We just got into December, and history tells us that we really don’t know the answer to these type of questions until around the All Star break, but tonight and over the course of the next week we’re going to get a good idea of how serious the Los Angeles Clippers are. They started the season off very well, leading people to believe that this was a serious championship contending team. They’ve been together for years. They have three players who are top three at their position, or at least were in recent memory (Deandre Jordan, Blake Griffin, Chris Paul) and a knockdown shooter in J.J. Redick, not to mention an improved bench. And they have a coach who has won a championship with pretty much this type of roster, one that was heavily talented at the top and a pretty good bench back in 2008.
But, still, we’re talking about the Clippers here. A team that hasn’t made it out of the second round since… well, ever. Chris Paul, the best player and leader of this squad, has never made it out of the second round in his career, despite being seen as the best point guard in the league for the better part of a decade and still argued as maybe the best in the league despite the incredible play of Russell Westbrook and Stephen Curry, and the up-and-coming play of Kyrie Irving and Damian Lillard. So they have certainly not instilled any confidence in any would-be believers.
This season, though, they have the opportunity to turn all of those ideas around. At the very least they should be favorites to make it to the Western Conference Finals, even if nobody really believes they can beat the new Kevin Durant Warriors in a series. They should be able to handle the San Antonio Spurs, and certainly should be able to beat any of the other teams in the West (nobody else should be in the discussion, at least not on paper). Tonight will be the first step in that quest, as they face LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers, who are coming off of a loss to the Milwaukee Bucks on Tuesday. The Clips are on a four game losing streak right now, all to teams they should have beaten handily, so this litmus test will be extremely important. And next week they have to face those Warriors. We’ll know a lot more about this team by the 10th of December.