Mo’ talent, mo’ concerns

Clippers season preview: Can this new Clippers iteration stay healthy to win it all?


Robbie Doctor

July 19, 2019: The dawn of a new era in Clipper basketball: the PG13 and the Klaw look to challenge the crosstown Lakers for years to come. Though their LA home welcome was four seasons ago, the blood rivalry runs thicker than water (file photo).

Once upon a time, saying the Los Angeles Clippers were among the favorites to win the NBA title meant that you were either dreaming or playing a video game. This year, however, it’s a bona fide reality, as the Clippers present one of the deepest and most versatile rosters in the league led by All-NBA talents in Kawhi Leonard and Paul George.

Since acquiring Kawhi Leonard and Paul George in 2019, the Clippers have had championship aspirations.

In 2020, the Clippers blew a 3-1 lead to the Denver Nuggets in the bubble during the Western Conference semifinals, failing to face their crosstown rival Los Angeles Lakers – the highly anticipated Battle of LA in the Western Conference Finals.

The 2020-21 season blossomed under head coach Tyronn Lue behind a next man up team attitude along with the franchise’s best season record. But their fortunes were short lived, as their franchise centerpiece Leonard suffered an ACL injury in the second round against the Utah Jazz. Though the team managed to make the franchise’s first ever Western Conference finals, they would fall short to the Phoenix Suns in six games.

Last season, the Clippers lost in the play-in single game elimination to the New Orleans Pelicans were without both Leonard and George, while the Pelicans were missing their franchise altering superstar, Zion Williamson.

This season the Los Angeles’s dark horse duo of the Klaw and PG13 look to run it back after having an off season to recover.

With Leonard recovering all of last season due to a partial ACL tear and George out for a majority of the season with a UCL tear in his right elbow, the Clippers once again fell short due to injury.

Although the curse of Donald Sterling may be broken, the Clippers seem to be unable to shake off their injury misfortunes in the playoffs. Dating back to their Lob City iteration, this franchise’s superstars seem to be unable to sustain a healthy, deep postseason run at the title they desperately crave.

Yet, the Clippers this season still finished above .500 and above the neighboring purple and gold.

The ugly ducklings of LA basketball look for a return to form after an injury riddled last season. Clippers fans rejoiced after finishing the season nine games ahead of the darling child of LA sports. Any one up on their neighboring franchise ought to be savored.

Another positive to add to the chalkboard, Clipper Nation swept their arena rivals, going 3-0 against the purple and gold. Much of this had to do with the rise and cohesion of the Clippers role players stepping up. With strong guard play from Reggie Jackson, Luke Kennard, Terrance Mann and the steady progression of Brandon Boston Jr. The Clippers had a plethora of guard play to make up for their two premiere guards being out the majority of the season.

The Clippers front office continued to add serious firepower to an already loaded roster.

Key additions included five-time All-Star point guard John Wall, former Cleveland Cavaliers and LA local product Moses Brown and the former Michigan Wolverine Moussa Diabate.

The Clippers are truly 15-players deep. So how will Lue allocate bench minutes? Does Moses Brown get minutes as a true center? Who becomes the 11th man?

It appears that Lue and the coaching staff intend to start fan-favorite Reggie Jackson, who resigned a two-year $22 million deal during this off season, and bring the former All-Star in Wall off the bench.

Having a former All-Star spearheading your bench seems unfair, but it is a luxury the Clippers paid handsomely for to prevent other contending teams from acquiring his services.

According to Kurt Helin of Yahoo Sports, Lue commented this regarding the starting point guard position, “Whoever’s best with the starters, whoever’s best with the guys off the bench. It could always change. Right now, it’s just whatever’s best for the team.”

Terance Mann and Amir Coffey are both young two-way wings, who played well last season. It will be difficult to cut either of them out of the rotation.

Wall, the once explosive 2-way All-Star guard was traded from his longtime franchise Washington Wizards to the Houston Rockets two seasons ago, and was paid to sit out all of last season due to a hamstring strain in April 2021 for the franchise’s sake of developing its youth movement.

The former dunk champion took to his social media accounts to post several videos of him playing in 5-on-5 live full-court games, granted he was against some non-NBA players, Wall tried to prove that his health and explosion were not going to be an issue moving forward.

In the midst of a possible career-ending injury, Wall is ready to play basketball after having what he revealed to be the hardest years of his life just past behind him.

According to ESPN, being sidelined and losing both his mother and grandmother, Wall began to have suicidal thoughts in what he described to be “the darkest point of his live.” Since then, he has become somewhat of a mental health advocate to help others who find themselves in similar situations like him.

As he prepares for a full comeback like his superstar cohorts Paul George and Kawhi Leonard, Wall is not the only superstar looking to restore his name and value.

With the addition of Wall, Clippers now have one of the deepest benches in the league alongside players Robert Covington and Ivica Zubac. The pair of star players PG13 and the Klaw also making a comeback, the Clippers look to not only take LA for their own, but the whole western conference in the road to bringing a championship back to LA.

The Clippers are loaded with talent, but injuries have held them back over the last two years. With Leonard out, George still led the Clippers to the Western Conference finals in 2021. At full strength, the Clippers are proven to be legitimate title contenders.

Entering their fourth year together, can the superstar duo lead the Clippers to their first title in franchise history? Is this the year they finally stay healthy and make a deep playoff run? Only time will tell.