"We're number one! Or at least number eight!"
Broderick Turner of the LA Times caught up with Mo Williams at the Los Angeles Clippers training facility Friday and heard something that few people have heard before - a player guaranteeing the Clippers would be in the playoffs. Blake Griffin was close by, and he had the luxury of being able to agree with Mo's sentiment - without having to say the actual words.
You know, I appreciate the enthusiasm. The playoffs should absolutely be the goal for this team. From a winning percentage of .390 last season (the Clippers were 32-50) to a winning percentage of .561 (the Grizzlies and Hornets were 46-36, which would correspond to a 37-29 record in a 66 game season) is no small task - but dammit, you gotta have goals, right?
Of course, guarantees from athletes are silly. I mean, what is Mo backing up his guarantee with? Is this like a low-price guarantee? "Find a better basketball team and we'll match it!" (Wait, that doesn't even make sense.) Is this satisfaction guaranteed? What does Mo Williams offer if he doesn't live up to his guarantee? Just his credibility I guess. If I recall correctly, Mark Jackson guaranteed the playoffs up in Oakland this year as well. That's a lot of guarantees from teams that haven't been anywhere near the playoffs lately.
Ultimately, the Clippers chances of making the playoffs probably rest more with the other Western Conference teams than with the Clippers themselves. I'd say that it's perfectly legitimate to look at the final four months of last season, and call the Clippers a .482 team (27-29 from December 15) and ignore the abysmal start - after, those four months are a larger and more recent sample size than the first six weeks, and it's reasonable that a young team with a
no new coach would have an adjustment period. So they need to improve from .482 to .561, which seems more reasonable.
Or maybe they don't even have to improve that much. Among the teams that finished ahead of the Clippers last season were Denver, New Orleans, Phoenix and Utah - with the Nuggets and Hornets making the postseason field of eight. We've been surprised before by teams that have held on longer than expected, but it sure seems like those four teams are headed into major declines (the Nuggets no longer have Carmelo, have several players locked into Chinese league contracts, and may lose Nene in free agency; the Hornets have a chance to lose David West in free agency and have a minor issue with Chris Paul; etc. etc.). If we're right and those teams are out, then there's room for two new teams to get in.
So who knows. Maybe Mo Williams and Mark Jackson are right after all.