Clippers Gonna Clip …

Basketball is up for discussion this morning and the Los Angeles Clippers are the first topic on the agenda.  The Clippers have been around for 50 years – the first 8 of those years known as the Buffalo Braves.  In those 50 seasons of basketball, here is an overview of the franchise “success”:

  • They have made the playoffs a total of 15 times out of 50 possible appearances.
  • They have lost in the first round 7 times.
  • They have lost in the conference semifinals 8 times.
  • They have never played in the conference finals – let alone won a conference championship.

Here is about the best thing you can say about the history of the Clippers’ franchise:

  • They have earned more accolades than the Washington Generals have.

I mention that history because the Clippers have again been eliminated from the NBA playoffs in the conference semifinals this year after holding a 3-games-to-1 lead over the Denver Nuggets and managing to gag away three shots at advancing to the conference finals.

  1. Game 5:  Clippers led by 16 and lost by 6 being outscored 38-25 in the 4th quarter.
  2. Game 6:  Clippers led by 19 and lost by 13 being outscored 34-19 in the 4th quarter.
  3. Game 7:  Clippers led by 12 and lost by 15 being outscored 22-15 in the 4th quarter.

In case your calculator is not working, the Clippers were outscored by a combined score of 94-59 in the fourth quarters of those deciding games.  Of course, the Nuggets have earned the praise they are receiving for these comeback wins, and the Nuggets will advance to the Western Conference finals to play the Lakers.  Having said that, the Clippers have also earned the scorn they are getting.

The Clippers – on paper – assembled a “super team”; players used their leverage to come together in LA with Doc Rivers as the coach with the idea that they would take over the town from the Lakers and propel the franchise to new heights.  As Lee Corso is wont to say in a different venue:

  • Not so fast, my friend.

The two superstars who provide the most light – – and heat – – for this “super team” are not your prototypical superstars.

  • Kawhi Leonard is a great player but he is not an emotional leader; he leads by example.  On those occasions when the example is less bright, the path to victory is less clear.
  • Paul George is a very good player who has referred to himself as “Playoff P”.  In 10 NBA seasons, George and his team have been to the playoffs 9 times (good) and have reached the conference finals 1 time (not so good) and won the conference title zero times (not good at all).

Charles Barkley put his own punctuation on the label, “Playoff P”…

“You can’t be calling yourself ‘Playoff P’ and losing all the time.  They don’t call me Championship Chuck.”

The Clippers have attributed their loss in this series to “conditioning issues” and a “lack of shared experiences”.  Pardon me, whilst I yawn.  If the Clippers played in Texas instead of California, their season would be labeled:

  • All hat; no cattle!

The other “basketball issue of the day” is the announcement of the general outline for the college basketball season for 2020 – 2021.  March Madness was the first major casualty of the COVID-19 outbreak in 2020; as of this morning there is a plan to stage March Madness in 2021 – – although it might turn out to be May Madness or even June Jousting.  At least the college basketball mavens have a plan.  That is better than how the college football mavens dealt with staging a season in 2020; for the football folks, it seemed as if they thought the virus would go away if they just ignored it and hoped for the best.  [It did not.]  For basketball, there are still plenty of unknowns to be resolved, but at least there is a plan for everyone to use in making conference and individual school decisions.

The NCAA men’s basketball college season will begin on November 25th, 2021.  That is 69 days from today.  Coaches and players may adjust their behaviors to be ready for the season to start then.  Administrators and basketball mavens will need to use that time to ponder some of the “what-ifs” and “how-abouts” that come with the season starting then such as:

  • Will conferences play out-of-conference opponents?  If some do, is it necessary for all of them to do that?
  • Will there be a minimum testing and tracing protocol that all teams/conferences must achieve?  If not, can a school refuse to play an opponent with an “inferior” testing and tracing protocol”?
  • Will there be fans at the games?
  • Will there be the full menu of “December Invitational Tournaments” in far-flung venues around the globe?  If not, can schools make up for scheduled games that evaporated from their schedule?
  • Will there be rules about modes of travel and away-from-campus stays?

Nothing on that list – or other items facing the basketball mavens – is insurmountable but coming to a smart and actionable set of answers in 69 days means there is no time for lollygagging.  The importance of getting this right is significant for players and fans; I think it is also significant for the NCAA.

I am certainly not privy to the accounting ledgers at NCAA HQs, but March Madness drops almost $1B in the NCAA’s coffers every year.  That money is shared among the schools to be sure, but there is also a chunk that goes to the NCAA itself so that it can do all those wonderful things that it does.  The NCAA has had to furlough employees and curtail some activities this year; I suspect that foregoing another $1B in revenue might border on a catastrophic event for the NCAA as an institution.

  • Memo to College Basketball Mavens:  Get on it now.  Get it right.  Your continued livelihood may depend on it.

Finally, since today was devoted to basketball, here is a comment obliquely related to basketball from Dwight Perry in the Seattle Times:

“Ex-NBA tough guy Charles Oakley will be a contestant on the next iteration of ‘Dancing with the Stars.’

“We’d be more inclined to tune in if he shared the dance floor with Bill Laimbeer.”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………