Miller: After gut check, could Paul, Griffin and Clippers be gutted?

first_imgPerhaps this all sounds a little absurd, the Clippers’ core cemented as one, now in their sixth season together. This trio goes all the way back to Vinny Del Negro, after all, something no other player on this team can claim.Remember, however, that at this time last year, not many thought Kevin Durant would be leaving Oklahoma City, either, and least of all for Golden State.It wasn’t that long ago that the notion of LeBron James returning to Cleveland would have sounded as ridiculous as it once sounded to suggest he’d ever leave Cleveland in the first place.No, NBA doesn’t exactly stand for Notable Breakup Ahead. But, clearly, it’s much easier to get a guarantee from Best Buy these days than it is from your favorite pro basketball team.The shocking example Durant gave us last summer is the only proof necessary that the NBA is more predictable on the court than off, Doppler radar also not needed to see these Clippers again coming up short this postseason.Should they advance beyond the Jazz – and, come on, fellas, one of Utah’s most important players was injured in Game 1 before having a chance to even moisten the neck line of his jersey – the Clippers then face the prospect of the Warriors.One of the popular themes early in these playoffs is how a reloaded Golden State team is on a mission after blowing a big Finals lead to James and the Cavaliers in 2016.It’s pretty difficult to envision that mission ending in Round 2, practically given how the Warriors have dealt with the Clippers recently, which is to say rather harshly.In February, a headline on Fox Sports’ website announced that Paul “needs to abandon” the Clippers in favor of playing in the Eastern Conference, the writer suggesting CP3 would be better off as CP-Free, Paul’s current team an irreparable lost cause.Maybe that assessment sounds a little severe but consider that the opening line of the story declared “Chris Paul is flirting with the title of greatest failure in NBA history,” and you get the idea of how cruelly his playoff shortcomings are viewed nationally.Paul, of course, never has taken a team beyond the second round of any postseason, his overall series record at a stunningly underwhelming 4-8.Still, I can’t conceive of him doing anything in this lifetime or 100 others that would make Paul a greater NBA failure than Donald Sterling. But I do agree with the general sentiment, the Clippers remaining stuck in a very discouraging place.They are simply too good not to be a perennial playoff team yet not good enough to contend for a title. For everything the Clippers are, they aren’t the Warriors, Spurs or, right now, even the Rockets.Barring a shocking playoff run, it certainly feels like things need to change around here and rather drastically. I’m not sure that means Paul and/or Griffin leaving, but we’ve all seen less likely things happen in this league in July.Who knows? Maybe the Clippers spent all their offseason magic in 2015, when Jordan was briefly kidnapped by the Dallas Mavericks before his Clippers pals paid his ransom by showing him their undying devotion.That situation remains one of the most startling turnarounds in NBA free-agent history and marks the greatest comeback ever for a franchise that has trailed so often in its history.This summer, it could be Jordan doing the desperate recruiting as time tick, tick, ticks away, the Clippers’ hypothetical fate a whole lot worse than a shot-clock violation. So now, just two quick games in the postseason, is the ideal time to contemplate the possibility of the Clippers, as we recognize them today, being on the verge of a catastrophic, soul-crippling, franchise-crushing implosion.Although it’s still too early to panic, it’s never too early ponder, especially when pondering the absolute worst of outcomes.Chris Paul and Blake Griffin both can opt out of the final years of their contracts this summer and exit via free agency, something no one is forecasting at the moment.But should this Utah series end poorly – and, honestly, even if it ends well – Doppler radar is not required for forecasts to change dramatically.Such a two-headed defection would constitute a genuine offseason for the Clippers, who suddenly could be rebuilding from a “Big Three” to a “Big One,” DeAndre Jordan not an altogether bad starting point, as long as you’re not preoccupied with offense. Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Errorcenter_img LOS ANGELES >> Six months and 82 games of labored breathing earned the Clippers a home-court advantage that then lasted four entire quarters before vanishing as convincingly as the NBA career of Keith Closs.They fell – collapsed, actually – Saturday against a Utah Jazz team that was playing shorthanded and with the heavy history of having lost 18 of its past 20 games to the Clippers.“Obviously, you want to win all your home games,” Coach Doc Rivers said after the defeat. “We fought all the way until the end of the year to get it. Now, we’ve given it right back.”Believe it, fortunes can change quickly in a sport that demands something happen every 24 seconds or it’s a violation.last_img

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