Let me preface this by saying one thing: I love this Clippers core. Though it may be hard to believe as many of you are well aware of my pessimism regarding the team, I want nothing more than for them to succeed. I want to see everyone's face light up as the clock runs out and the Clippers win the championship game. I want the team to hoist that oh-so-elusive Larry O'Brien Trophy to the skies as they parade down Figueroa Street. I want them to achieve the highest order of success, and not only that, I want it to be OUR Clippers. Paul, Redick, Crawford, Griffin, Jordan, and Rivers. This is the team that has been through it all, and these are the guys that I want to see standing on the podium as Adam Silver hands them the trophy.
But as we all know, things don't always work out. As much as we would want a happy, heartwarming ending, Ross does not always end up with Rachel, and the Karate Kid doesn't always beat Johnny (who actually should have won, but that's a different discussion). Nothing is scripted in basketball and this fairytale ending is rarely at the end of the road. In fact, the sports world is very cruel. For every winner there is a loser, and for every champion there are hundreds of others who were unable to achieve their lifelong dreams. Something as minuscule as an awkward rotating of your hand can be the difference between happily ever after and the exact opposite.
It's tough for me to say, but should the team once again fall short of their goals, I do agree with many of you and believe that it can very well be the last time we see this core together. But here is where I stray from the majority; breaking up the team is not a bad idea.
We aren't the first fanbase attached to our team's current players and we certainly won't be the last. Golden State Warrior fans boo'd ownership when they decided to trade Monta Ellis in order to prioritize Steph Curry. Celtics fans claimed that they couldn't imagine Paul Pierce in anything other than Green, but here they are applauding Ainge for stealing Brooklyn's future. Hell, the way we created this core was by trading away Clipper-fan-favorite Eric Gordon, and that was clearly for the better.
That brings us to the Clippers' current situation. For one reason or another, the team has not been past the 2nd round. Whether it be a truly absurd Josh Smith hot hand or a string of unfortunate events in Oklahoma, it is really hard to claim that these shortcomings are mere flukes. Even if fracturing your hand on a seemingly insignificant play appears to be a fluke, what do you call a Chris Paul injury every single year in the playoffs?
Furthermore, while I do not believe in a "Clipper Curse," I do believe that mental fortitude is a huge factor in the playoffs. This is certainly not a jab at Chris Paul, because he consistently fights harder than anyone I have ever seen in the sports world, but I do not think it is a coincidence or just bad luck. Something isn't working, and the way to change that is to start making changes on the team. As cliche as it is to say "insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results," it certainly makes one think of the Clippers last few years.
Although there are changes on the roster every year, they have been relatively minor. When the team is healthy, Doc's goto lineup is always Paul, Redick, Crawford, Griffin, and DJ. While we may point to the bench as the issue, the blame will always predominantly fall on the best players. Whether that is fair or not is unimportant, it is just the way it is. But back to the original point, even when completely healthy with the best bench they've had in years, it was clear that this team was likely headed for another second round exit due to the emergence of Golden State. Unfortunately, this appears to be the path the team will follow for the foreseeable future, because both the Warriors and the Spurs are not only better, but their core is also just as young if not younger.
So as much as I hate to say it, the notion of breaking up the squad is not entirely bad. In fact, it might actually be good for the organization and the players. Returning to my previous examples: Golden State became arguably the greatest team of all time and Monta was able to have his shot at being the undisputed primary option. Boston was able to rebuild towards a bright future and Pierce continued to contend in the playoffs. And though these decisions were met with great backlash and the rebuilds may have taken years, the point is, the teams confronted their issues and pursued change for the better.
At this point, all we have is speculation on where this team may go. However, there is nothing to speculate on about the Spurs and Warriors. They are great teams that have proven their ability to win in both the regular season and the playoffs. No matter how much we try to side step the issue for the first 82 games, the road to the championship is through them. So unless we confront this issue and attempt to find a solution, which may entail breaking up the core, the champagne, the trophy, and the parade are likely going to continue to elude the Clippers.