Featured Photo Credit: Sports Illustrated
West had spent the last six seasons as a special consultant for the Warriors, after joining the team in 2011. During West’s six-year tenure with the team, the Warriors went from missing the playoffs in Year 1 and two sixth seed finishes the following two years, resulting in a second and first round playoff exit, respectively, to three straight trips to the NBA Finals as the one seed, including two championships in the latter three years. Prior to West joining the team, the Warriors hadn’t won a championship in well over 30 years.
Meanwhile, the Clippers haven’t so much as made a Conference Finals appearance in their 47-year history. Despite having their most successful stretch of basketball over the past several seasons, the team has failed to exceed expectations and improve upon any moderate success the team previously had during their earlier years, which wasn’t much.
With Steve Ballmer entering his fourth year as the Clippers owner, the possibility of opening a new arena in Inglewood, Ca., and the looming free agency of three of their top four players in Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and J.J. Redick this summer, West’s move to the Clippers comes at a crucial time for the franchise.
Jerry West is known for having a great eye and being adept at spotting and recruiting great talent. He’s also proven to be a valuable commodity in helping build quality, high-level championship caliber teams. West played a big role in helping build the Los Angeles Lakers teams that won five championships during the 1980s, as the general manager. Afterwards, when the “Showtime Lakers” started to fade, West managed to keep the Lakers relevant for years before recruiting free agent Shaquille O’Neal and trading to acquire rookie Kobe Bryant in 1996, and ultimately hiring Phil Jackson as coach in 1999. That would later lead to three consecutive championships for the Lakers from 2000 to 2002, despite West leaving shortly after the first one.
West was then hired as the general manager of the Memphis Grizzlies in 2002, and by his second season as GM, managed to turn them into a playoff team after being a bottom feeder for consecutive eight seasons.
Clippers head coach Doc Rivers has made some questionable, sometimes head-scratching decisions in his role as President of Basketball Operations for the team. Some of these questionable decisions include signing Spencer Hawes to a 4-year deal just to trade him less than a year later, trading for his son Austin Rivers (which has actually paid some dividends), trading Lance Stephenson AND a draft pick for just a half-season of Jeff Green, and signing players like Byron Mullens, Glen Davis, and Josh Smith, who all did close to nothing in a Clippers uniform, among others.
In four seasons as coach and president, Rivers hasn’t formed a true identity for the Clippers. He’s simply signed and traded away players without proving he can make the right personnel moves to get the Clippers moving forward. Additionally, in those same years, the Clippers have managed to draft only a single player who can be considered a rotational piece in Reggie Bullock, who is now with Detroit. Despite consistently being a 50+ win team, the Clippers have remained stagnant under Rivers. As a consultant for the team, West can oversee Rivers’ potential roster transactions before they are made, and collaborate in order to help get the Clippers finally moving in the right direction both in the short-term and long-term.
The Clippers may look very different by the start of next season. The decisions of their top three free agents, especially Paul, will largely determine whether the Clippers can continue building with most of their current core still in tact or if they’ll have to start from the ground up. However, West’s hiring may be what’s needed to convince Paul and other free agents that the Clippers can finally put the right pieces together and construct a true championship contender.
With West at the helm, the only way the Clippers can go is up, whether that’s in the near future or a few more years down the road. Even if he’s not the prime decision-maker, West has the pedigree and has proven for decades that his presence, guidance and leadership can go a long way in building championship teams. The Clippers could very well be added to that list sooner or later.