LOS ANGELES — Wizards guard Austin Rivers was welcomed back to the Staples Center on Sunday with a thoughtful tribute video, and his new team repaid the gesture by playing like a “Lob City” Clippers tribute band—at their worst and most dysfunctional.
During his three-plus seasons in L.A., Rivers played a complementary role alongside a talented “Big 3” that faced numerous injury issues and chemistry questions while continuously exiting the playoffs before the conference finals. Now, in Washington after an offseason trade, the back-up guard is playing alongside a talented “Big 3” that has faced numerous injury issues and seems perpetually aggravated by never-ending personality conflicts while winning just one playoff series over the past three years.
Despite their many postseason implosions, those Clippers ultimately came undone gradually. Chris Paul forced a trade to Houston. Blake Griffin was re-signed and then shipped to Detroit. DeAndre Jordan left for Dallas. Rivers was traded to Washington for Marcin Gortat. Against the odds, Doc Rivers has survived, losing his GM title but remaining as coach following years of hot-seat talk.
These Wizards, however, appear primed for a more explosive turn, and soon.
Just days after coach Scott Brooks and star guards John Wall and Bradley Beal called out the team’s poor early-season effort, the Wizards lost to the Clippers 136-104 on Sunday. The demoralizing loss marked the franchise’s worst defeat by margin of victory in nearly a year and dropped Washington to 1-5 on the season. The 0-6 Cavaliers are the only NBA team with a worse record.
Cleveland lost LeBron James; Washington has no such excuse.
The Wizards didn’t get blown out by accident on Sunday. Rather, they came by this embarrassment honestly, losing virtually every aspect of the game. Eight L.A. players scored in double figures and all 13 active players scored at least one point. The Clippers shot 54% from the field and 55% on three-pointers, they pounded the Wizards 57-45 on the glass, and they scored a whopping 68 points in the paint. Meanwhile, Washington’s offense slogged through ugly possessions, shooting 39% from the field, hitting just 5-of-27 on threes, and registering only 18 assists.
There were red flags visible before the game and even more popped up after the rout concluded. Small forward Otto Porter, who was specifically called out by Brooks, barely interacted w