LOS ANGELES – The Clippers, as expected, did not make any trades before the Thursday deadline. They poked around for a starting small forward and help at center, didn’t find anything, and were not surprised at the outcome. Things were pretty quiet.
That’s just not to be confused with the Clippers being quiet on deadline day.
There was a very loud thud, a 116-90 loss to the Spurs at Staples Center as Tony Parker made 12 of 16 shots for 31 points along with seven assists and no turnovers that extended the Clippers’ time off for the All-Star break to seven days and turned Chris Paul brusque. (Paul, responding to a reporter’s question about how the superstar point guard can do a better job of defending Parker: “I can’t. I suck.”) And, in the bigger picture, there were full-throated statements that the Los Angeles roster – this Los Angeles roster – can play into June and didn’t need a trade to stay with San Antonio or Oklahoma City in the Western Conference.
The most-significant voice belonged, not surprisingly, to Paul, one of the team leaders in a locker room loaded with positive veteran influence and also something of an unofficial assistant general manager. He said he was not in contact with Gary Sacks, the vice president of basketball operations, in the days leading to the trade deadline, focusing instead on some family town following the MVP performance at the All-Star game Sunday in Houston. But his role at other times are classic CP3 court vision: When the trade was in the works that would send him from New Orleans to Los Angeles, Paul was breaking down the Clippers roster and urging the personnel department not to give up Eric Bledsoe, among other input, as part of the blockbuster.
He does not sit back and watch critical moments for the roster from a distance. His words on personnel matter.
His words Thursday night, after the deadline passed with no move for the team in third place in the West?
“We’re all right,” Paul said. “We’re just fine. I think tonight, we could learn from some things and see how we could defend better. At the end of the day, we said before we ran out tonight, ‘This is what we have.’ So if we’re going to win a championship, these are the guys that we’re going to win it with.”
Because this roster is capable of winning big.
“Let me tell you right now,” he said. “If I didn’t feel like it was, I wouldn’t be playing. I don’t play just for fun. We’re playing to win a championship.”
The results lately are conflicted. The Clippers just got steamrolled by the Spurs, but also still lead the season series 2-1. Five games earlier, the Clippers lost to the Heat by 22 points, but also split 1-1 with Miami.
“We’re fine,” said Grant Hill, another leader. “We’ve got talent. We just lost tonight. We like our team and we like our chances. We’re all happy with who we are and what we are and what we have in front of us.”