Clippers return from brutal road trip in danger of a tailspin

first_img Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Error Terrible is what the eight-game Grammy road trip was for the Los Angeles Clippers. Just look at the fun they had while going 3-5:Chris Paul was accused of being sexist when he criticized a rookie female referee after she gave him one of five technical fouls the Clippers received in a loss Thursday at Cleveland. Three days earlier, the Clippers blew a nine-point lead in the final 1:46 at Brooklyn.The biggest blow came Saturday when it was discovered Blake Griffin had a staph infection in his right elbow that required surgery Monday, with Griffin out at least three weeks.Almost forgot, J.J. Redick missed four games with back spasms. He had not missed a game all season after playing in just 35 games a season ago because of injuries. Not a great time.But the Clippers had not been all that terrific prior to all this. Even with a record of 31-14 before the trip — they are now 34-19 — there was an inconsistency issue. They’ve at times looked like world-beaters, then as quick as one of Jamal Crawford’s moves, the opposite has been true.Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde team would be proud.“I think something is off with the Clippers this season, from what I’ve seen,” longtime TNT play-by-play man Marv Albert told us last week during a conference call promoting the Feb. 15 All-Star game.We agree. But why?center_img There was a report on NBA.com earlier this season that suggested Clippers players don’t like each other. That was before Jordan Farmar, Reggie Bullock, Chris Douglas-Roberts and Jared Cunningham left the team and Austin Rivers and Dahntay Jones joined it.Frankly, didn’t see any discord before the changes, don’t see any now. These players all seem to be decent guys who aren’t the type the create havoc in a locker room.Yes, the Clippers miss Darren Collison. Doubt that’s why the Clippers seem to fade in and out of focus at times, when beautiful play turns ugly in the beat of the team’s heart.Is it possible the Clippers are having a long hangover from the Donald Sterling fiasco that in April marred their 2014 playoffs? Having seen the long, hurt looks on the faces of the players after that story broke, it seemed feasible it would take some time to heal.There are other factors. It seems the Clippers just aren’t as vicious as they were in recent seasons. Griffin has moved his game more to the outside. His scoring, rebounds and shooting percentage are down. His dunks are way down. Griffin’s dunk numbers his first four seasons were 214 as a rookie, 192, 202 and 176. With 70 this season, he would have been on track for just 113 dunks had he not undergone elbow surgery.Consequently, the Clippers just don’t seem as ferocious. Opponents feel that and take advantage.Also, the Clippers spend way too much time beefing about fouls. TNT’s Charles Barkley ripped DeAndre Jordan for complaining about a call in the game at Cleveland, even though there was no question Jordan was guilty.The Clippers waste too much energy on this, and it’s not endearing to officials. They lead the league in technical fouls and three of their players — Matt Barnes (11), Griffin (10) and Jordan (7) — are among the league’s top six offenders, with Barnes tied with Phoenix’s Markieff Morris and Oklahoma City’s Russell Wewstbrook for the league lead.The Clippers do have talent, and they do have heart.“This business isn’t for the mentally weak,” Jamal Crawford said after Monday’s win at Dallas. “There’s ebbs and flows, and there’s highs and lows. Every time you bounce back, I think that shows a lot of your character.”There have been too many head-scratching lows though. The way things had been going even before Griffin’s injury, did the Clippers really look like a team that could go deep into the postseason, as was predicted by many experts?Until this road trip, the Clippers had experienced a rather healthy season. Redick has returned, but Griffin will be out until sometime in March. Including Wednesday’s home game against Houston, the Clippers have a stretch of 14 games that could go a long way in determining their postseason fate. They are looking at three games against Houston, two against Memphis and one each with Portland, Golden State and San Antonio — all Western Conference playoff-bound teams.Griffin could miss every one of those games. Without a personnel move to off-set his loss, it’ll be tough for the Clippers, who are currently sixth in the conference standings. The last thing they want is to finish seventh or eighth because then they’d likely face either Golden State or Memphis in the opening round of the playoffs.Then they could be fretting over a first-round exit, rather than a lousy Grammy road trip.last_img read more