Is anyone really surprised?
The Los Angeles Clippers, the team that never wins it all, and fails in dramatic fashion, are living up to their history yet again.
When the Clippers traded for James Harden, they foreseen both immediate and long term success. So did the Nets and Sixers, but we know how that story ended. But at least the 76ers and Nets got some instant success out of the forever disgruntled player.
Through six games as a Clipper, things could not have gone any worse.
Six straight losses is an emotional albatross at any point. To have six straight losses highlighted by the acquisition of a former MVP who is starting is humiliating for all involved. And while Harden has been a glaring problem, the Clippers also have major questions elsewhere.
The Clippers still struggle with basic basketball issues that existed during the team’s 3-2 pre-Harden portion of the season. The Clippers simply look too small, too slow and too old far too frequently. Dumping in your decent depth for Harden has not helped either.
Harden can’t defend or even move horizontally. Russ is a poor defender and shooter. Kawhi isn’t close to his former self, and Paul George who may be the best of them all right now, hasn’t looked extremely comfortable with having to share the ball with four ball dominant guys.
In the games the Clippers are in late, the forceful fit of those four guys who can’t coexist on the floor together gets magnified.
Kawhi and PG are locks to be in down the stretch, they’re the face of the franchise and have bene for years. Plus they’re the only two defenders on the team.
Part of an ongoing saga will be trying to balance Harden’s and Westbrook’s minutes. Who starts? Who closes games? Will either mans ego allow them to take a step back for the better of the team?
Now Harden will blame his woes on the fact he didn’t have a training camp or preseason to get into shape. Ironically the was his fault for quitting on the 76ers, opting to frequently hit the clubs rather than the hardwood.
While Harden is admittedly using games to make up for practices, the rest of the star core is going through it.
In their last loss to the reigning champion Nuggets, George struggled mentally and physically. He received a technical foul in the first half following a missed fast-break opportunity and a finishing kick where he missed five of his last six shots overall.
Too often, the late-game offense turned into George chucking and trying to draw contact that wasn’t getting called. George took 11 field goals in the fourth quarter, while the rest of the team had room for eight attempts.
The Clippers missed 21 of 38 shots in the paint overall Tuesday, including 15 misses in the restricted area. But at least Harden and George stuck around to talk about it. Westbrook left the locker room almost as soon as Lue was done speaking postgame, which has been par the course this month. Zubac and Mann also were visibly upset as they exited for the team bus. But this was the first time Leonard also was gone, and it came after another frustrating game where he missed eight of 11 shots inside the arc.
There’s not much the Clippers can do about their 3-7 record for the rest of the week except get back in the lab.
The Clippers have stretches in all of their losses when they compete and play well, whether it’s at the beginning of games or when they need to overcome a double-digit deficit. But the Clippers have a winning games problem. The talent is there, the cohesiveness is not. Granted, being too small and not knowing what to do to close games was an issue before the Harden trade. But there’s little solace in knowing what the issues are or how long they have been a problem. They just need wins with what they have now. Any win. Coach Ty Lue is even accepting moral wins at the moment which lets you know you’ve hit rock bottom.
“We can’t hang our heads, you know, being on a six-game losing streak,” Lue said. “But we can just keep working, like I said, keep being resilient. And it’s going to happen. You know, I’ve been here before with a lot of good teams, and it’s going to take a little time. And so tonight was a step in the right direction. We just have to continue to keep building.”