Ever since the beginning of the Chris Paul era, the Clippers have fought tooth and nail for the Larry O'Brien trophy. Unfortunately, even though the team has shown improvement every single year, a trip to the finals (even the Western Conference Finals) has eluded them in oh so many ways. Consequently, this lack of playoff success has many fans, reporters, and even players claiming that the Clippers are nothing more than a group of pretenders.
Recently, Alex Kennedy interviewed Blake Griffin and discussed this idea that many out there do not believe the Clippers to be contenders. More specifically, he asked
When I look at your team, you have two Most Valuable Player candidates (yourself and Chris Paul), a former Coach of the Year (Doc Rivers), a Defensive Player of the Year candidate (DeAndre Jordan), a Finals MVP (Paul Pierce), a two-time Sixth Man of the Year (Jamal Crawford) and a combined 23 All-Star appearances. Yet, there’s this perception that you aren’t a legitimate contender. Last year, I predicted that you guys would make the Finals and I was mocked and laughed at on Twitter. Does that motivate you or piss you off?
To which Griffin responded
"You know, all of those things are true. We do have a guy in DJ that is a defensive force and a Defensive Player of the Year candidate. CP, year in and year out, is one of the best point guards in the league, if not the best. Doc obviously has a great reputation and has had a lot of success. But for us, we haven’t done anything and we know that. Paul Pierce is an NBA champion and obviously a future Hall of Famer, but this is his first year with us so I don’t think we as a team look at it as us being automatic contenders because we haven’t done anything, man. We’ve all been together and we’ve won two division titles, you know what I mean? That’s not getting it done and I think if you talk to our team, everybody will say that. At the same time though, yeah it does motivate you because you want that respect. But you have to earn that respect and I think we’re still in the process of earning that respect and we have to accomplish something. So it’s kind of a weird thing: we should use that as motivation, we should want that respect and that should be our chip on our shoulder, but we understand it a bit. I get it, you know? No one is going to give you the title until you’ve actually earned it and we haven’t earned that title of being a contender yet because we haven’t even been to the Western Conference Finals yet. That’s the fight though, that’s the battle that we have to overcome and I think we’re all ready for that."
So are the Clippers truly championship contenders? The fact is, there is no definitive answer. Some people believe that they are nothing more than an obstacle in the playoffs for the real contending teams, a mere hurdle instead of a hurdler. On the other hand, some believe that we should all start barricading ourselves in our Balm-Shelters for when Steve Ballmer explodes with anxiety, excitement, and happiness as the Clippers win it all. Either way, Griffin makes a very valid point: the Clippers have yet to earn anything. Like it or not, as close as the team has been to the Western Conference Finals, if they truly want respect in regards to being called contenders, they have to earn that respect by succeeding in the playoffs.
Nevertheless, being called contenders or pretenders... it really doesn't matter. Whether a team gets knocked out in the first round or the finals, only one team brings home the Championship trophy. What truly matters is that the Clippers are as prepared as possible when the opportunity comes to fight for the Larry O'Brien trophy, and by all indications, it seems that Griffin and the squad will be primed and ready for the battle.