This offseason, James Harden perfected his signature transfer.
First, he pump-faked the basketball world (by accepting his player-option), stepped again (from the Sixers after which dogged his longtime affiliate Daryl Morey in China), then he requested officers bail him out by forcing his option to the Clippers (as a substitute of the charity stripe). The Beard attending to L.A. felt as inevitable as him manipulating the refs and the rule book at his peak. Like watching him throw himself into defenders, Harden getting his means left everybody feeling queasy.
The excellent news is that the Clippers obtained their level guard. The Clippers at the moment are a unstable amalgamation of enigmatic superstars. Chemistry be damned, Tyronn Lue must coach and function expertise supervisor. Wings Kawhi Leonard and Paul George are the seasoned variations of Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. If the Lakers are the mercenary group who attracts universally revered iconic stars, the Clippers must be the NBA’s best foils. No one will really feel good watching the Clippers hoist a Larry O’Brien Trophy besides Clipper Darrell. Even a majority of Los Angelians would reasonably root for the Lakers.
Mockingly, their stars are prodigal sons who started their careers as plucky underdogs. Palmdale’s George and Riverside’s Leonard weren’t supplied scholarships from UCLA, so that they wound up at Fresno State and San Diego State, respectively. However Leonard squashed all his good will by forcing his means out of San Antonio and has change into the metonym for load administration since. He’s additionally a former two-time Defensive Participant of the 12 months. For 2 years, they’ve been too injured to star within the one-box.
Lengthy Seashore native Russell Westbrook and Lakewood’s Harden are the brand new additions. Each might be their very own staff’s personal worst enemy. Off the courtroom, no one has ever had a foul factor to say about Westbrook’s management. However within the thick of it, he’s a dwell wire close to a crowded pool.
Los Angeles’ homecoming staff spent 4 years buying a primetime solid of self-made locals as they open their $2 billion Inglewood area in 2024. For higher or worse, Clipper Nation obtained what they wished with scintillating expertise on the ground and a temperamental star off of it. Harden has syndicated his drama throughout 4 organizations. How he meshes with Westbrook for the third time will probably be a captivating growth to witness. Harden reportedly pushed for the Rockets to commerce Westbrook the final time they linked up and a month later the group appeased him, accelerating their very own demise within the course of.
The scrutiny on the pair will probably be much more intense now that Westbrook must play extra off-ball whereas Harden is on the ground, whereas watching his utilization shrink. This time, they’ll have to include George and Harden into the offense.
On the nexus of all this will probably be George’s impending free company if he decides to opt-out and earn one final max contract pay day, and Harden’s expiring contract. Harden is enjoying for one final $200 million payday of his personal. On one hand, that needs to be motivation sufficient for him to do all the things in his energy to make this work. On the opposite, we haven’t seen Harden on a courtroom since going 3-for-11 from the sphere in Recreation 7 in opposition to Boston.
The Clippers managed to maintain Terance Mann and Norm Powell, and whereas there’s a plethora of overlapping expertise, they’ve raised their ceiling with the Harden acquisition so long as they continue to be wholesome. Leonard and George’s our bodies have a tendency to interrupt down because the postseason approaches.
The final time Harden was on a paper dragon of this nature, a Harden hamstring damage and Kyrie Irving’s cantankerous character helped these Nets sabotage themselves internally. That staff assembled too many oddball personalities, however additionally they had the firepower to win all of it.
The Clippers have one-upped them on each fronts.
Observe DJ Dunson on X: @cerebralsportex