Throughout last season, it was expected that the two Los Angeles teams — the Lakers and Clippers — would battle for the Western Conference crown.
Denver had other ideas. Down 3-1 to the Clippers in the second round, the Nuggets showed both the grit and chemistry that the Clippers lacked last season, and the Nuggets came back to advance and advance to take their shot against the Lakers.
“Guys are pissed off, which is good,” Clippers point guard Patrick Beverley said Sunday in a Zoom interview with the media. “We should be pissed off after our exit in the playoffs.”
To be clear, Beverley was talking about the Clippers being pissed off at themselves. Up 3-1 and leading comfortably in Game 5, the Clippers played like a team that expected their opponent to roll over and they would cruise to a win. That’s not Denver, and Los Angeles did not have the grit to fight back as Denver charged back in the game and the series.
Beverley addressed the mental toughness issues of the Clippers last season.
“You win the lottery, you win a lot of money, you lose it, that’s not leadership — that’s a lack of mental toughness,” he said.
Paul George appeared to throw former coach Doc Rivers under the bus for a lack of adjustments during the series during a podcast appearance. However, speaking to the media this week, George said everyone in the locker room deserves blame for what happened, himself included.
“We all take responsibility,” George said. “Me being one of the top players on the team, I wasn’t at a peak performance. The fact I gave up a 3-1 series sits with me and haunts me. I want to clear things up. I respect Doc. Doesn’t mean I agree with everything we did, but it does not belittle the fact that I respect him in that position… I’m to blame in that situation as much as anybody else. Let’s not let that get out of hand and make that a story.”
The Clippers made changes after blowing that playoff lead. Rivers was out as coach (landing in Philadelphia). The roster was shaken up as well, the biggest move being Sixth Man of the Year Montrezl Harrell being allowed to walk (down the hall to the Lakers), replaced by Serge Ibaka.
Harrell, along with Beverley and Lou Williams, was the heart of a Clippers team that made the playoffs in 2019. Was Beverley surprised Harrell was moved?
“Yes,” Beverley said. He left it at that.
To a man, this preseason the Clippers are talking about playing with a chip on their shoulder, using the frustration of last season to turn things around. Those are good words, but the Clippers need to put them in action to get a shot at an improved Lakers team this time around.