Warriors vs. Clippers was supposed to be a rivalry of epic proportions. After the Clippers bounced the Warriors in Game 7 of the first round of the 2014 playoffs, the league changed. The Warriors fired Mark Jackson, brought in Steve Kerr, and eventually won two of three championships behind back-to-back MVP performances from Steph Curry, plus the plunder-signing of Kevin Durant.
The Clippers, winners of that inaugural showdown, never lived up to their self-created hype.
Note: I’m balancing a desire to be petty as hell with the knowledge that none of this matters anymore. Why defecate on the deflated remains of a once-contender? Seems mean. That being said, when the Clippers and Warriors first battled in 2014, did anyone see this happening? Did anyone envision a scenario where the Warriors grew into the greatest team in league history and then signed Kevin Durant while, simultaneously, the Clippers slowly unraveled due to infighting, lobbed charges of nepotism, and hurt egos?
So, just to recap before we move forever away from the sad state of affairs in Clippers-land, a few moments of note in the rivalry-that-never-was. Because, if anything, it just reiterates how quickly the NBA can change, and how unstable and fluid every team is at their core.
Whoa, Draymond, whoa. I forgot how aggressive that was. Dang.
“Cool story, Glenn.”
I’ll let ESPN take it away for this one, because the full backstory is crucial:
After the Warriors beat the Clippers on March 8, 2015, Clippers reserve swingman Dahntay Jones bumped Green while he was doing a postgame interview, prompting Green to do a double-take and glare at Jones, who was fined $10,000 for the incident. It ignited a war of words between Green and Rivers, which was far more entertaining than the bump itself.
"Wow, that was such a violent bump," Rivers said sarcastically afterward. "It was amazing. I told Dahntay, 'You have to be careful; that was too hard.' I guess that tough guy in Golden State -- I think that bump was too hard for him, clearly the way he reacted, my goodness. I thought that guy was tough."
When Green was played the comments during a radio interview, he invoked Rivers' given name: "Cool story, Glenn. I'm done with that situation, man. ... I don't have no reason to worry about what Glenn has to say."
Rivers laughed when he heard Green's comments. "Clearly they're thinking about us more than we know. It makes me happy that I could get someone mad. That probably made my day. When my mom was mad at me and Pat Riley was mad at me they called me Glenn. So I guess now Draymond is in that category."
Green briefly sold, "Cool story, Glenn" shirts on his website before removing them.
Which led me to make this T-shirt on some random site. I honestly wish I’d ordered a few. Would still rock, 10 out of 10 days a week.
For what it’s worth, here was the moment that sparked the whole spat:
Side note: Dahntay Jones is super, super good at getting fined. Way better at that than at actually playing basketball, for sure.
“They didn’t have to play us...”
From a 2015-16 season-preview piece from the amazing Zach Lowe:
“The championship window in the West is so narrow,” Redick says. “Ours might only be open another couple of years. But you need some breaks. Golden State was the best team in the league, but they also had everything go right for them. They didn’t have one bad break. I don’t have any doubt about the DNA of our team.”
Rivers agrees. “You need luck in the West,” he says. “Look at Golden State. They didn’t have to play us or the Spurs. But that’s also a lesson for us: When you have a chance to close, you have to do it.”
From a recent piece, eulogizing those same Clippers, again from Zach Lowe:
Let's start production right now on the 30 for 30 about the 2015 conference semifinals between the Houston Rockets and the LA Clippers -- the series in which the Clips blew a 3-1 lead before blowing 3-1 leads was cool, and barfed away a 19-point cushion in the last 15 minutes of Game 6 at home.
That was the Clippers' chance, and they were never the same again. The players are still grappling with it. Two years later, they cannot explain what happened to them -- how they collapsed in Game 6 under a hail of Josh Smith 3-pointers, and then melted down in Game 7. It damaged their psyche.
The Clippers were up 3-1 against Houston in the 2015 playoffs. They stumbled and coughed it all away, including giving away a 19-point lead in the last 15 minutes of Game 6. Even afterwards, Doc Rivers was defiant, claiming that the Warriors’ 2015 championship was partially due to luck, as the team missed out on playing either the Clippers or the Spurs, widely regarded as their top two challengers that year.
However, in retrospect, the quote seems stark. It stands alone, shivering against the abyss.
“They didn’t have to play us.”
And now the Clippers are gone, dispersed like ash on the wind.
For what it’s worth, Klay Thompson had the best line when asked about Doc’s quote, via ESPN:
"Didn't they lose to the Rockets? So that just makes me laugh. That's funny. Weren't they up 3-1, too? Tell them I said that, too. ... I wanted to play the Clippers last year, but they couldn't handle their business."
Ahhhhh, when making fun of a 3-1 collapse was just fun and games.
Now? The NBA has changed. Paul George could shift the balance of either conference, depending on where he decides to go. LeBron James might be on his way out again. If Carmelo Anthony gets bought out, could we see him join his best friend Chris Paul in Houston? Or join his other best friend LeBron in Cleveland?
Every team in the NBA is trying to overcompensate right now in order to compete with the Warriors. It’s mayhem. Stars are teaming up, players are changing uniforms. Executives and GMs are running around like the sky is falling.
But the one team we all expected to be in the thick of it — the Clippers — are done. Who saw that coming?
Okay, here’s where I’ll actually let my inner pettiness out for a brief stroll around the gardens. In no particular order, here are some things that were tweeted yesterday right after the Chris Paul news broke. I’m not super proud of some of them, but you can kind of get where we were all coming from. The time had come (the walrus said) for bile and petty tweets:
Chris Paul and James Harden are gonna be the most annoying, most complaining-to-the-refs backcourt of ALL TIME. Ugh, this is gonna suck.— Golden State of Mind (@unstoppablebaby) June 28, 2017
Lol I'm loving every. moment. of. this. https://t.co/zNTcPrr6Ro— CollaborativeBlogger (@NateP_SBN) June 28, 2017
Lob City turned into Flop City faster than you can say "Chris Paul is overrated, and will never make the conference finals."— Golden State of Mind (@unstoppablebaby) June 28, 2017
VINNY DEL NEGRO'S BEST CLIPPERS YEAR: 56 WINS— shrill (@theshrillest) June 28, 2017
VINNY: HASN'T HAD A HEAD COACHING JOB SINCE
DOC RIVERS' BEST CLIPPERS YEAR: 57 WINS
Once, Chris Paul was considered the best guard ever from N. Carolina. That ended (Curry), and now he's not even the best guard on his team.— Golden State of Mind (@unstoppablebaby) June 28, 2017
And, lastly, this (if only to remind you that none of this matters because we live in a world full of such deep wonderment that I can’t even stand it sometimes and basketball is nothing but a cheap illusion to distract us from cool fishes):
Anyways, happy off-season. Happy Clippers destruction day. Happy everything. I’m going on vacation for a week. See y’all on the flip side.