Clippers Cement Championship Contention

As a culture, we tend to follow where the crowds go so that we won’t be in the spotlight for the wrong reasons. Having the iPhone Xr gives us, “acceptance among peers”, by Jove we’ll spend $600 to purchase it. Making a Tik Tok video gets us likes on Instagram, Snapchat, or Facebook. We go film one immediately. Shopping at Abercrombie & Fitch or Hollister makes us look younger, so we line up for their latest sale. The past 24 hours in NBA Free Agency just bucked against that trend. The L.A. Clippers have never been a popular destination for top tier players. Saturday morning, that all changed. The last great move by the Clippers was landing Chris Paul to pair up with Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan when you had, “Lob City.” It was short-lived and never got further than the Western Conference Semifinals. Fast forward a few seasons and we have Blake Griffin as a Piston, Chris Paul is flaming hot in Houston at James Harden, and DeAndre Jordan just teamed up with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving in Brooklyn with the Nets. This morning, Kawhi Leonard sent more shockwaves through the NBA than the 7.1 earthquake that struck southern California. Earlier in the week, reports from multiple sources were under the
impression that the Clippers were out and Kawhi had narrowed his field of suitable “bachelorettes” to the Lakers or the Raptors. Kawhi and his agent “Uncle Dennis” told teams not to leak any information. Magic Johnson should have had someone nearby to take away his phone after the meeting. The Lakers camp initially blew it when a few Lakers insiders leaked details of
the meeting, the very thing Kawhi’s camp instructed teams NOT to do. The Clippers with their crew of Doc Rivers and Jerry West had their meeting and maintained their professionalism as
well as the Kawhi Leonard camp’s silence request. The Raptors have been tooting their horns since winning the title and there was a circus of fans outside a Toronto hotel where Kawhi was meeting with Raptors GM Masai Ujiri and superfan Drake. Even late last night, many fans, commentators, and insiders were so certain that Kawhi was joining LeBron and Anthony Davis
to form a new big 3 in L.A. Kawhi did come to L.A., but to the other locker room in Staples Center belonging to the Clippers. Jerry West is the logo of this league for a reason. Not only is he one of the most recognizable figures in this game, but players know what he brings to the table. Every franchise he’s touched as an executive has had success. He traded away Vlade Divac to the Charlotte Hornets to acquire Kobe Bryant in 1996. He drafted Pau Gasol in Memphis in 2001, traded Mike Bibby to the Sacramento Kings and acquired flashy point guard Jason Williams, got Hubie Brown as his coach, and guided the Memphis Grizzlies to the franchise’s first playoff birth in the 2003-2004 season. He was behind the scenes in Golden State as the Warriors began their ascent up the NBA mountain of success. Last season, he trades away Tobias Harris and this Clippers team gets the 8th seed with a 48-34 record and takes the Warriors to 6 games and won their 2 games in Golden State. Watching Jerry West in the front office is like watching John Williams (movie soundtrack composer for films such as “Jurassic Park” and “Harry Potter.”) It’s an art, folks. Michael Jordan as an executive has been an absolute failure. It began when he drafted Kwame Brown when he was in the Washington Wizards’ front office. Then in recent weeks, he refuses to
pay Kemba Walker and lets him trade Hornets teal for Celtics green. Michael Jordan may have more rings as a player, but Jerry West is the greatest NBA player-turned executive we have ever
seen. This man knows talent when he sees it. Los Angeles is now the epicenter for a basketball earthquake. The Lakers have LeBron James and Anthony Davis and a slew of veterans to compete for a title. The Clippers, right next door, have Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, and a roster from starting lineup to bench, that will propel them to the Western Conference Finals and possibly the franchise’s first NBA title. You have a coach in Doc Rivers who helped resurrect a Boston franchise that had been dormant since the Larry Bird era and they managed to win a title in 2008. The Oklahoma City Thunder have showed once again that they cannot keep a second star next to Russell Westbrook. He’s this generation’s Allen Iverson. Kevin Durant was done with him after the 2015 Western Conference Finals 3-1 lead collapse. Fast forward to 2019. As Paul George nursed an injured shoulder during the 2018-2019 playoffs, he watched as Westbrook went 1 vs. 5 against the Blazers and realized he had enough. Thunder GM Sam Presti hasn’t let it click in his brain. Russell Westbrook, as great as he is, will not get you a title. Clearly, there is not a star player in the league who wants to play alongside him, and that isn’t likely to change as Westbrook’s body begins to break down with age. The Clippers showed the league that just because Goliath big brother Lakers are the “popular” choice to go, some players
want to go to there because of who is running the show. The Clippers have a superior front office, superior coach, and superior supporting cast. The Lakers, up until the Anthony Davis
acquisition, were like that road construction project that never gets completed. Not many trust Lakers GM Rob Pelinka and owner Jeanie Buss to get this franchise back to respectability and championship contention. Frankly, as a Lakers fan, I’m not so sure I do either. The Clippers followed Kawhi’s
demands and it paid off. Did they give up a lot to acquire Paul George? Four 1st round picks, Danilo Gallinari, and Shai Gilgous-Alexander are a small ransom to pay considering where
this franchise is going to be the next 3-5 seasons barring serious injury to either star player. The Clippers have the potential to win 3-4 titles the next 5 years and begin to build a championship-winning legacy moving forward. As 2020 and 2021 approach when names like Giannis Antetokounmpo hit the open market, do not be shocked if they choose the Clippers over the Lakers. No one will be to blame but Jeanie Buss for letting her late father’s Lakers team fall behind the NBA championship chase so quickly.

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