As soon as Chris Paul was traded to the Los Angeles Clippers, joining Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan, Caron Butler and Chauncey Billups, the hype machine got going.
Reminiscent of the hype surrounding the Heat before last season, many NBA pundits were putting the Clippers in the Western Conference Finals and dubbing them the new super team before the team even got in the gym together.
It didn’t take long for those Clippers to stumble. You’ve got to fall a few times before you can walk, and they fell hard last night in an embarrassing 25 point loss to a team everyone is calling old and done, the San Antonio Spurs.
“We just have to work through things, Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro said. “Everyone says it’s going to be easy, but it’s not. We played terrible from start to finish.”
Nothing comes easy in the NBA and bringing together a group of talented players, and handing out “Lob City” shirts doesn’t earn you a championship. There are challenges every single night and a team has to come together and put aside egos just to give themselves the best chance to win every night.
Clippers guard Chauncey Billups knows as much.
“We just came together a few weeks ago and we have a lot of new pieces to the puzzle,” Billups said. “You know, it’s going to take some time.”
The Clippers just couldn’t get it done on either side of the court with the Spurs amping up the defense, especially in a third quarter stretch that put the Clippers away for good.
“They tore us apart that third quarter,” Griffin said. “Our defense needs to be better and it can get better.”
Defense seemed to be the main issue most of the Clippers brought up after last night’s loss.
“We are going to practice tomorrow and figure out what we did right and figure out what we did wrong,” All-Star guard Chris Paul said. “First things first, we need to start with me. We need to realize that the key to this entire season is going to be on the defensive end.”
Billups, and NBA veteran with NBA Finals experience, could be just the piece it takes to get this team going in the right direction, but he says he’ll take a passive approach to mentoring his teammates.
“Sure, sure. I can talk to them all I want, but experience is always the best teacher,” he said. “You kinda gotta go out there and do it yourself. It’s going to help them that I’m out there doing it with them.”.
As for how long it’ll take to get the Clippers on track and perhaps up to fans’ expectations, Billups says his team will try to speed things up, but agrees with Del Negro’s notion that it will take time and patience.
“We’re just going to try to speed this learning curve up as much as we can,” Billups said. “We’ve done a lot of positive things, but you gotta understand, we’ve been together 10 days. 10 days, we ain’t been together 10 years (sic).”
It sounds like Billups is prescribing tempered expectations to fans and to the many people feeding that hype machine, at least through the first part of the season.
As for “lob city,” the Spurs finished with 22 more points in the paint last night. The only real opportunity of a highlight dunk for the Clippers came late in the game, but ended up turning into a rim check, perhaps a fitting ending to the Clippers’ story last night.