The end of the Clippers?

The Los Angeles Clippers were the story of the early NBA season as they got off to a great start and looked to be a true challenger to the Golden State Warriors in the West. The big three of Chris Paul, DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin were all playing great, but it was the bench play that really sent the team to another level. Led by Austin Rivers and Marreese Speights, they were barnstorming teams and actually playing great defense as well. They looked extremely dangerous and then… everything went wrong. Again.

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It started with the Blake Griffin injury which on the surface is just a minor injury, but in the grand scheme of things seems like a terrible sign. As Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer puts it:

Blake Griffin’s history of injuries to his left leg is troublingly long: broken kneecap, meniscus tear, partially torn quadriceps, knee bone bruise, sprained knee, and strained hamstring. Along with numerous other injuries (back stress fracture, right elbow staph infection, and broken right hand), Griffin’s health has caused him to miss nearly two full NBA seasons’ worth of games, the 2012 Olympics, the 2014 FIBA World Cup, and the 2016 Olympics.

The list is getting longer: According to The Vertical’s Shams Charania, Griffin will undergo “minor” surgery on his right knee, a procedure that the Orange County Register’s Dan Woike says will remove “loose bodies,” such as “fragments of cartilage or bone.” This is the first injury to Griffin’s right knee after a series of surgeries to his left leg.

The interesting thing about that is what it might imply. Blake’s injury list is long on his left leg and one has seemingly led to another and another. If the right leg is now starting to get injured, could he follow the same path? He definitely has an “injury plagued” label and it’s scary to think that he could potentially have two jacked up legs. We’ve already seen him change his game to have less of a reliance on athleticism and any further step back feels like it could be, like O’Connor mentions, an Amar’e Stoudemire esque situation.

Then we have Chris Paul who is suffering from “hamstring fatigue” which just doesn’t sound good. Coach Doc Rivers had this to say to ESPN:

“It’s going to be an issue for a while,” Rivers said Friday morning. “We’re going to take it very slow, and our plan early on was to limit his minutes, and we did that. We probably won’t play him tonight. [There is a] 99.9 percent [chance we] won’t play him tonight.

“He may play [Saturday at Oklahoma City]. We’re just going to be very cautious with it. He didn’t reinjure it or anything like that, but he did feel some fatigue, and that’s enough. If it were a playoff game, he would play. But if there’s fatigue, then that means to me more rest, and that’s the route we’re going.”

That doesn’t sound good and while it’s obvious that he will be back, every game matters when you are trying to position yourself for a high seed in the West.

LA is currently the #4 seed, but only one loss ahead of the Utah Jazz in the loss column. The Jazz are starting to click as one of the only teams to rank in the top 10 in offense and defense in the league and they should overtake them at some point soon. It’s hard to see them giving that up or the Clippers making ground with Paul and Griffin missing time a large chunk of time. At +1500 to win the NBA Championship right now, I wouldn’t bet the Clippers with your money.

If we’re talking about a team that isn’t even going to get home court advantage in the playoffs then it is hard to imagine this team staying together. They’ve considered themselves a championship contender in every season, but luck or injuries or bad matchups have derailed them in each season. If this is the last ride and all they can manage is a fifth seed, it might be time to look into blowing it up. That would set them up for, at best, a second round match-up with the Warriors that would see them as a huge underdog.

A Blake Griffin trade makes a lot of sense, but with the injury concerns it might be hard to find a good deal for him. Moving him would unclog the floor and allow Jordan to flourish as an offensive player, but it remains to be seen if Doc Rivers will make that move. He should definitely look into doing something though because it definitely feels like the writing is on the wall for this team and the end is near.

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