The Los Angeles Clippers won their first division championship in team history. Until now, there was not a single banner bearing the Clippers (or even the Buffalo Braves) name at Staples Center. That is not an easy thing to do for a franchise that has been in one location for more than a quarter century. That takes some major commitment to losing.
There have been flashes in the pan, but nothing quite like this season for the Clippers.
For the first time since moving to Los Angeles, the Clippers will be going to the Playoffs in back-to-back seasons and they are adding some much needed signage inside their arena.
Yet, as the season winds down and the Clippers are fading fast in the race for home court in the first round of the Western Conference Playoffs. Since the beginning of March, the Clippers are just 9-8. They went from one of the top teams in the West to a seeming also-ran, in danger of not even getting home court in the first round as a division champion.
That is not good for this Clippers organization that had big dreams.
Those championship dreams might slip away if they do not get their house in order. And this might go beyond the general consternation and uncertainty over Vinny Del Negro's future. There seems to be some general discord with the Clippers and the team's flaws are beginning to show. Again, now this discord — nothing new to the organization — comes with the pressure with winning.
Del Negro said his team was feeling it as the season winds down (via Kamanetzky brothers):
There's always things that — the frustration builds. There's no question. And Blake (Griffin) and Chris (Paul) especially are two of our All-Stars and our biggest pieces. I think it's also a good thing because there's some frustration there because we need to play better. If the frustration is everyone pulling in the same direction, it's a positive thing. And I feel that's the case. But it comes down to, enough talking. Go out and perform, go out and get the results that we expect. You have to be able to work together. The chemistry is very important. They have that. It hasn't been as consistent as any of us would like, lately. But it's something that I think the character in the locker room, and the people you're talking about, know that it's very important for everybody to be on the same page.
T.J. Simers of the Los Angeles Times detailed some of the issues with the Clippers including a report that DeAndre Jordan wants nothing to do with Coach Vinny Del Negro because he blames Del Negro for burying him on the bench.
Yet Jordan's inability to play consistently or make free throws, thereby turning the ball over to the opposition much like a turnover, makes him a liability in close games.
Jordan sees it differently, and he has for the last two seasons, maintaining he would be more productive if allowed to play more.
Simers cites the team's relative immaturity when under adversity as the reason the Clippers sunshine season has started to turn dark. There is a lot of frustration that Los Angeles has become pretty much a .500 team in the last month and a half.
The plain fact might very well be that the Clippers are a young team dealing with sacrificing for a team with championship aspirations for the first time. Even Chris Paul has not quite experienced that level of Playoff success or experience. The Clippers have not done a lot of the work before getting the success.
The success is here now and the Clippers — the players and the organization — are learning just what success can do. It can tear a team apart if you are not careful.