It happened so fast. It could change so much.
In a matter of a few numbing minutes Thursday, the
The most compelling consequence for the Clippers in their Game 6 meltdown against the
For the Clippers, this is not only a Game 7, it's a Game Changer.
When the two teams meet at the
The bottom line here is the Clippers face a bottom line that will underscore their immediate and long-term future.
If they beat the Rockets and advance to the conference finals for the first time in the franchise's 45-year history, the events of the last week will be as quickly forgotten as their cheesy halftime shows. Houston who? Meltdown when? Hack-a-what? Bring on
However, if they lose to the Rockets and remain mired in their lifelong muck, their collapse in both Game 6 and the entire series becomes an indelible legend that will raise serious questions.
For all their talent, does this Clippers roster have the right mix for a championship? What would it mean that they can survive the mighty
Sounds crazy, but maybe they talk about breaking up the Big Three. If
Would a loss to Houston mean they would entertain trade offers for Griffin, maybe think about sending him back to Oklahoma for potential free agent
Would a loss mean that maybe management decides, no, this is Griffin's team now, and Paul would be expendable? It's impossible to imagine the Clippers parting ways with their emotional leader, but because he never would have advanced to a conference finals in his 10-year career, maybe they want to give the ball to somebody else?
Then there's potential free agent Jordan, who, by NBA rules, can re-sign here for millions more than anyone else can offer him. But if he doesn't see a championship in this team's future, maybe he starts to wonder whether it's worth it to stick around as a third option instead of going somewhere he could be the star? He wouldn't be the first big man to leave Los Angeles for less money, just look across the floor at No. 12 for the Rockets.
Besides looking at its best players — as well as obviously looking at its underachieving bench — the front office would also have to look in a mirror. If the Clippers survive this second round, the public criticism of Doc Rivers as a general manager probably would subside. Austin Rivers can be effective in spots and even
Maybe Ballmer asks Rivers to simply coach and allow someone else to make the personnel decisions. Maybe the entire front-office power structure changes. Maybe Rivers' actual coaching even takes some heat, especially considering some folks thought he should have done more to change the tempo and slow the onslaught during Thursday's meltdown. The thought here, though, is that Rivers has still done a terrific job changing the culture in his two years and should be not damaged by another premature exit.
But if the Clippers lose Sunday, something will have to change. The Clippers not only owe that to themselves, but their long-suffering fans who, judging from emails received here after Thursday night, have just about had enough.
The Clippers are now approaching the
To steal a phrase from
For them, Game 7 is not only a must-win, but a bust-loss.