A little over a year ago, I stood in the hallway of the Staples Center, watching the Golden State Warriors players mingle with their friends and family members. The Warriors had just beaten the Los Angeles Clippers in the first round of the playoffs, and booked a semifinals matchup with the Houston Rockets.
It was a subdued scene. The Warriors, fresh off of back-to-back championships, had their eyes on much bigger things than beating an eight seed. There was no celebration. And the Clippers, despite surprising everyone by pushing the series to six games, had exceeded expectations just making it to the playoffs. There was little disappointment as they packed their gym bags for the final time.
For a brief second I forgot what year it was, what players were on the rosters, and what the narrative was. I forgot that Kevin Durant was on the Warriors, and that they’d already ascended the highest peaks in the sport. I forgot that the Clippers were led by Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell.
I forgot that it wasn’t 2014.
Until last year, the 2014 playoffs had been the last time the Warriors and Clippers faced off in the postseason. If I had told you that in 2014, you wouldn’t have believed me. At the time, the Warriors were up-and-coming, and we all thought they’d be players in the West for many years to come. We were right.
And the Clippers were 1B in the West. They were the third seed that year after winning 57 games. They had a truly elite triumvirate of Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, and DeAndre Jordan, and it seemed only a matter of time before they broke through and won the West, and maybe the title. We figured they’d be the gatekeepers of the conference whom the Warriors would repeatedly clash with. And that’s where we were wrong.
We had no idea that the Clippers would never even make the conference finals, or that the Warriors would win the West for the next five seasons without ever having to go through LA.
The Clippers have now returned to the ranks of the NBA’s elite after adding Kawhi Leonard and Paul George in the offseason. And, barring health concerns, we’ll get to see some pretty fantastic showdowns between them and the Warriors next season.
But before that happens, Leonard, George, Williams, Harrell and co. will try to win the 2020 bubble title.
It’s not the same team that the Warriors pushed to seven games just six years ago, even though the Warriors core of Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green remains intact.
It’s been 817 days since Jordan last wore a Clippers jersey.
It’s been 890 days since Griffin did.
It’s been 1,163 days since Paul did.
And while the Warriors never went through the Clippers on their way to greatness, some of their best moments still occurred against them.
These two plays feel as monumental in their building of a dynasty as many of the playoff series do:
This week is Rivalry Week at SB Nation. I’ve been thinking about the Clippers because it felt like they and the Warriors started a rivalry but never got to finish it.
And now I can’t decide if they still are a rivalry, or if the Clippers just represent what could have been.
I guess there’s only one way to tell. When you have a rival, fans are nearly as invested in the rival losing as in their own team winning. So ... are you invested in the Clippers losing in the 2020 playoffs?
How do you feel about the 2020 LA Clippers?
This poll is closed
Want them to lose more than anyone
Want them to lose, but not as much as the Rockets
Want them to lose but don’t much care
Don’t care at all
Rooting for them