Steve Ballmer is nothing if not confident. In an interview with Bill Plaschke of the Los Angeles Times, the Clippers’ owner believes his team is very close to winning an NBA Championship. All they have to do, he says, is keep the team together:
“You have arguably three of the best 20 to 25 guys in the NBA,” Ballmer said. “You should be able to win it with three of the best 20 to 25 guys in the NBA. I don’t think you’ll find another team with three of the best 20 to 25 guys in the NBA.”
There’s more to winning a title than just having three of the best players in the NBA, and Ballmer knows that. The reason the Clippers got as far as they did was because of the stellar play of their “big three:” Blake Griffin, Chris Paul and DeAndre Jordan. The reason they lost is because, J.J. Redick aside, they had no one of consequence to help them out. Whenever the Clippers went to their bench, disaster struck as seemingly safe leads dwindled in a matter of minutes.
This was part of the reason for the Lance Stephenson trade. The Clippers are banking on Stephenson bouncing back from a horrific year with the Hornets, hoping he’ll once more be the creative scorer and tenacious defender he was in his last year with the Pacers. It’s a gamble, one that could backfire not just because of Lance’s off-year, but because of his consistent locker room issues, and it’s a necessary one if the Clippers are going to give their stars any sort of support.
Keeping the big three together is important, but if the Clippers win a title, as Ballmer thinks they will, it will be through a collective effort from more than just Griffin, Paul and Jordan.
Then again, DeAndre Jordan becomes a free agent on July 1. Sure, the Clippers can offer him an extra-year contract and higher raises, but Ballmer’s comments are partially directed at DJ, the only player within the aforementioned trio who might fall outside the owner’s lofty top-25 designation.