It's now or never for the Clippers
By ALYSHA TSUJI
College Contributor Network
The Clippers survived 33 years of oblivion under the rule of Donald Sterling, and even within that time, they managed to draft Blake Griffin and steal Chris Paul from the Lakers.
They have built a team with the scrappy Matt Barnes, who has grown into a consistent three-point shooter (Barnes is sinking a career-high 38.6 percent from behind the arch, per Basketball Reference) and lightning rod 2014's Sixth Man of the Year, Jamal Crawford. They were able to maintain hold of high-flying big man DeAndre Jordan and acquire the hot shooting hand of J.J. Redick.
What they haven't been able to do is push to the Western Conference Finals. The majority of the Clippers' starting five hasn't seen past the second round of playoffs.
Last year they fell amidst the Sterling controversy. A racist owner poses a rather huge distraction that could be easy to blame, but the year before that they had an equally clear shot to prove themselves in the post-season with Lamar Odom and Chauncey Billups on the roster.
Head coach and GM Doc Rivers has been thrust into the spotlight lately. A few games ago, Doc worried beat writers when Chris Paul beat him to the podium for the first time.
More recently, media has begun floating rumors about Rivers bringing his son, Austin Rivers to the team.
Yahoo Sources: Within front office and coaching staff, officials pushing president/coach Doc Rivers to bring his son, Austin, to Clippers.- Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) January 10, 2015
Coach Doc is likely on his way out of Los Angeles if this postseason doesn't bring enough excitement and hope (unless the Lakers pick him up). The more popular team the Clippers share Staples with is drowning -- all eyes are on the Clips. This year is now or never.
Griffin and Paul signed contracts that stretch to 2018, but it's tough to imagine them winning in two years after continuously coming up short. Losing will take its toll.
I made it out to the game on Sunday, Jan. 11, convinced that it would be an easy win over the Miami Heat. My friend and I left two minutes before the buzzer sounded. I rarely leave games early because you never know what can happen. It was that bad. Heat center Hassan Whiteside, who has played 31 total games in the NBA, dropped a career-best 23 points and 16 rebounds.
Funny side story: The friend I went with to the game actually wore a Kings jersey -- as in Los Angeles NHL Kings -- in protest of how awful the Clippers have looked, particularly on the defensive end. In that aspect, they didn't disappoint.
Against the Heat, the Clips just didn't have enough in the tank to topple the Heat's consistent 10-point lead. It was miserably painful to witness. If that's the Clippers' team come playoffs, they'll only live up to the expectation that they will never be as good as the Lakers. They'll never raise a banner in Staples Center.
As the former kid who sat in the nosebleeds to watch Elton Brand and Cuttino Mobley and Corey Maggette and Sam Cassell because my parents didn't want to pay for Lakers tickets, I sincerely want the Clippers to find success. However, time is running short. Sooner or later this group of players will be fed up and their threat in the West will dissipate.
With a fresh owner who grooves to Fergie and a status as the best basketball team in the City of Angels, now is the time for the Clippers to focus and play like the relentless squad they claim to be.
Alysha Tsuji is a senior Journalism major at Pepperdine University. Her passion lies in sports media, namely when it comes to covering the NBA. Follow her on Twitter: @AlyshaTsuji