Kawhi Leonard, Paul George and the Clippers Were Never Worth the Hype
The Los Angeles Clippers were bounced from the playoffs on Tuesday night in embarrassing fashion. The Denver Nuggets came back from a 3-1 series deficit to beat LA and finished off the series in style with a 104-89 win. There was only one reason the Clippers folded up and blew that lead: they were frauds from the very start.
Kawhi Leonard and Paul George arrived in Los Angeles last summer to great fanfare. The duo orchestrated a move West to the Clippers, expecting to bring a title to the beleaguered franchise.
Leonard and George joined a roster that looked loaded. Complemented by Patrick Beverley's tenacious defense, Lou Williams' instant offense and Montrezl Harrell's dogged toughness, they weren't just there to challenge the Lakers, the Clippers were projected to surpass them. Bench pieces like JaMychal Green and Landry Shamet were expected to add punch as well.
Coached by a future Hall of Famer in Doc Rivers and backed by a crazy owner willing to do anything to win, this season was supposed to be a cakewalk to a title. Then the Clippers added Marcus Morris and Reggie Jackson for the postseason push just to round things out. Some were handing them the title before the real work began.
It turns out the Clippers were all hype and no results, all talk and no delivery. They are the Big Baller Brand of NBA teams.
While LeBron James and Anthony Davis led the Lakers to the top of the Western Conference, Leonard took 15 games off for "load management" as the Clippers seemed to concede the regular season to their crosstown rivals. They could just turn it on in the playoffs, right? Wrong.
The Clippers had the second seed in the Western Conference, but were taken to six games by the seventh-seeded Dallas Mavericks. There was no urgency from Leonard and George as they struggled with Luka Doncic & Co. Then they raced to a 3-1 lead over the Nuggets, only to blow big leads in three consecutive elimination games. In the end, the Clippers let their collective guard down in each of those losses and eventually just quit.
In Game 7, when big time players are supposed to step up, George and Leonard were invisible. The duo combined for 24 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists, while going 10-for-38 from the field (26.3 percent) and 4-for-18 from 3-point range (22.2 percent). Oh, it gets worse. Leonard and George combined for zero fourth-quarter points. The pair went 0-for-11 from the field and 0-for-7 from 3-point range. It was a horrible showing for a duo hyped as the new power in the NBA. When their team needed them the most, Leonard and George were nowhere to be found.
Leonard made a big show of leaving the Toronto Raptors to return to his home region and play for the Clippers. After last year's run to an NBA title, many hyped Leonard as the best player in the NBA and some claimed he was the best since Michael Jordan. On Tuesday night in the biggest game in Clippers history, Leonard managed just 14 points in 44 minutes and shot 27.3 percent from the field. I think it's safe to end that Jordan talk right here and now.
Meanwhile, despite losing their best player to LA, the Raptors went just as far as Leonard's new team. They lost in Game 7 of the conference semifinals to the Boston Celtics. Kawhi didn't take a step up by leaving the Raptors.
The Clippers gave up a lot to land the perpetually unhappy George, surrendering Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Danilo Gallinari, five first-round draft picks and the right to swap two other first-rounders. What did all of that get them? A trip home without reaching the Western Conference Finals yet again.
The Clippers were never destined for greatness. It never even came close to being equal to the sum of its parts. It was a fraudulent enterprise that expected a title without putting in the effort to get one.