This will be the sixth season of Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, and DeAndre Jordan together with the Clippers. Some things have changed — Vinny Del Negro was replaced by Doc Rivers, Jordan’s role has grown, as has J.J. Redick‘s — but one key thing hasn’t: The team has never gotten past the second round of the playoffs.
The Clippers are down 1-0 to the Jazz, and if they are able to come back and win that series (very possible, especially with Rudy Gobert injured), their reward is a Warriors team that has beaten the Clippers 10 consecutive times. The Clippers are likely gone before the conference finals again.
Is it time to break up this Clipper core and try something else? Paul, Griffin, and Redick are all free agents this summer (in addition to a few key role players), and bringing all three of them back could mean a record luxury tax bill next season. Do you let one go and replace him with another star, or a couple good role players that may fit better?
Not if you ask Doc Rivers, which is what Sam Amick of the USA Today has done.
“Here’s my argument to (the question of whether all that luxury tax is worth it),” Rivers, who is three years into a five-year deal worth more than $50 million, told USA TODAY Sports recently. “Let’s say we don’t win this year — which I think we will, (but) let’s say we don’t. Do you give up on a 50-win team that has proven that they’re really close (to winning it all), or do you hang in there and keep trying to maybe make changes around (the core)?
“I always use Utah as a great (example). Thank God Karl Malone and (John) Stockton didn’t listen to people, you know what I mean? They fell (in the playoffs), and kept trying and kept trying. And finally, late in their careers, they finally broke through to the Finals. They didn’t win it (all). But you know, that’s the pursuit. I just think it’s so easy to (say), ‘Hey, they should break up,’ from the outside. And I think that’s such an easy opinion.”
The difference between the eras is the cost — former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer may have more money than he knows what to do with, but is a massive luxury tax bill to be a team that needs a lot of breaks to go their way to win a title worth it? The Clippers are the oldest team in the West in terms of the playoff roster, is bringing everyone back going to lead to a step forward? The Warriors and Spurs aren’t going anywhere, the Jazz are getting better (if they can retain Gordon Hayward) and Minnesota is a team on the rise.
Of course, allow Griffin to walk, or make a trade, and you break up a very good team for the unknown. Is bringing in players such as Carmelo Anthony or Dwyane Wade going to make this team better? Blake Griffin is still a tremendous talent that would be very difficult to replace.
There have been reports that both Paul and Griffin want to stay. The question is will that change once the Clippers are bounced from the postseason?
Doc may want to keep the band together, but there’s a sense around Los Angeles that Ballmer is going to take a hard look at things if and when this team gets bounced in the first couple playoff rounds again.