot be gassing out  halfway there.  

And why are they not in shape?

I know they had to deal with some injuries and guys leaving the bubble, but again, Denver showed up at the bubble with eight healthy players. How is Denver in better shape at this point than LA?

And don’t blame the hiatus for the lack of conditioning. Every other team had to go through the same challenges in terms of staying in shape during the hiatus and then entering the bubble.

Rajon Rondo had roughly one practice in the last sixth months and he’s been playing just fine for the Lakers from a conditioning standpoint. LeBron James has played about a billion minutes in his career and he seems to be doing okay from a conditioning standpoint. 

And then there’s the chemistry. The aftermath of the loss to Denver wasn’t the first time we’ve heard about that, but the Clippers had brushed that off in the past.

What could be so bad about the Clippers chemistry that it led to them blowing double-digit leads in back-to-back-to-back closeout games? How does chemistry explain them getting up big and then bricking shots and getting torched on defense? And the repeating the same process the next game?

How badly would you have to hate your teammates to make sure you get out to a lead and then you just shut it down on offense and defense? That would be some legendarily bad chemistry.

The Lakers have an entirely new roster this year, their chemistry doesn’t seem to be an issue. The Heat added Jimmy Butler and their chemistry is better than ever. The Celtics added Kemba Walker and they didn’t need a year to adjust to that.

So let’s get down to it - this isn’t about conditioning or chemistry, it’s about the other c – choking.

If you’re blaming conditioning or chemistry or basketball IQ, as Kawhi did on Tuesday, you’re not owning your role in the situation. You’re pointing the finger at something else.

If you’re out of shape, why are you out of shape? If the chemistry is bad, and we’ve heard reports about this going back to January, why hasn’t it been fixed?

And another question – who is the leader of that team? Who is the leader of that locker room? Or is there no one?

Kawhi didn’t have to be the leader in San Antonio or Toronto. He could just focus on being the best player. But in LA, there didn’t seem to be a leader. When bleep hit the fan, there was no one who stood up and led the way.

If you’re going to talk the trash that the Clippers talked, you better back it up. If you’re going to gloss yourself Playoff P, you better deliver in the playoffs. If you want to be a champion, you better be able to face the pressure and scrutiny that comes with that.

And if you’re going with Paul George’s truly idiotic line that this is Year 1, first of all, it was not Year 1. This was not a rebuild, this was a championship year and everyone knows that. If Pandemic P doesn’t know that, that might be part of the problem.

But even if you think this is just Year 1, Year 2 isn’t necessarily going to be easier. The West was a gauntlet this season and it’s only going to get worse because Dallas will be even better next year. Zion will be healthy for next year. Ja Morant will have a year under his belt. Minnesota will have more talent.

Oh, and there’s a team in San Francisco with three Hall of Famers that had to take a forced sabbatical this year, but they will be back next year. 

We’re probably going to keep on hearing more about what happened with the Clippers because it is one of the most spectacular faceplants in NBA history. AND YOU CAN TALK ALL YOU WANT ABOUT whether it’s about conditioning or chemistry, BUT it’s really JUST about one thing: choking.