The Clippers are officially “back to the shadows” as Locked On Clippers’ hosts Charles Mockler and William Updyke often say. Whether you’re a sports debate show lover that intentionally seeks out televised NBA banter, a social media seeker of sports content, or a late night channel-flipper hoping to stumble into some highlights, your basketball consumption this season has likely been recycled. You’ve probably been bombarded with highlights of Zion Williamson dunks despite the Pelicans losing many of those games. Perhaps it’s LaMelo Ball’s fun assists and creativity as a passer that is making headlines, or maybe it’s one of the many storylines regarding the Brooklyn Nets. The point is that outside of the small Clippers circle, the buzz around them is faint; something that could be playing to these Clippers’ advantages.
Despite owning one of the best records in the NBA and coming off of a recent seven-game win streak, the Los Angeles Clippers have hardly been a topic of conversation this season — a far cry from how the Clippers consumed the media last season.
The 2019-2020 season began optimistically for the Clippers. They were expected to compete for a championship immediately after having acquired perennial NBA Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard, and Paul George, the third place finisher for both NBA MVP and DPOY. However, after having the best regular season in the team’s history, the Clippers’ playoff run ended in disappointing fashion. By fizzling out of the playoffs the way they did, it’s not hard to see why the praise and attention of the national media has taken a nosedive. Already the basketball community’s punching bag, the Clippers saw their most recent Sixth Man of the Year award winner Montrezl Harrell exit stage left and relocate to the locker room across the hallway — taking all of the Klutch Sports media with him. Having learned from their previous stint in the spotlight, the Clippers’ players are learning to be more savvy when it comes to dealing with the media. Perhaps they too are aware of the unnecessary antics of last season as they’ve been noticeably more quiet.
Gone are the days where you open up social media and see certain Clippers players exchanging words on Twitter with TV personalities or players from other teams. Also gone are the viral press clippings that would often rub people the wrong way, such as Paul George giving his thoughts on why last season didn’t go as expected. Whether these actions have been intentional or not, the organization has seemingly recognized last season’s missteps and are making a more concerted effort to stay away from the extra attention. Instead, a more locked in and unbothered team is what we’re getting so far this season, and it’s showing on the court.
“Just seeing that killer instinct in his eye that he had in Indiana and his focus; it’s through the roof right now,” said Clippers’ forward Patrick Patterson when speaking of George’s locked in focus.
“Guys are pissed off, which is good,” said starting point guard Patrick Beverley during his media week prior to the season’s start.
“The road of going to a championship is hard,” said star forward Kawhi Leonard. “I love the process. This is what makes players.”
Whatever the reasons may be — perhaps humility or an added fuel to their fire, the Clippers’ players seem to have taken a different approach this season. Regardless of how this team is covered by the media in the coming months, the Clippers’ own dialing back from the extracurriculars has been refreshing as a fan, and I can’t help but think that this focus has played a part in their early season success. The shadows are looking like the perfect place for the Clippers to be, back in their underdog element.