As front office looks toward free agency, starless Clippers winning now
CHARLOTTE – The Clippers have no All-Stars here.
Not Danilo Gallinari. Not Montrezl Harrell. Not even Tobias Harris, who spent most of the season with L.A. before getting traded to the 76ers.
Heck, nobody who has played for the Clippers this season – including Gallinari, Harris and Lou Williams – has ever made an All-Star team.
No Clippers are participating in All-Star Saturday Night events, either. Their only representative here is rookie Shai Gilgeous-Alexander in the Rising Stars Challenge.
Yet, the Clippers are an impressive 32-27.
“When you just have a bunch of guys that are selfless and just want to play for each other and just want to ultimately win,” Gilgeous-Alexander said, “things like that happen.”
The Clippers are on pace for one of the best-ever records for a team with no past or present All-Stars. Here all the all-time leaders (counting only seasons with an All-Star game):
The Clippers’ success is particularly surprising because this was supposed to be a transitional year for them.
They moved on historically quickly from the Chris Paul-Blake Griffin-DeAndre Jordan Lob City era. Everyone from the Clippers’ 2012-17 teams was gone before the season even began. Since the early 1950s, only these Clippers, the 1996 Mavericks and 2003 and 2004 Hawks completely turned over their rosters within two seasons.
“The front office and coaches and teammates are all competitive guys and want to be good for a long time,” Gilgeous-Alexander said. “That’s the ultimate goal.”
Here’s the rub: Many of Gilgeous-Alexander’s teammates might not be around for that ultimate goal.
To open a projected $57 million in cap space this summer,* the Clippers had to stock their roster with expiring contracts.
*Based on the Clippers renouncing all their free agents and not having a first-round pick. L.A. owes the Celtics a lottery-protected first-rounder.
Beverley will be a free agent this summer. So will Harris and likely Avery Bradley, who got dealt to the Grizzlies shortly before the trade deadline and has just $2 million of his $12.96 million salary next season guaranteed. So will Marcin Gortat, who got waived around the trade deadline.
Yet, these players put aside personal agendas to help a franchise that’s transparently looking past them. It’s a tribute to the players. It’s a tribute to Clippers coach Doc Rivers, too. This team has played hard and shown great camaraderie.
It won’t get easier even after moving Harris, L.A.'s top player this season who’s entering free agency. Ivica Zubac, JaMychal Green, Garrett Temple and Wilson Chandler – acquired before the trade deadline – also have expiring contracts.
Don’t assume the Clippers will fall off now. They added solid vets who could fit this culture.
The Clippers’ identity – starless, transient – remains intact. The winning could, too.
It’s not that the Clippers got snubbed. I thought none deserved to be an All-Star.
That’s the beauty of this team.