The Clippers are 14-5, and have won seven games in a row. While several of those losses have been ugly, such a winning streak is a real feat in the NBA regardless, especially considering some of the competition the Clippers have faced. They look like a real championship contender for the first time since peak Lob City, and have a roster with both more starpower and depth than any of those teams. It’s a great time to be a Clippers fan, and here are five things Clippers fans should be thankful for on Thanksgiving.
Kawhi Leonard and Paul George
Kawhi and Paul George have not been perfect through the first month and change of the season. Not even close. But they have already demonstrated flashes of the potential that led to the Clippers being named title favorites heading into the season. The Clippers have never had two stars at this level whose games have meshed so well, particularly on the defensive end. Each has had some injury issues to start the season, but both appear healthy, and for that, the Clippers and their fans must be extremely grateful. As long as George and Kawhi maintain that level of health, the Clippers will be a tough, tough out in a postseason setting.
Clippers Front Office and Steve Ballmer
Perhaps the group that Clippers fans should be most thankful for is owner (sorry, governor) Steve Ballmer and his front office. Ownership is the biggest competitive advantage in the NBA (and professional sports), and the day the Clippers’ franchise fortunes truly turned was when Steve Ballmer took over stewardship of the team. This summer, his willingness to invest in personnel and spend to get the best bore fruit when the Clippers retained the great bulk of their top-tier front office. Without that front office, and without Ballmer, there’s no way the Clippers even land Kawhi and PG in the first place. That’s not even getting into all the other moves they’ve made, like acquiring Ivica Zubac for Mike Muscala, or signing Rodney McGruder off waivers to get his bird rights, or landing Moe Harkless in exchange for cap space. They’re one of the best front offices in the NBA, Ballmer is one of the best owners in the NBA, and the Clippers’ long-term future is secure as long as those facts remain in place.
Like most coaches, Doc Rivers takes a lot of heat. And, like most coaches, he deserves some of it. He has some stubborn tendencies, to be sure, and those can be frustrating to fans. But, on the whole, he’s a phenomenal coach who’s a major element of the culture the Clippers have built over the past couple years. He gets his team to play hard every single night and has the trust and respect of every player in the locker room, which are the most important aspects of NBA coaching. That’s not even going into his consistently strong offenses, or his excellent out of timeout plays. Doc is a championship-level coach, and his presence, too, was a key piece to the Clippers landing Kawhi and PG. The Clippers are lucky to have him.
Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell
There are few plays in the NBA more consistently effective than the Lou Williams – Montrezl Harrell pick and roll. The two bench stars have developed a symbiotic chemistry that is truly magical to watch, and have carried the Clippers to dozens of wins over the past two plus seasons. They look better than ever this season, with Lou Williams draining clutch shot after clutch shot while improving his playmaking and Trez stepping up as a true offensive fulcrum in the post and a solid passer in the short roll. They’re great players apart, but together, are something special. Lou and Trez are the frontrunners for Sixth Man of the Year yet again, and either would be a deserving winner. Most importantly, for a game that is, in the end, about entertainment, they’re just damned fun to watch.
The Rest of the Supporting Cast
What’s kept the Clippers going this season, however, has been their depth and the exceptional play of their role players. Moe Harkless and Rodney McGruder’s defense, JaMychal Green’s rebounding and shooting, Pat Beverley’s energy and rebounding and leadership, and Ivica Zubac’s leap into starting center quality have all been crucial. And that’s not even going into the solid minutes the Clippers have received from youngsters like Jerome Robinson and Terance Mann, or the stopgap games that Patrick Patterson provided. All those guys are players the Clippers have been able to count on thus far this season (as has the injured Landry Shamet), and while the playoffs are another story, the Clippers look like the deepest team in the league right now. After going through years of Lob City where the Clippers ran about 4.5 players deep, having 11-12 NBA-rotation quality players is something that fans can truly, deeply appreciate.
Well, I’ve named just about everybody involved with the team this year, haven’t I? That’s about right! It’s a team effort, and the Clippers this year embody that ethos even more than most. If the Clippers are to win it all, they will need contributions from each and every player and member of the coaching staff. This is probably the Clippers best chance to win a championship in franchise history, and it’s due to the efforts of the entire team. For all that, Clippers fans should be plenty grateful this holiday season.
Happy Thanksgiving and holiday season everyone!