* * *
The LA Clippers have lost nine in a row. What is ailing them most and how would you fix it?
* * *
Steve Aschburner: Since they can't re-acquire Chris Paul, the missing link, I think the Clippers are living that particular NBA hell of being stuck in the middle. Not good enough to contend, not bad enough to sink completely to the bottom for lottery salvation. The free agent market of 2018 isn't going to be deep enough to save them, so I think they're looking at a full rebuild. Trade Blake Griffin, shed salaries and -- with the Lakers in hot pursuit of relevancy by next season -- slide into the up-and-coming role in that NBA marketplace. The path they're on will get them nowhere.
Shaun Powell: There are serious leadership problems that left with Chris Paul and there's no fixing or replacing that anytime soon. I'll give the Clippers a bit of a pass because of injuries, but this team looks rudderless especially in crunch time. But I'm getting nervous for coach Doc Rivers.
John Schuhmann: The first and most obvious problem, one that affects them on both ends of the floor, is that they no longer have Chris Paul. But the Clippers rank last defensively over the course of the streak, so I'd start there. They've fouled too much and haven't protected the rim very well. Patrick Beverley (and his ability to stay in front of ball-handlers) was missed in five of those nine games, but their problems go beyond that. Offensively, without (Paul and) Milos Teodosic, there's clearly too much burden on Blake Griffin's shoulders, because the 33 percent he has shot over the last seven games is the worst shooting stretch of his career and the defense has been at its worst with him on the floor. So injuries have been a factor, but they have to find a way (as other teams have) to get past them. It's hard to give them a pass on Danilo Gallinari's absence, because they chose to give $65 million to a guy who has missed 71 games over the last three seasons.
Sekou Smith: It's one thing to lose a future Hall of Fame point guard like Chris Paul and have to replace not only his production but also his leadership. Then to lose Milos Teodosic after two games and, later, Patrick Beverley for five games, compounding your issues, has to make coach Doc Rivers wonder what he did to deserve his current situation. The Clippers are in the middle of a mess right now and the only way out of it is to get healthy and to get back on the right side of winning. If they can't handle the lowly Atlanta Hawks tonight at Philips Arena it could spell trouble, as seven of the Clippers' next 12 games are on the road. That early season flash where Blake Griffin looked rejuvenated and they looked like they would manage the post-Paul era with ease vanished seemingly overnight.