The LA Clippers could be entering Game 2 with much more at stake than just a series tie.
A couple of offseasons ago, when the LA Clippers landed both Kawhi Leonard (in free agency) and Paul George (via trade), the question wasn’t whether this snake-bitten franchise would rise to prominence it was more about how many titles this duo would win.
However, almost two years into its experiment, it’s been much more disappointment than glory. In the NBA’s restart bubble last year, the Clippers lost in the Western Conference semifinals (to the Denver Nuggets, after blowing a 3-1 series lead) and are down 1-0 to the Dallas Mavericks in the first round of the playoffs this season.
Heading into Game 2, you can’t help but feel like there is much more at stake for the Clippers’ franchise than just trying to avoid going down 2-0 before they have to hit the road.
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What could be at stake for the LA Clippers?
The thing that makes this playoff run even more important is the fact that Kawhi could test free agency this offseason. He didn’t elect to sign a contract extension when George did and has not indicated that it’s a foregone conclusion that he’s going to re-sign with Los Angeles this offseason.
Though, that’s probably the biggest reason why the Clippers wanted to re-sign George to an extension. At the very least, even if Kawhi elects to leave in free agency, the Clippers will still have George. The good news is that, from the reporting that has been done regarding Kawhi, it doesn’t seem like he’s going to leave the Clippers.
Still, losing in the first round won’t help close the deal on keeping Kawhi. Losing in the first round could very well force LA to make a big decision during the offseason and could very much force Kawhi to second-guess his initial decision to sign with the Clippers – if he’s actually serious about winning another championship.
Would LA be open to making a big trade if they fail to live up to expectations and bow out in the playoffs in an embarrassing fashion once again?
Not only could an argument be made that the future of Kawhi may be on the line in this year’s playoffs, but the entire blueprint of the franchise could be as well. Just a couple of years ago, the Clippers believed that the duo of Kawhi and George, along with their supporting cast, would be enough to help push this team towards championship contention. So far, the Clippers have been more of an underachiever than a contender.
And as the Clippers have struggled to find their footing as threats in the West, other contenders such as the Phoenix Suns, Utah Jazz, Denver Nuggets, and, yes, the Mavs have risen.
With Game 2 on deck, the Clippers could be playing for much more than a series tie.