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Without question, the Los Angeles Clippers had a tough season in 2007-2008, as they finished with a 23-59 record, last place in the Pacific Division. Suddenly, Clipper Nation has become silent and the “magical” playoff run from 2006 remains a distant memory. With the loss of Sam Cassell to a buyout, the potential departure of Elton Brand, and a rift between the front office and the head coach, LA certainly has a lot of things to sort out this summer.
The Good : Certainly the 2007-2008 season was not a lost cause as Clipper fans witnessed improved play from several players.
Center Chris Kaman proved that he is not another Michael Olowokandi nd in fact a potential NBA All-Star center. During the first half of the season, there were few centers more productive than Kaman, who averaged 16.4 points, 13.6 rebounds and 3.0 blocks. In fact, I even nominated him as my Most Improved Player back in February. After the All-Star break, Kaman suffered an ankle and his performance subsequently decline. But overall, the center from Central Michigan still rebounded nicely from a horrific 2006-07 season.
However, Chris Kaman was not the only Clipper to surprise the LA fans, as rookie Al Thornton quickly became one the best rookies in all of the NBA. After experiencing some growing pains early on, Thornton came on strong toward the second half of the season, averaging 16.0 points.
The Bad : Once Elton Brand ruptured his Achilles tendon during a workout last August, the Clippers’ season was over before it even started. With Brand, a double-double machine, out for 74 games of the team’s 82 games, the Clippers had a porous front-line of Tim Thomas, Josh Powell, Nick Fazekas, Paul Davis, and Thornton. Not even the legendary Red Aurbach or the ring master Phil Jackson would be able to lead that team to the playoffs. Without Brand, it was another horrifically assembled Donald Sterling team that had no where near the talent to even say the word: playoffs.
The Ugly : While the team’s performance on the court was bad enough, the mid-season war of words between coach Mike Dunleavy and owner Donald Sterling was embarrassing to all seventeen Clipper fans. Sterling, who is one of the most frugal owners in all of sports, told the Los Angeles Times in January that was upset at his team’s poor performance and was contemplating changes among his top management (Dunleavy and Elgin Baylor, longtime director of basketball operations). The frustrated Dunleavy responded by inviting Sterling to indeed fire him and saying that it would be a huge mistake. Eventually, Dunleavy told the media that the two had made up but if anything is certain it is that there are so very unhappy people in Clipper land. The season was bad enough but the Soap Opera between the penny-pinching owner and the befuddled coach revealed the aloofness that is rampant in the Clippers’ wing of Staples Center.