In a response to a Sportscenter Instagram post that highlighted some of the most entertaining moments from the LA Clippers’ ‘Lob City’ era, former Clippers forward Matt Barnes commented “We were our own worst enemy.”
It’s an astute point, and Barnes is not the only Lob City teammate to have been so forthcoming about the Clippers’ missed opportunities (J.J. Redick has said about as much multiple times on his podcast). It seems that the consensus takeaway from this era of Clippers basketball—the first in which they were truly considered title contenders—was that they did not reach their full potential.
The Sportscenter post was mostly comprised of Blake Griffin dunks, as they should be. Griffin might not have been the best player on those Clippers teams, but he was emblematic of the culture the Clippers had built. They were the most entertaining team in Los Angeles because of him (at least on nights when Nick Young wasn’t missing threes he was sure he’d make), and it genuinely felt as though they were on the brink of something special. But they just couldn’t get over the second-round hump.
Is Barnes hinting at locker room turmoil? Or possibly the various mental collapses that plagued the Clippers during their playoff runs? It will never be easy to pinpoint the biggest reason why the Clippers fell short of a title during this era. Injuries to Blake Griffin and Chris Paul were no doubt huge factors, and like most historical If’s, this caveat will likely be lost to time. But credit should be given to the teams that beat them as well. The Western Conference was (and still is) a bloodbath, and the Clippers were never the title favorite entering a season throughout the Lob City run.
But Barnes has a point: when you take a step back and look at the talent of this team—led by two MVP candidates in Griffin and Chris Paul—and compare it to the talent they were facing, the Clippers probably underperformed to their talent level, meaning there was another, less quantifiable factor at play. The level of underperformance can be debated (maybe they should’ve capped out at the conference finals) but was part of it self-inflicted? Perhaps Barnes will elaborate on this comment at some point on his All the Smoke podcast. He’s never been one to shy away from speaking his mind.