Few teams in the NBA have been quite as disappointing over the last few years as the Los Angeles Clippers. Far removed from the days when they were the whipping boys of the league, they have nonetheless failed to live up to their championship aspirations despite seeming to have the pieces in place to do so. This year’s squad is no different, but for them to actually achieve golden trophy greatness three players in particular have a great deal to prove.
Paul George is just the most obvious Clipper who has something to prove. After having a very bad playoffs by Paul George standards, averaging 20 ppg on 39% shooting from the field, George will be looking to recreate a season similar to that of his MVP caliber 2018/19 season in OKC. Through 10 games, George is nearing his averaging from that season and is an early frontrunner for the MVP award. The playoffs are the time of year when George really has something to prove. Ever since he gave himself the nickname “Playoff P”, all of his playoff performances have been heavily scrutinized. He will be looking for a strong individual playoff performance and a deep run with the Clippers.
Nicolas Batum, a 32-year-old veteran, may come as a surprise being on this list. After seven solid years with Portland, Batum signed with Charlotte, and it never really went as planned. He didn’t have the same impact with the Hornets that he did with the Blazers. This was epitomized in the 2019/20 season, seeing him move to the bench and breaking a finger on opening night. After starting to think his career may be over, Batum was waived by the Hornets and signed with the Clippers for 1 year. Batum looks to be a perfect fit with the Clippers and will be looking to prove his doubters wrong this year.
Is there anything else the 2014 and 2019 Finals MVP has to prove? To Clippers fans, the answer is a defiant, “Yes”. His success at previous teams won’t matter to the Clippers faithful, a fanbase that has never experienced a championship. Load management is also a big factor of Leonard’s game now and that is not an easy thing for a fan to grasp. After load management worked perfectly in Toronto, and failed with the Clippers, Kawhi will want to prove that he is the superstar that he seems to believe he is.
The Clippers are off to a great start, with Paul George playing like the star who led the Indiana Pacers to the Eastern Conference Finals early in his career. If he can continue, if Batum can be the ultimate x-factor and if Kawhi can spend more time on the court than off of it, perhaps the Clippers can take out their cross-town rivals and finally live up to the hype they’ve been building for what seems like a decade.