To say that the Los Angeles Clippers (21-19) have been disappointing through the first half of the regular season is selling it short. The Clippers, like the Western Conference, have been underperforming and making excuses. Whether it is head coach Ty Lue’s adjustments, load/injury management for Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, and John Wall, or acting like the regular season is not that bad of a deal, the Clippers are not taking advantage of a weak Pacific Division and leading out in the front of the West.
It’s Time for the Los Angeles Clippers to Take Control
Time For the Clippers to Right the Ship
The worst feeling about this for an upset Clipper Nation is the lack of acknowledgment and effort in games. The Clippers are currently on a five-game losing streak, with the biggest loss coming to the 122-91 road loss to the Denver Nuggets. Leonard and George did not play in the second half of that game and then sat out for the next day’s game on the road against the Minnesota Timberwolves. The Clippers lost that game 128-115. The two stars for the Clippers combined for nine points shooting a field-goal goal of 3-of-16. Leonard said he wanted to play in the second half of the Nuggets game but was advised to sit by the medical staff.
In a weird 2022-2023 NBA season full of high-caliber rosters underperforming, the Clippers certainly fit in the middle of those teams. The biggest concern is that these problems for the Clippers are self-inflicting. There is still a chance for the team to find some balance on the court and take control for the second half of the season, but changes need to be made, and it may not be physical.
The Los Angeles Clippers Need to Show They Want to Win
If there is any indication that regular season games do not matter to the team, it would be the disastrous loss to the Nuggets. An argument can be made that that was decided in games four and five when the Clippers lost on the road to the Oklahoma City Thunder. Leonard missed both games, and George only played in the second matchup. There have been glimmers of hope, like the 121-114 home win over the Utah Jazz. They showed their championship potential with the 113-93 home win over the Boston Celtics.
The Clippers are currently fourth in the NBA in points allowed per game (110.2), but they are 29th in points per game (109.2). They and the Golden State Warriors are the only two teams currently in the top ten of the West in negative point differential. There are way too many high-caliber offensive players on the team that can create explosive offensive performances.
Going back to the game against the Nuggets one last time, the Clippers shot 37.4% in field goals (34-of-91), 13.5% from the three-point arc (5-of-37), and made 18-of-25 in free-throw attempts. The Nuggets shot a field-goal percentage of 50.6% but were not having dominating performances. Denver’s leading scorer of the night was Jamal Murray, with 18 points. Two-time reigning NBA MVP Nikola Jokic only scored 12 points. The Nuggets spread the ball throughout the court to have their way with a lifeless Clippers team. Seven players for Denver scored double-digit points. The Clippers scored 32 points in the first half. The effort has to change.
Lue Has to Take Control of His Players and Team
Coach Ty Lue has been giving one of the best rosters in the league going into this season. Only John Wall, Moussa Diabate, and Moses Brown have been brand-new additions to the team. There has been well enough time to know which lineups work and which don’t. The biggest area of concern for coach Lue is his stubborn willingness to stick to three-guard lineups. Having defensive liabilities like Reggie Jackson and Luke Kennard on the court at the same time, especially with Leonard and Paul out, is a recipe for disasters. Another concern with Lue is the lack of willingness to play power forward/center, Robert Covington. He is a talented big, who can play great on both ends of the court, and he is much younger than Marcus Morris Sr. and Nicolas Batum.
The biggest concern for Lue is that he seems not to have control of the medical staff of the Clippers. Leonard has shown he wants to play more. In the games where he was coming off his minute’s restrictions, Leonard wanted to play more. There have been some games where Lue will let him back in, but the medical staff wasn’t happy. At the beginning of the season, Leonard was out for knee stiffness for supposedly only two games. Those two games turned into multiple games. There is a clear lack of communication between the players/coaches and the medical staff. Too much of the back-and-forth with Leonard and George sitting out is causing a lack of chemistry and solidity on the court from being built.
The Silver Lining For the Los Angeles Clippers Moving Forward
The start of the season has looked bleak for the Clippers and their chances of contending for a championship. The good news is that there are not a lot of great-looking teams anyway through the first half of the season. Only Denver and the Memphis Grizzlies are teams that could be said to look elite and healthy. The entire Pacific Division is struggling to where the Sacramento Kings (20-17) are currently sitting at the top.
There is the possibility that a trade could fix some stability problems with the Clippers. Overall, the Clippers need stability and a solid rhythm to work off of. That will come with Leonard and George on the court. In this wild season, it is easy for teams to be hot one minute and severely cold the next. For the Clippers, they are at their lowest so far this season. The Clippers only have five more back-to-backs, with two of them coming before March. There is time for the Clippers to develop that chemistry and take control, but they need to shed that entitled feeling that they will win in the postseason because the regular season matters.