Don’t count us out. Y’all know better
— Terance Mann (@terance_mann) January 26, 2022
It’s a statement that has come to embody the spirit of this Los Angeles Clippers squad, and it feels as prevalent now as it ever was. But if not for injuries to Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, things could’ve gone so much differently for the franchise this season, with the Golden State Warriors the only team in the Western Conference that have looked championship caliber.
So what’s the secret to Steve Kerr’s success? Well, they’re led by Stephen Curry, a unicorn of a player who still makes it all look so easy on the court. They have Klay Thompson and Draymond Green, both who are still capable of big moments and know what it takes to win a ring or two. They also have a whole host of young guys who fill their roles well and work hard to supplement the scoring that Steph can bring nightly.
But why does any of this matter to the Clippers?
Well, Steph, Klay and Dray have all had their fair share of injury issues over the years. It’s what has allowed the franchise to build up a solid foundation of young talent through good drafting and savvy trading. Though the former doesn’t exactly apply to the front office of Lawrence Frank and co., the latter is something they can certainly lay claim to. It’s what has helped them also build a solid base of youthful and hard-working guys. The problem is they haven’t had much chance to supplement the scoring of the top guys so far.
Just a few years back, though, the Clippers were only geared for winning now. They had no draft picks, an ageing roster and some concerns around how free agency could play out for them if things were to take a turn for the worse. Their business since then has seen that turned on its head. Their biggest stars are signed to multi-year deals, their role players are also secured for their peak years, and their youngsters are still hungry to prove they deserve to be on a championship-contending roster.
It’s why fans can afford to be so confident about what’s to come next for the franchise. It feels like there has been a positive direction of travel since the summer of 2020, and you can’t help but think that, if they can stay healthy, the sky’s the limit for this team. I’m sure Warriors fans felt the same when they had their three main guys sitting courtside in street clothes. This season shows they were right to keep that level of faith, as they’ve made their return to the NBA Finals for the first time since 2019.
With the Clippers players already getting back into the gym to lay their own foundations for next season, fans can continue to dream about what it will look like when it all clicks. It may not come together in the way we’d hope, but that’s the beauty of the jeopardy we see so often in sports. It keeps us hungry for more, and this squad should be as hungry as ever.
The blueprint has been laid out for them by their Pacific Division rivals: get healthy and it can all come together from there.