Five years. Five entertaining but, always in the end, sobering years.
Chris Paul and Blake Griffin have been teammates since 2011, when David Stern vetoed the Lakers’ trade for Paul and verified the Clippers’ bid for him.
It’s been exhilarating, it’s been engaging but too often Lob City becomes Sob City.
Their latest postseason went asunder Friday amid frenzied Portland Trail Blazers fans. The Clippers put on their bravest face — 11 stitches around Austin Rivers’ left eye after a rough collision — but bowed out of the playoffs with a 106-103 Game 6 loss.
Does Doc Rivers take hammer and chisel to the roster? Is five years long enough?
“It’s too early to know that. We just lost, like, half an hour ago, so I don’t know,” he said. “I like our team. Our bench was fantastic this year.”
Scottie Pippen and Michael Jordan needed four years together to win their first championship. Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant needed four years. They’re all shoo-in Hall of Famers (or will be soon enough), which Paul and Griffin can’t claim. The Clippers’ duo has never been past the second round of the playoffs.
If Rivers wants to break things up, a phone call to the 405 area code might be worthwhile.
Maybe Oklahoma City is legitimately worried about losing Kevin Durant in free agency and will listen to a deal for Griffin, Jamal Crawford and a couple of first-round picks. (Durant and Crawford would have to be signed at fair-market value before being included in a sign-and-trade deal.)
Or call Phil Jackson in New York and see whether Carmelo Anthony for Griffin would work. Anthony was entertained by the concept of moving to Los Angeles when the Lakers unsuccessfully wooed him in free agency two years ago.
Hey, it’s been a solid five-year run, the Clippers moving from a 32-50 team without Paul to their most successful string of postseason appearances. If only they didn’t end with so much melancholy each time.
There was a San Antonio sweep in the 2012 Western Conference semifinals as a still-agile Tim Duncan and Tony Parker easily terminated Paul’s first L.A. story.
A 2-0 first-round lead in 2013 quickly became a six-game loss as Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol dominated down low for Memphis.
The following year was the beginning of the end for Donald Sterling’s ownership, infamously coinciding with a seven-game first-round victory against Golden State. Oklahoma City was too much for the Clippers in the West semifinals and Sterling was out the door soon after that.
Last year was too painful for Clippers fans. Let’s skip the whole Houston thing.
This season held some promise until Griffin went down with a quadriceps injury in December and then punched out the team’s assistant equipment manager.
Clippers guard Jamal Crawford drives to the basket for a layup over Trail Blazers center Mason Plumlee during the second half of Game 6.(Craig Mitchelldyer / Associated Press)
Clippers guard Austin Rivers walks off the court, 11 stitches and all, after the Game 6 loss to the Trail Blazers.(Steve Dykes / Getty Images)
Trail Blazers guard C.J. McCollum drives down the lane against Clippers guard Austin Rivers during the second half of Game 6.(Craig Mitchelldyer / Associated Press)
Clippers guard J.J. Redick puts up an awkward shot as he’s guarded by Trail Blazers guard C.J. McCollum, right, and center Mason Plumlee during the second half of Game 6.(Craig Mitchelldyer / Associated Press)
Clippers guard Austin Rivers, who sustained a gash over his left eye in the first half, heads to the bench during a break in play in the second half.(Craig Mitchelldyer / Associated Press)
Clippers guard Jamal Crawford pulls up on a drive and looks to pass against the Trail Blazers during the first half of Game 6.(Steve Dykes / Getty Images)
Clippers guard Austin Rivers fell to the court with a gash above his left eye after taking an inadvertent elbow to the face from Trail Blazers forward Al-Farouq Aminu (not pictured) during the first quarter of Game 6.(Steve Dykes / Getty Images)
Clippers guard Austin Rivers is helped off the court by a trainer after getting hit in the face during the first quarter of Game 6.(Steve Dykes / Getty Images)
Clippers center DeAndre Jordan throws down a dunk against the Trail Blazers during the first half of Game 6.(Craig Mitchelldyer / Associated Press)
Clippers Coach Doc Rivers discusses a call with referee Sean Wright during the first half of Game 6 in Portland.(Steve Dykes / Getty Images)
Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard (0) reacts after scoring against the Clippers in the first quarter of Game 6.(Steve Dykes / Getty Images)
Clippers guard Austin Rivers drives to the basket against the Trail Blazers during the first half of Game 6 of the NBA Western Conference Playoffs on April 29.(Steve Dykes / Getty Images)
Clippers center DeAndre Jordan tries to power his way to the basket against the Trail Blazers during the first half of Game 6.(Craig Mitchelldyer / Associated Press)
The Clippers managed to take fourth place in the West and a 2-0 series lead against Portland but lost Game 3 up here and weren’t looking all that great in Game 4 when Paul and Griffin were lost.
“That team had more heart than any team I’ve ever seen ... it says a lot about chemistry and toughness,” said Rivers, who won the 2008 championship as the Boston Celtics’ coach. “You have to be willing to get your heart broken to be a champion. You have to do it over and over again.”
Austin Rivers symbolized the Clippers’ last stand Friday, taking a shot above and below his eye after smacking into Al-Farouq Aminu while tracking a first-quarter rebound.
How he looked wasn’t something you’d want described at the breakfast table — wouldn’t go well with blueberry crepes — but he and Crawford combined for 53 points, almost keeping the off-season from closing in on the Clippers.
Almost is the key word. It often is with the Clippers.