The hopes and expectations of the initial Blake Griffin and Chris Paul pairing were to begin a new chapter for a Clippers franchise that has known little more than perpetual disappointment. The goodwill grew quickly with an unfathomable comeback on the road against Memphis. The acquisition of a title-winning head coach came next, and an ownership change followed not long after.
The equity in the team was building faster than property values in Northeast Los Angeles. Each moment that could potentially send the team back to their status as cellar-dwellers was rebuked.
Yet by the time these same Clippers completed a collapse of historic proportions against the Sacramento Kings, it only stood as another disappointing footnote in a list that only grows larger.
Teams Leading by 18+ Points in Final 5 Minutes – This Season
Losses 1 (Clippers)
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) March 26, 2017
It’s as if the Clippers are basketball’s embodiment of Eleanor Shellstrop, left to wonder how they ended up here or if they’re actually in The Good Place. And as confidence in the team’s ability begins to dwindle, the greater issue is one of trust.
From a fan standpoint, this has largely been what has made this season especially difficult to follow. The hot start was a promise of something greater. The majority of the season has instead been a reminder of the team’s weaknesses. The loss to the Kings, following a needed victory against the Utah Jazz? The pulling of a scab from a wound that refuses to completely heal.
Each setback takes from that well of trust until the fans are stripped of confidence in the team’s ability to win, even when acknowledging at the same time how incredibly difficult it is to be the last team standing at the end of 82 games and four playoff rounds.
It ends up not mattering that this is the best era of Clippers basketball in the history of the franchise. The ability or talent of the team becomes an afterthought because what remains in the mind are failures, even if the high points of repeated playoff appearances and 50-win seasons are benchmarks few other franchises can actively claim. So, despite the players speaking candidly and honestly about the problem areas that lead to these results, there is an inclination to tune out and pass off those comments as platitudes.
Postgame Sound 🔊 | "I just didn't think we had the right spirit." -Blake addresses the media after today's game. pic.twitter.com/Tt0BYsgtpi
— LA Clippers (@LAClippers) March 27, 2017
A winning streak could change things once again. There is an inherent fickleness in the fanaticism of following a sports franchise, and the promise of hope is often the first step in rebuilding that well of trust. But fandom is often a results-oriented exercise, and the team as it is currently constructed is running ever short on time to deliver a better outcome than seasons past.