There are seminarians who have been subjected to fewer questions about their religious views than Los Angeles Clippers head coach Mike Dunleavy.
Since the moment he arrived to coach the team in 2003, Dunleavy has routinely been asked whether the Clippers’ misfortunes can be attributed to a supernatural force that governs professional basketball.
Dunleavy has repeatedly said he doesn’t believe in curses, but each setback for the franchise — from Elton Brand’s season-ending Achilles tendon injury in the summer of 2007 to the team’s miserable 19-63 campaign in 2008-09 to Blake Griffin’s fractured patella — has escalated that line of inquiry.
If nothing else, the Clippers’ 103-87 loss Wednesday night to a New Jersey Nets team that had won only three of 43 games proved the team’s failures aren’t related to the occult. The Clippers lost to one of worst teams of the modern basketball era (a historically bad team playing without its starting backcourt) because they beat themselves.
Identifying the particulars of the loss doesn’t require any advanced analysis. The Clippers turned the ball over every fifth possession. Their lazy defensive rotations allowed the only team in the league with a true shooting percentage under 50 percent to compile a clip greater than 60 percent Wednesday night. And the Clippers’ perimeter shooters drained fewer than a third of their attempts from the floor, many of those impatient, contested shots.
The specifics are certainly damning, but the broader takeaway from the embarrassment in the swamp speaks to every Clippers fans’ fears about the team — and none of that despair has to do with magic or witchcraft.
The anxiety speaks to doubts about the team’s collective character.
For all the talk about the new attitude that has infused the gleaming training facility in Playa Vista and the locker room at Staples Center, skeptics wonder whether this team has the leadership needed to succeed. Why can’t a Clippers roster with this collection of talent and savvy bring the energy it exhibits against the NBA’s elite every single night? Though the Clippers have endured their share of sporadic injuries to key players, these ailments don’t compare to those sustained by Portland and Houston, teams that have rallied in the face of adversity.
Why can’t the Clippers?
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