LOS ANGELES – Don’t come around Chris Paul’s front door trying to sell him a ladder. He’s not one of those who believe that progress has to come one level at a time.
The Clippers finished a season in which they won a playoff series for only the third time in franchise history, but that didn’t leave the All-Star point guard skipping out the door.
“We had a good season,” Paul said. “I think it’s a good sign for our team that there is no moral victory. It’s not like, ‘Oh, we made it to the playoffs, it’s all good and well.’ We feel like we should still have been playing.
“We are going to keep working. We are going to come back next seson ready to go. I have never been one of those people who believes you have to take stepping stones to get to the next level.”
While they did claim an historic Game 7 road win at Memphis in the first round, the Clippers did lose 10 of their last 15 games overall going back to the regular season and were only 2-3 at home in the playoffs.
There are two All-Stars on the roster with Paul and Blake Griffin, but plenty of holes to fill. Can young center DeAndre Jordan fulfill the promise of his $42-million contract? Can veteran Chauncey Billups, an unrestricted free agent this summer, make it all the way back from Achilles tendon surgery?
What do they do with Reggie Evans, Kenyon Martin, Nick Young andMo Williams, all of whom were key parts in the playoff run and are unrestricted free agents?
Do they remain excited about what they saw from back-up guard Eric Bledsoe in the playoffs or use him as bait to shore up other positions? What is the status of coach Vinny Del Negro? Is he the one who can take them to the next level?
It was a nice first splash for Lob City. But how far are the Clippers from being able to swim in the deep water with the real playoff contenders?