During the finest regular season in NBA franchise history, the Los Angeles Clippers strongly suggested great things were imminent.
We should have known better. Despite that 17-game winning streak, the best record in the league for the first month, the 56 victories, the Clippers went out as they usually do: dazed and confused.
Turns out, the Blake Griffin-driven "Lob City" flash, the brilliance of Chris Paul, the deep and productive bench Ö peaked in December and went south thereafter. They were 24-17 from January 20 forward, which is nice but not great.
The play-offs arrived and they were eliminated in the first round by the same Memphis Grizzlies they had beaten in the first round a year ago. That does not constitute progress.
"This right here was unacceptable," Paul said. "We lost in the first round to a good Memphis team. But it was a team we were capable of beating."
For all the excitement the Clippers generated as the coming team, their future is quite murky.
It begins with Paul, whose contract us up; they must sign him if they want to be an elite team. And keeping him may mean Vinny Del Negro, the lightly regarded coach, has to go.
Paul is expected to return, but the Clippers need Griffin to develop a reliable jumper, centre DeAndre Jordan to be more consistent, Lamar Odom to remember how to play. Otherwise, it could be more of the same.
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