The Clippers ended the NBA re-start the same place they started it, with the #2 seed in the NBA’s Western Conference. There was little to no chance to catch the #1 LA Lakers, so the only real drama for the Clippers, seeding-wise, was if the Nuggets would catch them. They did not. That drama aside, the team’s aim for the Orlando Bubble was to integrate Joakim Noah and get back some of the chemistry that led them to the best seeding in franchise history.
All in all, mission accomplished.
The Clippers finished the non-playoff portion of the Bubble games 5-3. While Noah looks a step slow, his passing out of the post has been very good making him a very good late season pick up. The hope, of course, is that he won’t be pressed into game action. That would mean problems with Ivica Zubac and Montrezl Harrell, which is a perfect segue to the only real blemish on the Clippers franchise as they prepare to chase their first Championship, the center position.
Ivica Zubac was not the problem. In fact, his averages of 10ppg and 11rpg were able his season averages of 8.3ppg and 7.6rpg. That was kinda by design, or at least by necessity, as Montrezl Harrell left the Bubble due to a family emergency and did not play in any of the non-playoff seeding games. The Clippers have succeeded when Zubac starts and Harrell, a finalist for the Sixth Man of the Year award, finishes. If the Clippers were a recipe they would both be key ingredients.
To his credit, Zubac upped his game with Harrell out. But, the Clippers success calls or a dash of Zubac not a whole dollop.
I admit I had to look up dollop. I mean, I was aware of the word, but didn’t really know what it meant. Come to find out it means a mass of something, so it applies! That little tidbit of knowledge is 100% extra credit. You’re welcome!
Harrell is back in the Bubble and while news has been spotty, it does look like he may be available for the Clippers during their first round match up against the Dallas Mavericks. Having to integrate a key piece during a playoff run is not ideal. I wouldn’t put it up with changing a tire with the car moving, but it’s not going to be easy. Of course, ‘Trez is a pro and a player who does most of his damage close to the hoop. While some players may have trouble getting their legs and the timing for their jump shot, Harrell will no doubt be able to rebound, dunk and provide the energy the Clippers need from the jump.
But, it’s a risk.
Doc Rivers understands this. When he was asked about his star he had this to say.
“I’m just gonna throw him in there as you know. He’s earned that right. The challenge will be just how ready he is. I don’t know if I’ve ever had a guy who hasn’t played in 8 games or whatever, hasn’t had any practice, and we’re just gonna throw him out on the floor in a playoff game. And we’re hoping that at this point. There’s no guarantee that will even happen, so we’ll see. We have an idea (about when he will return), but it’s not ideal. Let me put it that way,”In response to a question by Tomer Azarly of ClutchPoints
The thing about this Clippers team as they prepare for the Bubble games that matter, they don’t have a lot of weaknesses. The team can defend, they can score, they are deep, they are veterans who have made deep playoff runs before. In Coach Doc Rivers they have a coach who has won it all before and in Kawhi Leonard they have a player who has won it all before. In short, this team is in good shape.
With the preliminary games behind them the Clippers are poised to make a run for a Championship in the most unusual NBA season, well, ever. For the Clippers and their fans, they wouldn’t have it any other way!
Jose has written for Bleacher Report, Clipperholics, OC Weekly and wrote a series of articles covering the 2010 NBA Finals for the LA Times. He lives in Southern California and is excited to watch thePeachBasket grow!