11-18-2014, 07:56 AM
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Trust issues plaguing Clippers early
Trust is the glue that binds all good basketball teams together.
It's the string that connects the five players on the court and makes sure they're playing as one.
Nine games into the season, the Los Angeles Clippers are still trying to find their glue and string as they run around the floor as five individuals rather than one collective unit.
On Monday, the Clippers squandered a 14-point first-half lead against a Chicago Bulls team playing without Derrick Rose and Pau Gasol, and they trailed by as many as 19 points before losing 105-89. After the game, many in the Clippers locker room agreed that the trust that had made them a championship contender last season was broken.
"It's about trust," Blake Griffin said. "Trust our system, trust our game plans and trust our schemes. Once we do that, we'll be fine. We just have to trust. That's what it is. When we get down, we just have to keep going and keep pushing through it. This season is full of ups and downs. We can't get too flustered with the lows or too full of ourselves with highs -- just keep that even keel."
The Clippers didn't have to look too far to find an example of a team that trusted its system regardless of the players on the court or the situation in the game. Playing short-handed and down double digits in the first half on the road, the Bulls trusted in each other and Tom Thibodeau's plan and ran away with the game in the second half, outscoring the Bulls 31-14 in the third quarter.
"They trusted their offense," Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. "We took them out of a lot of stuff, but they just kept playing. I thought our trust was broken today offensively. I thought we all tried to do it individually, and that's the old way we played where there's no ball movement. The ball is in one spot. ... I thought the lack of ball movement made it difficult for all of them. Jamal [Crawford] made some miraculous shots on one-on-one stuff, but I thought our ball movement and trust were horrible. If you're not going to trust, you're not going to win."
There's no question the trust on both ends of the floor that made the Clippers one of the best offensive and defensive teams in the NBA last season is broken. The bigger question is why? It's common for a team with a new coach or a bunch of new players to go through trust issues, but this is Rivers' second season with the team, and the Clippers' starting five and Sixth Man of the Year (Crawford) from last season are back. The only real new pieces of note are Spencer Hawes and Jordan Farmar, who come off the bench.
It isn't realistic to expect the Clippers to simply pick up where they left off last season, but it's also a stretch to think they need to build up their trust in each other and in a system they've all been in for more than a season. Plus, this is now the fourth season that the core group of Chris Paul, DeAndre Jordan and Griffin have been playing together.
"I think we trust each other as players," Griffin said. "But I think we haven't really gotten to that point where when we miss shots or we got scored on that it doesn't really matter and we just get the ball out and go run or we go back on defense and just sit down and get a stop. We haven't really gotten to that point where we were at last year. It's not a situation where we need to sit back and point fingers that it's for this reason or for that reason; we just need to be better. We need to work it out."
Paul placed the lack of trust on offense on his shoulders as he looked down at the final stat sheet on Monday and shook his head at how Chicago was able to go on a 51-18 run during one stretch.
"They trusted and they executed," Paul said. "We talk about and preach execution all the time, and those guys exhausted a play for six to seven minutes and they all just trusted. ... [Our] trust is not where it needs to be at, and a lot of that falls on me with offensive execution. We just have to keep playing with the right spirit. Everybody on our team wants to play so well every night, so when we don't and shots don't go, we tend to hang our heads. We just have to stay the course."
The Clippers' course will now take them on a 12-day, seven-game road trip on which they will have to find their missing trust away from home. The Clippers have yet to string two straight wins together since the opening two games of the season and, outside of routing Phoenix on Saturday, have not looked particularly good in any of their games.
But after starting last season at 3-3 and later 8-5, the Clippers aren't overly concerned with their slow start but understand there is one area in need of major improvement.
"We just got to keep trusting," Rivers said. "We have to keep trusting and playing on both ends. It's in us, and I keep saying that, but we just haven't done it yet."
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