It was a regular season that had its fair share of moments that brought arenas full of fans to their feet, as much as it had news that made you want to rock back and forth in a quiet corner. This Los Angeles Clippers vintage is a team capable of bringing even the biggest deficits to a winning crescendo, and yet their campaign ended in an almost stunned silence. As supporters flocked out of The Crypt after witnessing a hard-fought loss to the New Orleans Pelicans, there were none of the scenes we witnessed during last year’s historic playoff run, but there would’ve been a quiet pride in almost every member of that crowd. This squad had overcome so many obstacles, but just ran into one hurdle too many.
The news that should’ve shattered hearts hit phone screens with a ping merely hours before tip-off, as the notification came through that Paul George was assigned to health and safety protocols. Though it could’ve easily felt like a fatal blow to the Clippers’ chances of securing a playoff berth, the fact this franchise had already sustained a series of similar blows through the season should’ve made this latest setback feel like one too many. However, the response was one of defiance from fans and players alike — as has been the case throughout the campaign. It was testament to how much belief has been instilled into this ball club, thanks to Ty Lue and his band of brothers. It’s why we can still sit back and enjoy the postseason, hopeful of what’s to come next year.
We’re right to be hopeful. Lue, his staff and this group of players have completely rescued the mood on the court, while the front office — having still made some unpopular decisions — appear to be intent on taking the franchise forward off it. A new home is being constructed as we speak, the Clippers star players are signed up for the long term, and there is a core of young talent that blossomed this season when given the freedom to do so. There is every reason for optimism among Clipper Nation, even if this campaign ended in disappointment. It wasn’t for the want if trying, and fans can rest assured that the guys gave it everything until the very end. Time to run it back.
"When you get Kawhi back, a top 5 player. When you get PG back, a perennial all-star. The team changes tremendously... We can be very different with those two guys back and healthy... We can be special."— Tomer Azarly (@TomerAzarly) April 16, 2022
Ty Lue on areas for Clippers to improve to take next step. pic.twitter.com/yZrp150zwT
“We get our main guys back, I mean ... We can be dangerous. Health is part of it. We got to stay healthy, continue to work. Like I said, right now we got what we got. Proud of our guys in the locker room. Nothing to hang their heads about. So it is what it is,” said Lue after the Clippers’ play-in tournament exit. And why would he not believe? He was able to perform relative miracles with the team’s supporting cast playing big minutes this season, with all of their stars healthy they have every reason to believe that they could make all our dreams come true.
So chapter 2021-22 came to a close on a quieter note than this bittersweet symphony of a season deserved, but the Clippers can make a lot of noise next season. They’ll keep giving us the kind of entertainment they’ve displayed since Ty Lue took over as head coach, and give us more reason to scream at arena ceilings and television sets all across the globe. From being the worst franchise in NBA history we’ve come a hell of a long way. We could stake a claim to be one of the most fun franchises to follow right now. And if anybody doubts that, we’ll just have to show them next time around. As a great Mann once said: “Don’t count us out. Y’all know better.”