Four Returning Clippers Hope To Rewrite Ending Back With Team

LOS ANGELES – A banner featuring pictures of Jamal Crawford, Austin Rivers, Luc Mbah a Moute and Wesley Johnson and the words “Back Playing Together” and “Welcome Home” hung on the wall of the practice facility Friday afternoon.

As the four returning Clippers walked into the building to make their re-signings official, each of them cited the family environment and the ability to contend for a title specifically with this group as primary reasons leading them back to the Clippers.

“These are my brothers,” Crawford said, “from top to bottom.”

And beyond the championship aspirations, they didn't feel right leaving after the way the 2015-16 season ended. Mbah a Moute said he felt there was “unfinished business,” as injuries to Blake Griffin and Chris Paul and a Game 6 loss in Portland halted the season sooner than the Clippers hoped.

He wanted an opportunity to rewrite that ending. 

“Losing two of our best players, it kind of left a bad feeling in my mouth and as a group,” Mbah a Moute said. “For me, I felt there was a lot we could do as a team to get better individually. The plan, like Doc (Rivers) said, to bring everybody back this summer sounded positive.”

The Clippers’ head coach and president of basketball operations made that plan clear just hours after the postseason ended, when he said at his exit interview he hoped to sign as many of his own guys back.  

It seemed problematic, given the Clippers’ cap constraints. They knew, especially with the cap rising, they couldn’t keep everyone. But, Rivers also knew the many soon-to-be free agents who played for the Clippers last season still hoped to stay, if possible.

With the moratorium done and players able to sign their deals, Crawford, Rivers, Mbah a Moute and Johnson made their agreements official. In doing so, the Clippers return four key role players from last year’s roster.

“It’s the best team I’ve been on my whole career,” Johnson said. “The winning aspect of it, the guys, the organization, the people that came and took me in like I’ve been here for years, it was a big deal for me this being like a family. All that factored into me wanting to come back.”

Johnson and Mbah a Moute only spent one season with the Clippers previously, but Johnson said he felt he grew as a player in that short timeframe.

Plus, last year marked the first legitimate chance at a ring for that duo. They wanted that feeling back, and they wanted to complete the mission they set out to accomplish when they signed here last year.

“I never really played on a team that competes for a championship,” Mbah a Moute said. “Most of the teams I played for before, making the playoffs was a goal, or trying to go to the second round or something like that. This was way bigger than that. Being a part of that was something special.”

By signing back with the Clippers, those four Clippers hope to get that feeling back, while ending their seasons on a more positive note.

“I just want to win a championship,” Crawford said.