Doc Rivers needs to give Doc Rivers a strong talking to because Rivers has failed to give Rivers the tools he needs to win a championship in the NBA.
That might sound a little confusing but with Rivers being given the President of Basketball operations role, he has been unable to find the pieces that mean his coaching works with the players that he wants to build a team with.
After a better bench last season helped the Clippers progress past the San Antonio Spurs, Rivers then decided to implode things a little after a humiliating come-from-behind series defeat to the Houston Rockets.
It hurt, the Rockets stung the entire franchise to the point where bar a last minute salvo, they almost lost a quality player in DeAndre Jordan but it was not a reason to start all over again.
Out went a few inexpensive losses like Glen “Big Baby” Davis and Hedo Turkoglu but decided to keep someone like Austin Rivers, who impressed in spells.
The real issue stems from the loss of Matt Barnes, a headline-maker with his actions off the field but his defensive play at the small forward position has been severely missed this season.
Many wanted a better scorer at the three spot and while Barnes could hit a three and had a few games where he could explode on the box score, it wasn’t enough for a championship-chasing team.
In came the risk of Lance Stephenson, who became the starter to begin the season in the hope that he could rediscover the form he showed back at the Indiana Pacers in 2013.
Instead, he has brought over his Charlotte Hornets form and has become such a liability on both sides of the court, he’s now almost third choice at the position.
He can’t shoot free throws well enough, currently at 61.5%, he averages a dismal 4.4 points per game and his rebounds (2.4) and assists (1.4) jump off the page at how poor they really are.
Also brought in was Paul Pierce as a free agent and he is still a solid pick-up, able to both play small and power forward while potent from three-point range.
However, he isn’t a solution to the starting role and while he hasn’t excelled so far, The Truth showed last season that he could give any team that extra clutch edge come playoff time.
With a lack of options, the team have turned to Wesley Johnson in recent games and while he can stretch the field, he was pretty abysmal against the Utah Jazz two nights ago both offensively and defensively against Gordon Hayward.
Barnes, on the other hand, had a superb game for the Memphis Grizzlies last night, scoring efficiently but really shining on the defensive end with a few important steals and some quality play.
He’s also ranked 8th in all small forwards in defensive plus/minus at 1.14, with the Clippers first small coming in at 24th, with Pierce making 0.26 difference, while Johnson makes -0.77 and Stephenson comes up at -1.04 (and even worse, -2.57 offensively, which is only better than six other players in the NBA at his position).
It’s also a shame to see a player like Jamal Crawford looking like he’s slowing down, Rivers junior is way too inconsistent and there is still a big issue of who can really play behind DJ when he needs a rest.
Some players he has brought in this off-season like Pablo Prigioni (played in just five games), Luc Mbah a Moute (averages 4.3 minutes in 15 games) and Cole Aldrich (averages 3.9 minutes in four games) seem more like a waste of time predominantly because they aren’t playing at all and that means that there is still a serious lack of depth.
Credit should go to the move for Josh Smith, who did start slowly but is starting to find a niche behind Blake Griffin and is adding some boost to the bench. Despite odd trade rumours, he should stick around as he is able to contribute to the team, even if some feel he should have stayed in Houston.
All of this means that heading into the game against the New Orleans Pelicans tonight, the Clippers need to get back on the horse fast before the other quality teams in the Western Conference start running away from them.
The problems lie with that defensive solidity, which Barnes brought plenty of and none of the incoming players have brought almost none, as the Clippers try and crawl out of being the worst defence in the stretch where they lost seven of their last nine and sat at 6-7.
They are 21st in the league in points against, which is not good enough for a top team and 26th in rebounding with the players they have starting at the big positions is frankly embarrasing.
It will be an uphill fight for the team now and the blame has to rest at Rivers’ door. He needs to try to make them click or find some way to build a solid team that can really challenge this season.
This team should be pretty thankful that other teams have slipped a little, meaning their only 2.5 games out of fourth place but changes need to be made now if they want to get the higher seeding that they will be begging for.
The window is closing for the likes of Chris Paul and if they can’t push for at least the Conference Finals, then there will be calls for the GM side of Rivers to step down.