Without a true star, it's hard to compete in today's NBA.
We're seeing this hold true for the Clippers who, after starting with the best record in the West, are slowly losing ground. Last night's loss brought them to 17-10 and 4th in the West. It's not bad, it's just not good enough. Come playoff time, who's going to bet on the Clippers to do anything special?
Good news is, they'll have their chance in the summer to add the star they so desperately need. According to one NBA insider, they're giving everything they have to no come out of this upcoming free-agency empty-handed.
“The Clippers, it seems, closely watch every Raptors and Warriors game this season," writes ESPN's Brian Windhorst. Even though they are having a terrific season of their own — experiencing the rare joy of expectation-free success in the NBA — the Clippers are rather transparently obsessed with chasing Kawhi Leonard and Kevin Durant in free agency next summer. It’s clear from their books. They’ve cleared a path to open two max salary slots. It’s clear through their actions. They’ve been treating the two like college recruits and sending executives just to watch numerous Warriors and Raptors games so they’re visible.”
Windhorst goes on to explain how this Clipper's recruitment process is something we haven't really seen before.
But even by these modern standards, the Clippers' pursuit is still a little revolutionary. Raptors officials have noticed a Clippers employee at roughly 75 percent of the team's games thus far this season. Clippers officials say they've been at less than 50 percent of Leonard's games. There have been games they attended where Leonard rested. That has included president of basketball operations Lawrence Frank, which is rare. Presidents and general managers are almost never seen attending a game that doesn't involve their teams.
It's all part of what looks to be a master plan by owner Steve Ballmer. In the past two years, Ballmer has pulled off a couple remarkable maneuvers that have worked out against the odds.
So, the Clippers are trying. They're sending their message. But will it be enough?
The team is stacked with mid-level scoring talent in Tobias Harris, Avery Bradley, and others. They've got one of the best coaches in the NBA and an owner who's clearly committed to their cause.
Yet, the Clips have always been a second-fiddle team in Los Angeles. Hiding under the shadows and banners of the Lakers. There's no history there, there's no story.
For now, they're just a team trying to build that history, that story. It may not seem like much, but if the Clippers make it a point to remind Kahwi that they're there and that they're watching, it just might increase their chances.