More and more it feels like they are just not there yet.
The Clippers are 6-4 in their last 10, and as it has been with the Clippers the second half of the season you can’t say that is bad. They keep scoring points, they keep having highlights, they keep getting wins and having moments where they look elite.
But those four losses are to San Antonio, Oklahoma City, Denver and on Wednesday night Memphis. Exactly the kind of the teams the Clippers need to beat in the playoffs. The Clipper defense has been poor, particularly in the post, their offense good but unable to cover for it.
The Clippers are no longer a building team selling hope for the future to their fans — the Clippers are a win now team. And it doesn’t feel like they can win enough right now. It did earlier in the season when they strung together 17 straight wins, but watch the Clippers now and that seems long ago.
Chris Paul admitted to the Los Angeles Times what Vinny Del Negro talked about last weekend — the Clippers have to get better and they have to start doing it now.
“I like to think it’s possible to be a better team,” Paul said Wednesday, after the Clippers lost to Memphis. “We’ve got to get better defensively. Every night they [opponents] pretty much know what we’re going to do. We know what other teams are going to do. We’ve just got to get better, communicate, and be a little more aggressive on both ends.”
Teams have seen that Vinny Del Negro’s aggressive defensive scheme can mean big men like Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan are scrambling long distances. The result is an open paint opposing teams can attack. The Clippers as a whole seem to be thinking not reacting.
“When early on we were winning games and had that streak and even before that, the way we played defensively was aggressive,” Blake Griffin said. “We messed up at times, our rotations weren’t great at times, but I thought for the most part, we did a great job of forcing teams to figure out … our defense.”
They’ve got just a few more weeks to figure it out, then the games get serious and a lot Del Negro’s seat gets scorching.
This not only changes the Kings dreams of making the playoffs in the West, it also alters the trade deadline and free agency.
Rudy Gay, the Kings wing and second-leading scorer, has been diagnosed with a torn left Achilles tendon, according to the team. During the third quarter of Wednesday night’s game against the Pacers, Gay drove out of the right corner and, untouched, fell to the floor hard. He had to be helped off the court by teammates.
Team doctors made the initial torn Achilles diagnosis, which will need to be confirmed by an MRI scheduled for Thursday. He would be out not only for this season but likely the start of the next one as well.
Without Gay, a lot more will fall on Matt Barnes and, once he returns from his calf injury in a couple of weeks, Omri Casspi. Those two are a drop off from what Gay brought to the Kings, and with that team’s playoff chances have taken a hit (they are 1.5 games out of the eight seed after Wednesday’s loss to the Pacers). Don’t be surprised if the Kings look to add a scorer at the trade deadline.
Gay was not happy in Sacramento and said he planned to opt out of the $14.3 million final year of his contract to be a free agent next summer, which made him someone potentially traded before the deadline (although the Kings being in the playoff hunt impacted that). Gay averaged 18.7 points and 6.4 rebounds a game for the Kings, and while his game was a little old school — more isolation and midrange shots than teams prefer — he put up points. Enough that he was drawing trade interest heading toward the deadline from Oklahoma City and other squads.
That is all off the table now. At age 30, if Gay does still opt out of his contract for next season this will impact what he would make on the free market.
Kevin Durant playing the Thunder invites extra emotions.
Russell Westbrook felt them – in the form of a flagrant foul by Warriors center Zaza Pachulia, who stood over Westbrook for emphasis.
Pachulia is really embracing his role doing the dirty work for star-studded Golden State.
That rumor No. 1 pick Ben Simmons won’t play this season?
It just won’t die.
Even after Simmons tried to quash it, even after the 76ers’ CEO outright denied it, even after Simmons returned to practice, even in an otherwise optimistic report.
Chris Haynes of ESPN:
76ers rookie forward Ben Simmons could make his much-anticipated NBA debut shortly after the All-Star break, league sources told ESPN.
Barring a setback in his recovery, sources say the No. 1 overall pick in the 2016 NBA draft has a chance to take the hardwood near March. There still remains the possibility Simmons sits the entire season, sources said, but his situation will continue to be thoroughly evaluated throughout his comeback quest.
76ers coach Brett Brown said there’s “no chance” Simmons plays in Philadelphia’s nationally televised game against the Rockets next week. Other than that, there isn’t much clarity.
It mostly sounds as if Simmons is still too far from returning to say something definitive.
The Hornets did so much right in their 107-85 win over the Trail Blazers, even a bad pass went through the hoop.
Roy Hibbert reacted fantastically to blunder/basket (blasket?).