Oh me oh my, somehow things always come back to anger, disgust and worst-case scenarios for a Clippers fan. Knowing that, I guess it only makes sense that after taking a year off I’d finally get back around to writing my “Diary of a Clippers Fan” in the middle of an increasingly worrying Clipper losing streak.
After smashing through previous Clippers records with a franchise-best 17-game winning streak that included them becoming only the third team in NBA history to finish a 16-0 month with their sparkling December, the boys in red, white and blue are suddenly in a tailspin.
They went just 9-7 in January and are now 0-3 in February after losing to a Washington Wizards team that was tied for the worst record in the league (11-35) and is dead last in field goal percentage and scoring. The Wizards were also on a 4-game losing streak before facing the Clippers, who allowed them to put up 98 points and shoot a blistering 58 percent from 3-point range.
In fairness to the Clippers, they were already without Chris Paul – who is both an all-star starter and a top 3 MVP candidate – and found out just moments before tip-off they would also be without all-star power forward Blake Griffin, who suffered a strained hamstring.
It should be noted however, that the Wizards have zero all-stars and their top scorers were Garrett Temple and Martell Webster, who were both at (Temple) or near (Webster) their season highs in points with 15 and 21 respectively.
When it comes down to pinpointing what’s wrong with the team there are plenty of factors, the most obvious being the injury to Paul and mystery surrounding his return, as well as the absence of Chauncey Billups and Blake’s recent nagging ankle & hamstring injuries. There are also problems with focus, energy, effort and the one that bugs me the most, the coaching.
Clippers Coach Vinny Del Negro
Look, I’m all for team chemistry, fan support and patience. I know it’s important that the team and its staff feel confident in their own abilities to perform well and expect the fans to support them on that journey of trying to make all the pieces fall into place for a title. I understand all that, but this is the NBA, not a junior high school tournament or charity game.
The players, coaches and the fans all should always demand the best of themselves and the team and the coaching just isn’t living up to that right now.
I’ve done my best to be patient and give Vinny Del Negro a chance, and to be clear I’m not saying he is a 100 percent terrible coach or awful human being. I’ve heard and read things that say he is a strong motivator and a no-nonsense guy. That’s great, but that isn’t what the Clippers most need right now.
They aren’t a team of young upstarts anymore. They’re stacked with veterans eager and hungry for a championship as well as incredible young athletes like Griffin, DeAndre Jordan and Eric Bledsoe. They’re among the league’s elite now and if they’re going to seriously contend for a title, they need to get to work on trying to overcome their most glaring deficiencies, including the lack of a serviceable halfcourt offense and poor coaching adjustments.
I fully accept that I’m just a fan and I don’t pretend to have an easy answer, especially since I don’t think firing Del Negro now would solve much, but I also don’t think the team should just settle for waiting for Paul to come back and make everything magically click again.
That may work in the regular season, but it won’t help them win a championship this year, not against the Spurs, Thunder or Heat, and without a deep playoff run it opens the door for the catastrophic possibility of Paul leaving as a free agent.
I think I speak for all of Clipper Nation when I say that’s one bridge we hope we never have to cross.
With the Clippers now 3-7 in their last 10 games and just 2-6 in their last 8 without Paul, they’ve seen their stranglehold on the 3rd seed in the West shrink to just 2 games. Included in this bad stretch are 3 losses by only 5 points or less that were a direct result of extremely poor late game strategies (or lack thereof) and collapses against inferior opponents.
I have no idea what the coaching staff works on behind the scenes, but I can only hope that Vinny has already considered working on expanding his X’s and O’s or bringing in or deferring to an assistant with more knowledge in constructing plays, because the players look disorganized and lost out there on offense and it could very well be the reason why they’re losing their spirit to compete a full 48 minutes a game. It may not be fair to Vinny, but most coaches know that when they sign up for the job.
If they don’t try something soon, they risk not only jeopardizing all the hard work they’ve already put in through more than half of this season, but also the legitimacy of the next several years. Oh me oh my indeed.
Will R. is a journalist/writer who covers sports, news and music for several websites. He’s a longtime Clippers fan and his “Diary of a Clippers Fan” is regularly published during the NBA season. His music work can be found on www.WestCoastRydaz.com