Brandon Bass

Associated Press

Wither Lob City? Clippers facing possible big changes

Leave a comment

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Together for six years now, Chris Paul and Blake Griffin have yet to make it past the second round of the playoffs. Heck, the Los Angeles Clippers haven’t even gotten out of the first round two years running.

And that’s not the worst of it.

The Clippers are the first team in NBA history to blow a series lead in five consecutive playoff appearances.

“Once again, we’re done,” a dejected Paul said. “Too many times.”

Their latest failure came Sunday, a 104-91 loss in Game 7 at home against the Utah Jazz. After six closely contested games decided by an average of 5.1 points, the Clippers turned in a flat effort with their season – and perhaps future – at stake.

They fought all season to earn home-court advantage only to lose three of four to the Jazz at Staples Center. Their 2-1 series lead vanished along with Griffin, who went down with a season-ending toe injury in Game 3.

He wasn’t around to watch the team’s demise, having traveled to consult with a doctor about possible surgery.

Whether Griffin’s around next season is one of the big questions facing the franchise.

Griffin and Chris Paul can opt out of their contracts this summer. J.J. Redick – who made one basket in Game 7 – becomes a free agent.

Ultimately, they hold the future of the franchise in their hands.

For his part, third-year owner Steve Ballmer would have to shell out upward of $200 million, including the luxury tax, to keep the trio together.

“We’ve been reading about our obituary for about three months now,” coach Doc Rivers said. “I’m sure everyone will have their own suggestions.”

The Clippers began the season as the league’s best team at 14-2. They ended the regular season as the hottest team with a seven-game winning streak. Then they blew a 2-1 lead against the Jazz, leaving their fans wondering if the Lob City era is over.

Here are some things to know about the Clippers heading into the offseason:

GRIFFIN & PAUL

They can choose to exercise the early termination options on their contracts and become free agents. By doing so, they could still sign richer long-term deals to stay in L.A. Griffin has missed portions of the last two postseasons with injuries, and although he’s only 28, Ballmer will surely ponder whether he wants to continue focusing his franchise around such an injury-prone player. Paul carried the Clippers through the first six games against the Jazz before they shut him down with 13 points in Game 7. He turns 32 on Saturday and while he is still an All-Star, Ballmer must consider whether to commit bigger bucks over several years to Paul. Or Griffin and Paul could decide it’s time to go elsewhere to pursue an elusive title.

INJURIES

During the regular season, Griffin missed 19 games with a sore right knee that required a procedure, while Paul sat out 21 games with a hamstring issue and a ligament tear in his left thumb. A year ago, Paul broke his hand and Griffin re-aggravated a quad injury in a first-round playoff loss against Portland. Griffin had missed 41 games because of the quad during the regular season, in addition to losing time after breaking his hand punching the team’s assistant equipment manager. Because of the injuries, Ballmer may decide it’s worth keeping them around to take another crack at winning the franchise’s first NBA championship.

DOC RIVERS

He just completed his fourth season in L.A. working the dual roles of president of basketball operations and coach. Under him, the team has a .662 winning percentage in the regular season. But the Clippers have consistently failed to contend for a title, going 18-21 with a .462 winning percentage in the playoffs. None of the team’s draft picks under Rivers has developed into solid support for the Big Three of Griffin, Paul and DeAndre Jordan. The team had a short bench against the Jazz, including 39-year-old Paul Pierce, who played 21 minutes in Game 7 and scored six points in his career finale. Four players – Alan Anderson, Brandon Bass, Brice Johnson and Wesley Johnson – saw little or no minutes in the series. Given his role as part of the brain trust, Rivers shares responsibility for the continued playoff failures.

REDICK

He didn’t boost his stock with a three-point effort on 1 of 5 shooting in Game 7 after slumping the entire series. Redick averaged 15.0 points, 2.2 rebounds and 1.4 assists during the regular season, when he made a career and franchise-high 201 3-pointers. He’s one of five players to make 200 or more 3-pointers in three or more consecutive seasons. At 32, he may be ready for a change of scenery.

 

It’s official: Blake Griffin out 3-6 weeks for knee surgery

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Every year we seem to predict the slide of the Clippers when Blake Griffin goes out injured. Then the team plays well while Griffin is in a suit thanks to a heavy dose of Chris Paul/DeAndre Jordan pick-and-roll. Then people start asking “would the Clippers be better off without Griffin?” Then everyone who understands how basketball works shakes their head.

Let the cycle begin anew.

Monday the Clippers made official what was reported on Sunday: Griffin is going to miss some time for a clean-up knee surgery.

Griffin had been playing the best basketball of his career to start the season, particularly on the defensive end. He hasn’t been quite the same in recent weeks. Griffin still puts up numbers — 21 points, 8.9 rebounds and 4.6 assists per game — and is at the heart of the second-most used five-man lineup in the NBA, the Clippers starting five. That group is outscoring opponents by 16.2 points per 100 possessions but when the Clippers go to the bench things get shakier. Now Rivers will need to rely on the bench.

This also could cost Griffin a lot of money. Griffin can — and will — use his early termination option this summer and become a free agent. The way Griffin played at the start of the season, he would have been in the crowded mix at forward for the All-NBA team. If he makes the team this season, the Clippers can offer him the “designated player” extension in the new CBA — 35 percent of the salary cap, meaning a five-year, $207 million contract. Except now with this injury, it becomes considerably less likely Griffin makes the All-NBA team. To qualify to be a designated player, someone must make the All-NBA team that season, or have made it the two prior seasons — Griffin didn’t make it last year, again due to injury. He would not qualify for the extension (the Clippers can still offer five years, but starting at just more than $30 million, not north of $35 million).

Expect the Clippers to start Austin Rivers at the three and slide Luc Mbah a Moute to the four. Also expect to see some Paul Pierce, Brandon Bass, and Alan Anderson.

Clippers’ rookie Brice Johnson has herniated disc, out indefinitely

Leave a comment

The Clippers drafted Brice Johnson 25th in the first round last June with the eyes on the future. He’s an explosive athlete who doesn’t have a ton of moves but a nice touch around the rim. He was efficient, he played within himself. He has the potential to develop into a solid rotation big in the NBA.

But that future is on hold for a little bit.

The Clippers announced that Johnson has a herniated disc in his back and is now out “indefinitely.” He injured his back in the preseason game against the Raptors.

The goal is to rehab and avoid surgery. What that means is expect Johnson to be sidelined for an extended period of time, at least a month and likely more (ESPN reports 4-6 weeks, but backs are tricky things).

Johnson was not going to see a lot of court time this season — Blake Griffin, Brandon Bass, DeAndre Jordan, and Marreese Speights will soak up the majority of the minutes — but this is a setback on the team’s plans to develop his game.

Report: Paul Pierce coming back to Clippers for one more season. Probably.

3 Comments

It’s not the money. For a guy that has made $193.5 million over the course of his career, another $3.5 million isn’t going to motivate him.

It’s not minutes or points: The future Hall of Famer averaged a career-low 18.1 minutes and 6.1 points per game last season.

But something is motivating him, because after a summer away from the game Paul Pierce is going to come back to the Clippers. Probably. So reports Dan Woike of Los Angeles Daily News.

Pierce, an 18-season veteran in the NBA, is planning to return to the Los Angeles Clippers for his 19th season in the league according to multiple league sources.

Pierce has wavered with his decision for most of the summer, and another change in plans wouldn’t be shocking.

Pierce has a guaranteed contract for this season, so the ball was in his court: Does it want to come back at age 39 (by the time the season starts). Apparently, he’s leaning yes.

But there is not a lot of run for him. He is best now as a small ball four, and the Clippers start Blake Griffin at that slot and give him a lot of minutes. And there’s a lot of competition.

If Pierce is going to contribute as a small-ball power forward, he’ll be competing for minutes with traditional options like Marreese Speights, Brandon Bass, and first-round pick Brice Johnson.

Report: Brandon Bass reaches deal to join Clippers

3 Comments

The Lakers locker room was not exactly the most mature, professional place in the NBA last season. To put it kindly. But in the middle of that were a few veterans who were good role models to any young players paying attention. Brandon Bass was one of those. He also remained a solid vet on the court — he struggled defensively early being asked to play the five off the bench, but by the end of the season he had settled into that role. He remains a solid pick-and-pop big who can score, the Lakers just gave him far fewer chances than he was used to.

Maybe the Clippers will give him more touches next season.

Bass is moving down the hall at Staples Center, reports Shams Charania of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.

Despite a strong pursuit from the San Antonio Spurs, free agent Brandon Bass reached agreement on a one-year deal with the Los Angeles Clippers on Saturday, league sources told The Vertical.

Bass had been deciding between veteran-minimum offers from the Spurs and Clippers, but the recruitment by Clippers coach Doc Rivers – who coached him in Boston – and several Los Angeles players swayed him. Bass resides in Los Angeles and is expected to be a trusted rotation player for Rivers.

Bass is someone Rivers can trust and will lean on off the bench. He shot 61.9 percent true shooting percentage last season and had a PER of 17.4, both comfortably above the league average. He can score from the post or pop out to the midrange.

Bass will likely come in off the bench behind Blake Griffin, getting a fair amount of minutes with g Marreese Speights at the five. Can those two, plus Jamal Crawford and Austin Rivers, start to shore up a bench that has been a Clippers weakness for a few seasons now?

The Clippers and the Spurs will be battling to be the second best team in the West during next regular season. Bass is going to help.