The Los Angeles Clippers (36-24) are the fifth seed in the Western Conference and trail the Utah Jazz (37-24) for the four-seed by just a half game entering play March 2. And yet, here we are, with almost three-quarters of the season in the books, and we’re still not sure what to make of the Clippers.
Injuries will do that to a team.
“We’ve got about a quarter of the season to go, and we’ve got to have a little more sense of urgency in figuring out who we are,” Clippers guard J.J. Redick said on CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki and Tierney. “It’s tough to evaluate us because we haven’t had our full group together since basically mid-December. Blake went out with an injury for a few weeks, and then Chris has been hurt. We’ve had our full group back together for two games now. We’ve got to figure it out. We’ve had some bad losses, including last night, so we’ve got to be a lot better.”
Chris Paul is averaging 17.4 points, 9.8 assists and 5.3 rebounds in 39 games for Los Angeles. He is one of the most supremely talented players in basketball. But he also turns 32 in May and has never played in an NBA Finals.
Time is ticking.
“We do feel that pressure,” Redick said. “Chris is going to be in the Hall of Fame someday, and it would be great if on his resume it said NBA champion. He’s certainly deserving of that title. It’s hard, though, because basketball is a team sport. It’s hard for great individual players to be judged by rings, but that’s sort of the culture has been created over the last 20 years or so, that everybody is judged by rings.”
Several NBA greats have never won championships. Charles Barkley, Reggie Miller, Patrick Ewing, Karl Malone, Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook. The list goes on.
“It’s not tennis,” Redick said. “It’s not Rafael Nadal. It’s not golf. It’s not Tiger Woods trying to get a major. It’s a team sport that requires 15 guys, five guys on the court at a time. It requires great coaching, a little bit of luck, great fans, so there’s a lot of stuff that goes into it. But I hope someday that Chris has that title of NBA champion.”
With Paul and Redick – not to mention Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan and Jamal Crawford – the Clippers are loaded with stars. But they’ve never reached the conference finals.
“It’s a great question,” Redick said. “I think we’ve been trying to figure that out for a few years. But some of it is luck. Obviously we couldn’t have predicted last year in the playoffs to have our two best players hurt in the same quarter of the same game. That was tough. We had a pretty epic collapse in Game 6 two years ago against Houston. So we’ve had some opportunities to get to the conference finals and play Golden State the last two years, but we’ve just been short. I don’t know the reasons why. If I did, we’d probably have been in the NBA Finals by now. But we still have time to figure it out. We still have this group together for at least a few more months, and we’ll figure it out.”
Redick, who is averaging 14.9 points and shooting 41.6 percent from three-point range, was asked about Durant’s injury. The Warriors star will miss at least four weeks with a sprained MCL and bone bruise in his left leg.
What does that mean for the Clippers?
“It doesn’t mean anything,” Redick said. “I’ve given it all of three seconds of thought. When I initially heard of the injury, I said, ‘I hope he’s not injured seriously.’ That’s the last I’ve thought about it until you just mentioned it. There’s too many things going on. What Golden State is doing is completely out of our control and out of my control.”