Let’s play a little game I like to call “I’m talking about the Los Angeles Clippers or the Boston Celtics?”
I’m thinking of a team in a historic city. They are defensively set up and run by a top coach and two elite two-way wings. They play their best when they share the ball, but their offense can sometimes fall into the Hero Ball isolation trap, especially considering there is no such thing as a “real” point guard. And her biggest star earned the respect of the late great Kobe Bryant and trained with him.
So which team am I talking about? It’s tough, isn’t it?
Amid all these parallels, however, there are some notable differences.
The clippers shoot better from deep. The Celtics are younger and recovering much better. Boston has more depth up front, but Los Angeles has a deeper wing rotation. And most importantly, one team’s season ended in mid-June, while the other ended two months earlier in April. Granted, injuries and a particularly early COVID infection got in the way of the Clippers, but still.
One thing is certain, though: Boston has proven that this type of basketball can win. And it can win at the highest level. When they clicked, the Celtics were fearsome. An offense riddled with multilevel threats moving along with a suffocating, switchable defense propelled her season all the way to the NBA Finals, missing just two wins from a championship.
Next year, the Clippers look to build on that plan as Kawhi Leonard, Paul George and Norman Powell will lead their offense while Ivica Zubac, Nicolas Batum and Robert Covington solidify their defense. The beauty of this design, however, is the defensive prowess of Leonard, George, and Powell, and the offensive versatility of Zubac, Batum, and Covington.
Her list will continue to be washed up with free plays like Luke Kennard, Reggie Jackson and Terance Mann. And coach Tyronn Lue, who has already demonstrated his ability to turn a box full of roleplayers into a playoff contender, should break a sweat at the prospect of messing around with entire squadrons of Leonard, George and Powell (I know, I know, health permitting (knock on wood while we speak, don’t worry).
Both teams expect to start the season healthy, with one team chasing their 18th ring while the other tries to secure their first. It’s a long season and anything can happen, but Clippers fans should be encouraged by the idea that if Boston can reach the Finals, so can the Clippers.
And luckily for us, they share one final parallel: These two teams playing basketball side-by-side seem determined to play their best basketball yet.