As a superstar tandem, Leonard and George were well cast for the LA Clippers. They were less temperamental than the Lob City teams that flirted with contention, and more talented than the lunch-bucket overachievers of 2018 and 2019. The duo brought the best of both -- the dogged work ethic without the combustibility -- and in Leonard's case, a championship pedigree. But when the Clippers' bubble burst in September, the story was all too familiar: a total collapse in the conference semifinals to the Denver Nuggets after leading the series 3-1.
Some of the Clippers' flaws are easier to pinpoint than others. Superstars have to play their best when it matters most, but they also need to lend confidence to teammates. Rolling through the regular season on the strength of veteran talent and individual shotmaking is helpful, but a postseason series that opponents can scout for days requires more creative adjustments. Setting general expectations for success is pretty easy for a contender, but managing day-to-day expectations during the grind of the season demands something more. Randomness also plays a huge part. An argument among teammates in January doesn't inform another player's cold shooting night in September.
The Clippers' capacity to correct last year's shortcomings will determine whether they can make good on the promise of their talent this season.