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Still searching for their first NBA championship and always playing second fiddle in Los Angeles behind the popular Lakers organization, the Los Angeles Clippers have been struggling to make a name for themselves ever since they moved to LA in 1984 (from San Diego, originally Buffalo).
Clippers basketball came to be back in 1970, when they were an NBA expansion team known as the Buffalo Braves. Under head coach Jack Ramsey the Braves had success with star forward (and future Hall of Famer) Bob McAdoo. The success was short-lived as bad business deals resulted in the sale of the team and trades that depleted their talent. By 1978, the club was sold to Celtics owner Irv Levin who moved the team to San Diego.
Renamed as the Clippers, San Diego saw a winning record in their first season under new head coach Gene Shue. However, they did not make the playoffs and wouldn’t see another winning record for 13 seasons. Even with superstar players World B. Free and Bill Walton the team still struggled.
New ownership resulted in another move for the team, this time to its current home in Los Angeles. Plagued with injuries and older players, the Clippers went through a number of miserable seasons. Things were looking up in the early 90s with Danny Ferry, Reggie Williams, Ken Norman, Danny Manning, Charles Smith, and Loy Vaught under the coaching prowess of Larry Brown. Two years of playoff berths had hopes up in LA, but the team began to fall apart again after Brown left for Indiana. Frequent changes to the roster never allowed the team to coalesce.
A new millennium brought new life to the Clippers with young stars in Elton Brand, Lamar Odom, and the acquisition of Andre Miller. However, true to form, player turnover continued to plague the team.
In fact, it wasn’t until the Clippers drafted Blake Griffin out of the University of Oklahoma in 2009 that they began to put together a winning formula. Joining DeAndre Jordan on the court, Griffin immediately became a star. A blockbuster 2011 trade brought Chris Paul to the team and suddenly the Clippers were a powerhouse NBA team with high expectations. 2013 brought Doc Rivers to Los Angeles following his nine year coaching stint in Boston that brought a title there.
The pieces were falling into place when the team was rocked by a scandal at the ownership level. After a tumultuous period that tested the franchise, the Clippers were purchased by former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer. However, the turnover did not end with ownership. While Doc Rivers remained in place, Griffin, Paul, and Jordan have all left LA. Struggling through the 2017-2018 season to a record of 42-40 the Clippers did not advance to the postseason. It ended their streak of 50+ win seasons at five and their playoff streak which had started in 2011.
Rivers is doing his best to transition his new team into a higher functioning squad. The wealth of players and draft picks the team accrued in the Griffin and Paul trades have put the Clippers in a position to make a lot of moves in an effort to rebuild. Time will tell how all of these moves will work out. Walking away from the 2018 NBA Draft with Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Jerome Robinson was the first step toward improving the roster. Losing Tobias Harris in a trade with Philadelphia did bring in a number of players and picks. Hopefully this will continue to help this franchise build for the future.
A playoff berth is the ultimate goal of this embattled franchise. Expectations are high that Los Angeles can improve over their tumultuous last season and take things a step further in the 2018-2019 season. Click here for more information about the Los Angeles Clippers.