PLAYA VISTA, Calif. – A day of celebration and pride at Clippers HQ over trading the so-called untradeable contract of Baron Davis gave way to a hard line from general manager Neil Olshey that dramatically increased the expectations, and the pressure, on coaches and players to do more than just make the playoffs next season.
Speaking with a group of reporters at the practice facility Thursday as the move to send Davis and a 2011 first-round pick to the Cavaliers for Mo Williams, Olshey used phrases like “We can’t keep waiting for incremental pieces” and “We need to accelerate our curve in terms of wins and losses, and Mo helps us do that.” But later, in an interview with NBA.com, Olshey went a step further:
“The time for talking is done.”
Getting out from under Davis’ contract and conditioning problems, even if he had built good chemistry with franchise cornerstone Blake Griffin, was seen around here Thursday as an important step forward. The Clippers lost the push of Davis as point guard, but gained a better perimeter shooter to draw some of the defensive heat away from power forward Griffin and the DeAndre Jordan–Chris Kaman center tandem inside, and at a lower salary that streamlines the salary cap for future moves. Plus, Griffin is near the end of his rookie season, just as coach Vinny Del Negro is past the transition period of his first year on the job in Los Angeles, and Jordan is enjoying a breakout 2010-11.
“I’ll be completely unsatisfied if what we have right now, and the ability that we have to make it even better, if we are not a factor in the playoffs,” Olshey said of next season.
Just making the playoffs will not be enough, in other words.
“No,” Olshey said. “I think we need to be a factor. I think we can. If you saw the nights where we played Miami and the Lakers and Oklahoma City and San Antonio and Chicago and Denver – these are the teams we’d have to play in the playoffs and we have a fair chance to beat these guys, and that’s been without [injured] Chris Kaman. We need to find a way to do it every night. Losing becomes a habit and we need to break that habit.
“I think we’ve done that at home. We’ve been very good at home. But now the next step in the maturation process is doing it on the road and beating the teams you’re supposed to beat. I think we’re going to be capable of doing that now. We add a point guard like Mo who’s played 30 playoff games in the last two years. He’s been successful with every team he’s been on. He’s gotten each team he’s been on to the playoffs. Our guys know now what it’s like to play fun basketball and be exciting. Now they need to know what it’s like to do nuts and bolts and get it done and get wins.”