No matter how you look at it, 2006 has been an unprecedented year for the Clippers. Among the many firsts for this team (these are for the Clippers' California history unless otherwise noted):
- First playoff series win
- Best overall record, 47-35
- Best road record, 20-21 (franchise)
- First All-NBA selection (Brand - I don't count Wilkins, who was really a Hawk)
- First major extension for a player under contract (Kaman)
- First extension for a coach under contract
- First marketing campaign that didn't focus on the visiting teams
Add in the distraction of trade negotiations involving not one but two All-NBA caliber players, and it's been quite a year indeed. Oh, and of course it was the first year that ClipperSteve was blogging about every detail.
Unfortunately, the high expectations of spring and summer of 2006 have not been met by the performance of the winter. With essentially everyone back from the most successful team in Clipper history, the team has underachieved in the 2006 portion of the 06-07 season. The record sits at 14-16, but the actual on-court performance has been far worse than that, with the second worst road record in the league, and a differential of minus 2.x.
However, I was just looking at the Clippers of 12/31/05. That team was 16-12, a mere 3 games better than this one. In addition, last season's Clippers were coming off consecutive double-digit home losses to the Kings and Celtics, probably their two worst losses of the season. They were mired in a 2-7 stretch that had seen them go from 14-5 to 16-14. In short, on New Year's Eve 2005, the Clippers looked like they were heading back to the lottery after a fun but flukey hot start.
It's not easy to find encouraging signs in the current team, but the simple fact is things change over the course of a season. The Clippers Nov/Dec schedule has been brutal, and much more difficult than the first two months of last season. And though it's not a lot, at least this club is heading in the right direction (winners of 3 straight and 4 of 5) heading into the new year.
So don't give up ClipsNation. There's a lot of basketball yet to be played, and although the Clippers have been exceedingly mediocre thus far, we all know they can play better. We wouldn't really be fans if we didn't think the team could make a run in 2007, and record a few more franchise firsts.
See you next year.