After blowing a 3-1 lead to the Denver Nuggets, it's clear the Clippers were guilty of celebrating too soon.
July of 2019 was a wild time to be an NBA fan. This was particularly true if you are from either Los Angeles or Toronto. At the time, the Toronto Raptors were trying to find a way to convince Kawhi to stay in the Six. Meanwhile, the Lakers and the Clippers were competing against one another to see who could bring Kawhi back to his hometown of Los Angeles. Unlike most players, Kawhi took a long time to announce his decision, and at times, it seemed like one of the most dramatic Free Agency campaigns of all-time. Who can forget that helicopter in Toronto that followed a black SUV around town, suspecting that it could be Kawhi on his way to meet with Raptors management?
In the end, Leonard decided to take his talents to the City of Angels, where he signed to the Clippers. At the time, Lakers fans were extremely upset, especially since it felt like his uncle had negotiated with the team in bad faith. On top of that, the Clippers traded away their entire future to land Paul George, who had snubbed the Lakers in Free Agency a year earlier.
Upon landing these two stars, the Clippers immediately became favorites to win the title. Oddsmakers had them becoming the best team in L.A. and in the eyes of many, they were a roster specifically constructed to stop LeBron James and Anthony Davis. When the season started, it looked as though the prophecy was being fulfilled, as the Clippers knocked off the Lakers in the season opener. By the end of the season, the two teams split their four regular-season matchups, with the Clippers still favorited to win it all come playoff time. Of course, as we all know by now, things didn't play out how they were supposed to. This past week, the Clippers were ousted from the second round of the playoffs by the Denver Nuggets, after blowing a 3-1 lead. It was a collapse for the ages as players like Leonard, George, Montrezl Harrell, Lou Williams, and Patrick Beverley were all abysmal during games 5, 6, and 7.
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After being considered by many to have one of the best rosters in NBA history, the Clippers simply couldn't rise to the occasion. Over the last few days, pundits have tried to explain what happened. Many have pointed to a lack of chemistry, while others have stated that Kawhi isn't the superstar we all pegged him to be when he was dominating with the Raptors. Sure, many of these criticisms are true, but it's important to note that the Clippers broke the cardinal sin of professional sports. You never celebrate until you've actually won something. As soon as you start boasting prematurely, you're almost guaranteed to have a bad time, and that's exactly what happened.
Unfortunately for the Clippers and their fans, there are plenty of examples of the team getting a little too ahead of themselves. These instances of undeserved arrogance date all the way back to when Kawhi and George were first announced to the Clippers. Take for example this clip below. Within it, you will find Patrick Beverley and Lou Williams gleefully walking around what looks to be a casino, while saying "don't talk to us" and "the prices just went up." Based on this clip, it's clear that both players felt as though they had just won the jackpot. For them, George and Leonard were their tickets to an easy championship. As it turns out, that ticket didn't include a trip to the bubble.
This wasn't the only instance of Beverley getting ahead of himself. According to a Yahoo! Sports, during the first week of the NBA season, Beverley had some strong words for Steph Curry of the Golden State Warriors. Acknowledging that the Warriors dynasty was over, Beverley allegedly said "You had the last five years. The next five years are mine." Hilariously, Curry responded to this jab with "Aren’t you 31?” Once again, this small exchange speaks to just how much the Clippers thought this season was theirs before it even started. When you're playing as though you've already won something, it becomes incredibly difficult to snap out of it once you have to face even a modicum of adversity, which is exactly what we saw in the Nuggets series.
Perhaps the greatest piece of evidence that this Clippers team was too boastful for its own good was when they had a run-in with Damian Lillard and the Portland Trail Blazers during the seeding round in the bubble. Lillard had a poor night from the free-throw line which cost the Blazers the game. From there, players like Beverley yelled at Lillard from the bench, offering up some classic trash talk. After the game, Beverley took it to Instagram, saying "Cancun on 3" as a way to antagonize the Blazers about being an easy first-round out. Even PG joined in on the fun saying "and you getting sent home this year, respect." Marcus Morris was also guilty of this pattern of behavior as he dissed Luka Doncic on IG after the Mavericks star called him a dirty player. In this comment, Morris said, "Cry me a river, Clips in 6." Of course, the Clippers did, in fact, win that series, however, it's clear the trash talk wasn't well justified considering how poorly the Clippers played in their series against the Nuggets.
Image via Instagram
At the end of the day, trash-talking is nothing new. When it comes to the world of sports, trash-talk is an art form and it should be welcomed with open arms. In no way is this supposed to be some thinkpiece against it. Despite this, it should be reserved for those who have actually backed up what they've said out on the court and on social media. For instance, Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls were the masters of trash talk. Unlike the Clippers, the Bulls were NBA champions with a resume that spoke for itself. If you start acting like a dynasty before you've even made it to the Conference Finals, well, you deserve whatever the basketball Gods have in store for you.
According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the word "humility" means "freedom from pride or arrogance: the quality or state of being humble." Had the Clippers shown humility from the start, perhaps they would be in the Western Conference Finals right now.