The end of the Clippers crisis: pride, George and the 'Kawhi doubt'

The Clippers have put doubts behind them and have reached the playoffs further than ever. Lue vindicates himself, George advances ... and it all depends on Kawhi.


The Clippers have had the best season in their history. That is an unquestionable fact and a clear way to ensure that the project has borne some fruit or other. That Steve Ballmer has formed on the basis of a checkbook, wanting to magnify one of the worst franchises in history, something he has done gradually since the tight-fisted Donald Sterling left the back door of the NBA, and took over the controls of an entity that has become a desirable destination for free agents and a candidate. One for the moment without a prize, no matter how much the step forward that has involved playing the first Conference final in 50 years of existence. Doc Rivers' seven years did not reach that round despite having great squads, and a second waste of 3-1 in a semi-final brought down the coach and made room for Tyronn Lue, who has claimed once again.

Thus, with Lue and in another season marked by the coronavirus, the Clippers have emerged. What they have done in the playoffs has been simply exciting, battling through thick and thin, adverse results and injuries, a mantra that has become almost a tradition this past month in particular, and the past year in general. Kawhi Leonard's, which we will now talk about, was the most important, and without the star they beat the Jazz in the semifinals and resisted as far as they could against some Suns with a lot of work and an opportunity before them that they cannot miss. Probably, with everyone healthy, the Clippers would have been closer to the Finals and the coveted ring. But the end of the season is sweet after so many difficulties and being one of the most questioned teams in the North American competition.The Clippers finished fourth in the West with 47-25 in 72 games, a record identical to that of the Nuggets. And Lue's hand was noticeable in many things: Kawhi, the highest representation of that controversial load management, played 52 matches and Paul George 54. But the breaks have been managed differently, they have been more justified by the condensed calendar and allowed the team not to spend too much in the regular season to reach a final phase well in which they were 0-2 and 2-3 against the Mavericks. They took that series forward, with a majestic Kawhi in the sixth game (45 points with 6 rebounds). The forward, touched by a wand, has had the best percentages of his career in triples and in free throws, and the second best in shooting from the field for 24.8 points, 6.5 rebounds and 5.2 assists on average. Ditto for George, who has never pitched better in his career. And all with 34.1 (from Kawhi) and 33.7 (from George) minutes per game. In other words: more efficiency and a lot of success. Again, Lue's hand.

The resilience the team has shown has been tremendous in the final phase. They wreaked havoc in Dallas, now immersed in a civil war that will be resolved however Luka Doncic wants. And the same, although to a lesser extent, in those Jazz that had a level in the middle of the season that they have not shown again. They won the sixth round without Kawhi, they showed the deficiencies of a monster that is not as much a monster as Rudy Gobert and they reached the Conference finals with a Lue already vindicated and that people underestimate. Exhibition and ring in the Cavs, three consecutive Finals with LeBron and company and, now, a Conference finals. It is the worst result of the coach as head coach, something amazing. The coach shows an unusual calm in moments of pressure: he is 10-2 in the playoffs when his team faces elimination, and he puts the same face in a tie when he goes up and down, when he plays home or away. An exceptional player (and egos) manager and a man with a capacity for tactical resolution much greater than some people think.The redemption with but of Paul George

Another proper name of the Clippers season, beyond Lue, has been a Paul George who has partially redeemed himself in these playoffs. Endlessly accused of his specific bad moments in the final phase and of not being able to show his face when he was most needed, George has slightly got rid of that farce, which had a lot of strength after the two missed free throws to close the second game of the western finals. Ayton's subsequent mate gave half a series to the Suns, who were not daunted like Mavericks and Jazz and managed to sentence, yes, in the sixth, with a lot of suffering and before a depleted team. Apart from an error that could mean a knockout, George's playoffs have been pristine: 26.9 points, 9.6 rebounds and more than 5 assists on average, 37 + 16 + 5 in the fifth against Utah (that of the Kawhi injury) and 41 + 13 + 6 + 3 in the fifth at Phoenix, in a practically historic display.

George, whose character has always generated a lot of bad press, has redeemed himself, has shown that he can be a leader, has been the face of pride of the Clippers and has managed to be the perfect cog in a squad with a little bit of everything and sprouts greens that make them candidates (if Kawhi wants) in the next course. Reggie Jackson works well based on his salary and is no longer the monopolistic and one-dimensional player, who only knew how to play one way for the Pistons with too much salary involved. Morris and Beverley fulfill their functions to perfection, the sports and those of touching the noses of their rivals and winning the animosity of public opinion. The rebirth of Batum, a good Zubac, great level of Ibaka until his injury ... the distributor problem was not solved with a Rondo who this time did not have brilliant moments in the playoffs (at least, not like last year in the Lakers ), and it will be one of the tasks of the future. As well as a power forward like Ibaka (who has another year on his contract), a rebounder, a good defender and a reliable mid-range thrower. A profile that Lue was able to exploit only up to the injury.

And Kawhi?

The jewel in the crown, the last of his shoe, the king without a throne, the eternal aspirant and the champion without a crown. That man of whom nobody knows anything and who does not give clues to anyone. Him, with his surroundings, and even in the stands and not on the bench during a playoff game. Questioned by that and by his ability (or his desire) to team up, recent rumors have indicated that Kawhi is unhappy with the Clippers medical staff for underestimating his injury, and his environment (the eternal environment), he thinks he has to have surgery this summer. Problems with the captain general of a ship that Paul George has piloted in his absence. And many doubts raised by his leadership and behavior skills at certain moments of the basketball course. That is not because of his sports capacity, which is well known.

Now, it only remains to be seen what will happen to Kawhi. He has a player option of 36 million dollars and nobody knows if he will use it. He is the only one of all that horde of great players who were going to be free agents in 2021 (Giannis, Paul George ...) who can be so effectively (the rest have already signed their extensions or renewals). On the other hand, his desire has always been to live in San Diego and it seems unthinkable that he will leave the franchise. But many have recalled that his problems with the Spurs began with his disagreement (and that of his surroundings, of course) with the medical sector. Difficulties communicating with the entity that discovered him led to his early departure. And his character, impenetrable, undaunted and absolutely impossible to identify, does not help to give clues about a future that seems to be in the Clippers ... but that, when it comes to him, always generates doubts. The Los Angeles team project and its favoritism for the next course will depend on that. From Kawhi Leonard. It is said soon.

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