The Los Angeles Clippers, would be championship contenders before this season began, have fallen under .500 following a loss to the Toronto Raptors, and it’s hard to figure out whether this is just a small hurdle for them to overcome, or a real existential crisis for a team that may be falling apart and crumbling from within.
The 91-80 loss wasn’t even that close of a game, with the Raptors leading by 29 points in Los Angeles at some point. It seems that the seven point loss to the Warriors with another collapse of epic proportions has left its mark on a team that might be the most stacked in terms of individual talent in the league, and has added Lance Stephenson, Paul Pierce and Josh Smith in the offseason to solidify their bench. They’ve now lost five of their last six games, including by double digits to the Trail Blazers and Toronto.
At the end of the game, what resonated were the shouting matches between Doc Rivers and Josh Smith in the locker room. From the Clippers it seems that there’s nothing special about this. Teams, players, coaches, get into these kind of loud arguments from time to time. It happens on good teams, it happens on bad teams. But the Clippers are in a unique situation. The losing makes every single incident like this much worse.
It’s safe to say Smith hasn’t given the Clippers what they’ve expected. He’s scoring 4.7 points while shooting 34.9% from the field. He’s unhappy with his role (playing just 14.8 minutes per game), and the Clippers are unhappy they’re not getting the guy who the Rockets enjoyed last season after he was thrown out (with a hefty compensation package) of Detroit. But that’s just the thing. Smith doesn’t feel like the guy who needs to prove something anymore, while the Clippers aren’t delivering their part of the deal in his opinion.
The problems are more than just Smith. The defense continues to have the issues of rotations off switches and the offense struggles with the game slowed down. Maybe it also has something to do with Rivers himself and his relationship with the players. Stars, making tens of millions, don’t like constantly hearing how it’s their fault from their head coach, time after time. It might not be the McHale-Rockets situation just yet, but a little bit more losing and even someone like Rivers, who seemed safer than anyone in the league when this season began at his spot on the bench, might start thinking if he’s going to be fired.