When things are going wrong, it’s easy to look around in a frenzy trying to find the root cause of the problem, as the Los Angeles Clippers have found out the hard way on this week’s road trip out East.
The form of specific players has come into question, with usually-reliable guys like Reggie Jackson and Marcus Morris Sr. suffering from big peaks and troughs this season, but even the fiercest critic would have to concede that both have been asked far too much of at times. The constant upgrading and downgrading of roles can’t help them when trying to establish a rhythm.
Of course, that comes back to the injured stars, and Kawhi Leonard, Paul George and even John Wall have all been accused of being too cautious with their bodies throughout this process. However, in recent times, all three have increasingly expressed their desire to play and subsequent frustrations with their timetables, likely being managed by a combination of the Clippers’ medical staff and front office.
George bucked the trend of caution on the trip, with predictions before the loss to the Orlando Magic suggesting he wouldn’t feature in the second game of the back-to-back, after which he came out and declared that he would in fact play against the Miami Heat. Meanwhile, Leonard and Wall’s frustrations continue to bubble away in the background, though it’s unlikely either of those guys will want to stick to the plan for too much longer if they’re ready to play big minutes.
It feels like the right time for the players to take back control of the narrative, at the very least. This stretch of four losses in five games has been soundtracked by undertones of fans accusing journalists of not asking tough enough questions of the Clippers’ head coach Tyronn Lue as their most regular point of contact from the organization, which has only added to the general feeling of frustration that surrounds the team right now.
The losses stacking up definitely doesn’t help, and perhaps wins that were secured solely by role players stepping up has increased the expectations of fans in the ability of those guys to carry the load while the stars are sitting. It’s clear that both Jackson and Morris in particular have struggled with this at times, while Ivica Zubac is cutting an increasingly tired figure since his record night.
On the flip side, it’s hard to continue to preach patience to fans of a team that should be contending for a championship, but instead find themselves a hair above .500 a third of the way through the season. However, fans looking for sweeping changes are likely to be disappointed. Injuries will happen and form will fluctuate, the organization won’t want information that potentially undermines their processes to leak out, and the players will want to play basketball.
It is all adding to a feeling of discontent during this bad run, but as George’s back-to-back starts this week showed, at some point common sense will prevail.