NBA AM: Will The Clippers Finally Emerge?

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Clippers Coach Doc Rivers says season is championship or bust

Since All-Star point guard Chris Paul arrived in Los Angeles the Clippers have steadily moved up the Western Conference standings and are seemingly inching closer and closer into title contention. However, NBA history is littered with a plethora of teams who were at one point on the cusp of a championship breakthrough that never materialized. The Clippers don’t want their name added to this list and have done everything possible to fully join the league’s elite.

Last summer the team hired Doc Rivers as their senior vice president of basketball operations and head coach. Once thought to be frugal, the team has undoubtedly opened up its wallet with two max contracts on the books and a payroll exceeding $72 million this season. Lastly, as a style point, the team took the bold move to cover up the Lakers’ title banners in Staples Center on game days in order to plot their own destiny.

The results have been a success.

The Clippers had already clinched the Pacific Division crown but on Tuesday night recorded their franchise record 57th regular season victory. The team still has an outside shot at securing the number two seed entering the playoffs, standing just one game behind the Oklahoma City Thunder.

The stakes are high and championship expectations are growing by the moment which is a position Rivers wants his team to embrace.

Rivers was asked by former NBA player and current NBA TV analyst Rick Fox to complete the sentence of what would make the Clippers’ season a true success. The veteran head coach responded confidently and without hesitation – nothing less than a championship ring would suffice.

“If we win it,” Rivers told Fox on NBA GameTime. “That’s it. Other teams can too but I’m not worried about them. I’m worried about us. We have to have urgency. I don’t believe in that ‘We have had a good year and we’re getting better and we’re going to grow.’ There’s no urgency to that. I hate when I hear that. We can’t think about next year. This is our year.”

The Clippers have never reached the Conference Finals in franchise history, but the 2013-14 campaign may be their best opportunity to date. All-Star forward Blake Griffin has generated some legitimate MVP buzz with his growth as a player this season,  Paul is still arguably the best point guard in the game and veteran guard Jamal Crawford may win his second Sixth Man of the Year award.

As it stands currently, the Clippers are set to host the sixth place Golden State Warriors when the playoffs begin. The teams split their regular season series 2-2.

Knicks’ Tyson Chandler  Not Into Wasting Any More Seasons

The New York Knicks won 54 regular season games last season on the way to a playoff berth, but the 2013-14 campaign has sent the franchise spiraling back down to earth with a disappointing 45 losses to date. The Knicks, possessing a $89 million payroll this season, will surprisingly miss the playoffs for the first time since the 2010 campaign putting the franchise at a pivotal crossroads.

The club hired Phil Jackson to head its basketball operations unit back in March and the league veteran will have his work cut out for him this summer from a personnel standpoint. All-Star forward Carmelo Anthony intends to opt out of the final year of his deal, worth $23.3 million, in order to test free agency. Forwards Amar’e Stoudemire and Andrea Bargnani also have player options.

The Knicks may be gearing up for 2015 free agency before making another run at a title.

Former All-Star center Tyson Chandler has a fully guaranteed contract on the books for the 2014-15 season, but the former Defensive Player of the Year says he’s not interested in a long term rebuilding plan.  Chandler maintains he wants to compete at the highest levels and not waste any seasons as his career winds down.

“I definitely don’t want to waste another season,’’ Chandler said according to Marc Berman of The New York Post. “I don’t want to waste this season. I’m not into wasting seasons. Your time is too short in this league and I want to win a championship, another one. I’m not into wasting seasons.’’

Chandler was then asked if he felt Jackson’s plan was more about building for the future rather than the present.

“I’ll cross that bridge when it gets to that point,” Chandler said. “I hope it’s not that situation. That’s decision isn’t going to be in my hands.’’

The Knicks’ sudden demise in the standings was a surprising development Chandler had to endure. Most expected New York to be among the top five teams in the Eastern Conference but the unit will be watching the playoffs from their respective couches.

Chandler attributes some of the blame on a team chemistry which never seemed to click.

“[The chemistry] never felt right throughout the season,” Chandler said. “We had some bright spots. Never where we were on a level where we should’ve been. I don’t have an answer for that.

“It’s definitely something we didn’t expect. We came with high expectations, high hopes. It’s definitely disappointing.”

Chandler is averaging 8.7 points and 9.6 rebounds in 55 contests this season, the lowest amount of games since the 2010 campaign when he played for New Orleans.

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