Oh, c’mon. Admit it. You were a little sad that it ended that way. The Warriors and Clippers had THE best NBA rivalry going for the last couple seasons, and they were already robbed of what would’ve been a wildly entertaining Western Conference Finals when the Clips gagged away Game 6 against the Rockets. With DeAndre Jordan fleeing Los Angeles and Chris Paul (especially Chris Paul) for Dallas, the rivalry fizzled out before the Warriors had a chance to teach the Clippers one last lesson on the big stage.
Whoa, what’s this? Jordan reneged on his verbal commitment to Mark Cuban and Asst. GM Chandler Parsons and is going back to L.A.? This is fantastic! Now the Warriors can beat the Clippers in a majority of their regular season matchups, as well as a playoff series if it comes to that, and the Clippers can’t complain that Jordan’s departure took away their hopes of contention.
One little note on the Mavs …
The Mavericks weren’t a contender with Jordan, since they effectively swapped out Tyson Chandler (not a bad center in his own right), Al-Farouq Aminu and Monta Ellis for Jordan and Wesley Matthews. Matthews at full strength is a better, more complete player than Ellis, but he tore his Achilles four months ago. Dirk Nowitzki is probably better suited to be a sixth man at this point of his career, and their point guards are J.J Barea and Raymond Felton. It only made sense for Jordan to head to Dallas if he wanted to play closer to home and become the focal point of an offense, and with the way he shoots free throws that was probably a bad idea.
So are the Clippers a contender now? Austin Rivers is still the backup point guard. They’ve lost Matt Barnes and Spencer Hawes while gaining Paul Pierce, Wesley Johnson and Lance Stephenson. Pierce will be 38 at the start of next season — he’s there to help Doc Rivers coach the team (hint to other Clippers players: never talk badly about the head coach when Austin and the Truth are within earshot) and hit shots in the fourth quarter. Johnson adds a shooter to the bench. Stephenson is even weirder than Barnes and far less dependable, so who knows what the Clippers were thinking there.
The Clippers traded away their starter at small forward for an equally volatile player. The Jordan craziness over the last 24 hours is just the tip of the iceberg. How about the fact that Jordan almost took less money just to get away from a point guard who enjoys yelling at people, even though this supposed great leader has never advanced out of the second round? Yep, the Clippers are as close to the anti-Warriors as a Western Conference playoff team can get.
“Hey, I know you. And you, and you …”
During Warriors media day before the 2014-15 season, I was struck by … how do I put this … how boring it was. There was no big new addition who everyone wanted to interview. Monta Ellis wasn’t there to tell everyone why it couldn’t work with Stephen Curry. The biggest concern was what Andre Iguodala might say about the rumors that Steve Kerr would likely hand his starting spot to Harrison Barnes (and Iguodala brushed off those questions like whatever was sitting on Jay-Z’s shoulder).
I thought my angle should be “continuity,” and I asked David Lee and Stephen Curry about its importance. I never ended up doing anything with those quotes, but both players seemed excited to finally go into a season with all the major pieces already in place from the year before — besides the coaching staff, of course. And in a year full of wins and stories about the utopia that was the Warriors locker room (and plane flights, and poker games, and team dinners, etc.), it became obvious. Sometimes you can tinker too much, and the Warriors knew they had a good thing going.
Look at them going into next year. They re-signed Draymond Green and Leandro Barbosa, so the only departures are David Lee and Justin Holiday, who signed with Atlanta today. (The Hawks added Kent Bazemore a year ago — they clearly have a thing for barely-used, long-limbed former Warriors swingmen.) They added Kevon Looney in the draft, a 19-year-old project who could turn into a valuable stretch-4.
That’s it. No drama, just like their entire championship season. A season that only could’ve been better if they had a chance to give Blake Griffin, CP3, Jordan and the rest of the Clippers the “Cool story, Glenn” treatment in the playoffs. Because they would’ve beaten the Clippers in six games, maximum.
Maybe the Warriors need the Clippers to stay fresh through an 82-game slate where it could prove tough to stay focused after playing .800 ball throughout the previous regular season and playoffs. Not that Draymond Green would take the money and run to the buffet table, but he never faced the Clippers after he and Glenn bantered with each other about Dahntay Jones’ foolish behavior last season. Think he’ll be ready for the Warriors’ first game against the Clippers next season?
Drama is always a constant with the Clips (even though the first round series that was marred by the Donald Sterling situation is a distant memory). Even with the return of Jordan sure to buoy their spirits, the Warriors should be able to beat the Clippers more often than not in 2015-16. It’s always more fun to beat your rivals when they’re at full strength and think they’re good enough to beat you, and the continued presence of Jordan ensures that these two teams will remain rivals for the next two seasons at the very least.