The Bubble Reload Team: Clippers' Place in the Playoff Race

LOS ANGELES – With a fierce victory over the Dallas Mavericks in the hand, THE Clippers Head Coach Doc Rivers went to the scorers' table and took a pickup with 9.4 seconds remaining, imploring supporters to applaud the 21-year-old NBA veteran Dirk Nowitzki.

It was a good time as fans of the Clippers filled the Dallas legend with love, but it was not the only thing the Clippers fans had to applaud.

Rivers' team continues to play a playoff spot. The 121-112 victory over the Mavs on Monday night brought them to seventh place in the Western Conference.

The Clippers, just two seasons after the breakup of Lob City, have accomplished something that many rebuilding teams would like to do: successfully re-equip, not rebuild. The Clippers have gone from a six-year playoff series with a big three of Blake Griffin, Chris Paul and DeAndre Jordan to turn these coins into first-round value choices and create significant heading flexibility to pursue free agents max, while remaining competitive and vying for the playoffs.

During the last two deadlines, the Clippers gave their best scorer (Griffin in January 2018). Tobias Harris in February 2019) to give as much flexibility as possible to get a star or two in free competition. But while such moves usually mean waving the white flag to think of a playoff spot, Rivers' team is only half a match on the sixth seed and a full game in front of the eighth head of the playoffs. series.

Last 3, last 3 outings in the Western Conference

WestW-LWin% GB, 8th # 6 Jazz33-26.559 – # 7 Clippers34-28.548 – # 8 Spurs33-29.532 ————– # 9 Kings31-29.5171.0 # 10 Timberwolves29 -31.4833 .0 # 11 Lakers29-31.4833.0 >> Until the 25th of February

Make no mistake: the Clippers are intent on making the postseason – or at least an impact on the playoffs of the Western Conference. Therefore the San Antonio Spurs, Kings Sacramento and Minnesota Timberwolves are part of the teams desperately chasing the Clippers, a team that no one expected to be in this position, even before exchanging top scorer and rebounder Harris at Philadelphia 76ers.

"It's hard to do," said Rivers about an organization in competitive transition. "Fortunately, thanks to these three great players, we were able to get enough to stay competitive and thanks to these guys we were able to get results."

Dallas head coach Rick Carlisle presented his point of view on the Clippers' approach.

"It's very difficult," Carlisle said. "The Clippers are doing a good job, we held out for a few years, then we did a massive reshuffle."

In September 2017, the Clippers began organizing a series of brainstorming sessions that ultimately asked the organization to answer tough questions about issues such as team leadership and the likelihood of results. for the franchise.

But during these meetings, the Clippers wondered if the team could rank among the top four seeded competitors for a period of four to six years. The Clippers' management team consisted of basketball operations president, Lawrence Frank, newly hired general manager, Michael Winger, and a consultant. Jerry West concluded that the team as such would not be able to maintain this level of competitiveness.

The window of the Clippers to be supported had not only been closed, it had also been sealed. First of all, they had to admit it. Then they had to find a way to reopen it.

The club had just signed a $ 173 million deal for five years and more with Griffin. Paul had been traded to the Houston Rockets. And the Clippers did not think they could add the necessary layers around Griffin and Jordan for another four to six years. The Clippers had to position themselves to surpass themselves if an unforeseen opportunity to sign a star at its peak presented itself in the future.

Most CEOs are afraid to try to run a full reboot, fearing they will not be able to attend this process (see Sam Hinkie). Frank, Winger and West have chosen not to follow this path, uncertain as to the possibility of achieving the desired results.

While owner Steve Ballmer felt a sense of loyalty and wanted to remain competitive for the few fans of the franchise, the Clippers decided to try to create flexibility in terms of cap, to accumulate assets and money. young players and add tough and low ego veterans that Rivers could still compete with in the meantime.

  • While there was only 9 seconds left in the game Monday and his Clippers were at nine, coach Doc Rivers called Timeout, took the mic from the announcer 's. Parlay Game and paid an impromptu tribute to Mavs legend Dirk Nowitzki, who described the moment as "very humiliating".

  • We interviewed the ESPN Forecast Expert Group for votes on upcoming star teams.

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Initially, Clippers' management had not thought of the summer of 2019 at its September meetings two years ago.

But then Kawhi Leonard started wanting to leave San Antonio last season, with Southern California as a preferred destination for landing – and not necessarily for the Lakers.

then Jimmy Butler wanted to be traded, with SoCal again on his radar.

And speculation about where Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving could end this summer and that Los Angeles is a possibility or not was certainly reason enough for the Clippers to do everything in their power to put themselves in a position to attract one or two stars.

Showzl Harrell finished the day with a career-high 32 points in Monday's 121 to 121 win over the Mavericks. Eight of his 14 buckets were dunks. Harry How / Getty Images

The Paul trade during the 2017 off season has brought the veteran Clippers hard-working and requiring little maintenance Lou Williams, Watch Harrell and Patrick Beverley, while allowing the team to acquire Danilo Gallinari in free agency.

The Griffin trade essentially resulted in a campaign that became a rookie Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Landry Shamet, two first-round picks that include the Miami heatunprotected choice of 2021, two choices of second round, Ivica Zubac and veterans such as the wounded before Wilson Chandler, JaMychal Green and Garrett Temple.

Paul's, Griffin's and Harris 'trades allow Rivers' lineup to remain competitive and deep for this season's playoffs. This is a list that includes:

  • Two – time winner and current favorite of the sixth man 's award of the year (Williams).

  • An injury-prone striker who has only played 70 games or more in his nine-year career, but has had a year as a career shooter and rebounder (Gallinari).

  • A 6-foot-6 rookie rookie who was the sole representative of the team at All-Star Weekend (Gilgeous-Alexander).

  • A big under-sized and energetic man who had only played one piece at the start of the season in matches (Harrell).

"You think of Blake's trade," said Rivers. "If you add up what all this has brought us, from four rough choices to Shai to Zub to Sham, if you just think of what it did and then that gave us flexibility at the same time. with & # 39; Trezl and flexibility. "

The Clippers front-office could be $ 54 million to $ 75 million to play freelance this summer, according to the list of their extra moves, according to Bobby Marks, the front-office insider. 39; ESPN.

If the Clippers miss the playoffs this season, they will also have the option of retaining their own first-round pick to add to the list. Doing the post-season is sending this choice to Boston Celtics and relying solely on this space to enhance alignment.

The Clippers, however, are all on the same page regarding what they want to do. They want to play in the playoffs, even if it means a quick exit of the first round.

According to Rivers, this thrust in the playoffs gives his young players, like the starting point guard, Gilgeous-Alexander, an invaluable experience.

"Learn to play, to become aware of the importance of ball possession, to learn to be a pro," said Rivers, about what the Clippers' young hopefuls can win by playing the playoffs. "Learn to prepare for one game."

"I think they're learning," Rivers added later. "[Lapertededimanchesoiràla[Sundaynight'slossatthe[Lapertededimanchesoiràla[Sundaynight’slossattheDenver Nuggets]was a good example. You could see, Denver was not joking. And we were not there either, but we were not ready. Our young guys struggled. This was a great example for them. "

The Clippers entered the season with low expectations, but they opened the season at 15-6. Rivers seemed rejuvenated by a list of humble and hard-working players.

"Just hoop," said Williams about the Clippers who continued to compete despite recent changes made to the list of players and an eye on summer or beyond. "We, the pros, so you can not really think of things like that.

"As for the players in the locker room, the guys come out and the guys come in, and we say," OK, I'm just going to keep playing and trying to win games. "This is not really an affair for us, it would be an excuse – if a superstar came here, for example, we would not apologize, we were looking forward to giving these guys the same energy as that. "

It remains to be seen if Rivers can finish one of his best coaching performances with a playoff spot. But the Clippers do not stop looking to carve a playoff spot – as well as at this window in preparation for an argument that was virtually closed at the end of the Lob era. City.

"Losing [the big three] It really hurts you, because it puts an end to the immediate dream, "Rivers said," but then a new dream has begun, and we are lucky enough to be able to provide food for them. "

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