The Clippers open the regular season Wednesday night as one of the top teams in the Western Conference. But as they head to Sacramento to face the Kings, a couple of NBA scouts, who requested anonymity, say there are still issues team will have to overcome.
During a trip to China, the Clippers lost an exhibition game to Charlotte by 42 points, and back at home, they came back from a 35-point, first-half deficit last week to defeat Portland, leaving both scouts questioning the team’s approach.
“I like the talent. I’m questioning their consistency right now,” a scout for a Western Conference team said. “I know it’s early. But it’s just that they are too up and down to talk about championship right now. It appears they have the attitude that they can just show up and win and turn it on when they want. It’s not going to fly, because everybody wants to beat them. They are the Clippers. There is a little bit of arrogance there.”
“They were down like 35 to Portland in the first half. Can they stay motivated all year? The biggest thing with championship teams is that you can’t have starts like they did the other night against Portland,” an Eastern Conference team scout said.
Is this the season in which the talented and always-improving Blake Griffin takes the reins and pushes the Clippers over the top? That’s a question the West scout wants to have answered.
“Chris [Paul] can only do so much, I think, as good as he is,” the scout said. “I think Blake is going to have to be that guy. And I think that may start with him stepping up his role defensively, which I don’t know if he’ll ever do. He’s too talented and athletic not to be a better defender consistently.”
The Clippers led the NBA in player technical fouls last season with 56 as a group, and Coach Doc Rivers was tied for the second-most technicals among coaches at 10. Last week, the Clippers had five of the eight technical fouls assessed against them when they played the Warriors in an exhibition game.
Clearly, the East scout said, nothing has changed.
“They still talk way too much to the refs,” the scout said. “That’s going to kill them. They have to stop that. They are too good to keep talking to the refs. But that’s who they have been for a while, and the refs don’t like that.”
The addition of Lance Stephenson, Paul Pierce and Josh Smith and the decision to re-sign Austin Rivers to go along with super-sub Jamal Crawford gives the Clippers a much deeper team.
“I kind of like that second unit,” the East scout said. “That’s great for Doc now.
“They are good. I think they have a chance to do it all. I really do. But the key is how motivated they are. They’ve got to make shots. They may need one more shooter other than J.J. Redick. But I like them.”