The NBA’s Orlando Bubble feels like a distant memory, whether you think it happened four seasons ago or 14. The time warp induced by quarantine and COVID has left many, including myself, grappling with the surreal sense that the 2019-20 season was both recent and a bygone era. The NBA’s swift transition into the 2020-2021 season only added to the blur of the period.
Despite the challenges, some critics seek to undermine the significance of the basketball played in the Bubble. Personally, I never quite understood this perspective. The Bubble provided a level playing field, with no team enjoying a home-court advantage. It was a showcase of pure hoops, where teams had the same environment to prove their worth. The games were intensely competitive, making it hard to fathom the criticism. Perhaps the disdain stems from the Lakers clinching the title. If discrediting their ring is the motive, count me in. I’m more than willing to humor the notion of another dubious title for the Lakers, even if, deep down, I don’t fully buy into it. To me, that championship holds as much weight as any other.
In retrospect, the journey to the Finals included a memorable collapse by none other than the Los Angeles Clippers. The Clippers squandered a 3-1 lead to the Nuggets, a painful déjà vu of Doc Rivers’ postseason history of monumental letdowns. Now, thanks to Lou Williams, we seemingly understand why this meltdown occurred. Brace yourself.
“We started to hear the rumblings that nobody is going to respect this chip so we kind of just took our foot off the gas”
– Lou Williams on the Clippers losing in the bubble
(h/t @Jacobtheclipper )
— NBACentral (@TheDunkCentral) November 13, 2023
Hold on a minute. Let’s double-check if we heard Lou Williams correctly. Did he just suggest that after spending 67 days in the Bubble, the Clippers were mentally checked out, believing no one would respect their potential championship? Did the allure of leaving the Bubble overshadow their commitment to the long game?
I’m sorry, but that has to be one of the most absurd excuses I’ve ever heard from a player. As of the 3-1 series lead, the Clippers were on the brink of reaching the Western Conference Finals for the first time in their history. Are we to believe they suddenly lost focus or didn’t care? No, they choked. That’s the simple truth. You can’t play the “we didn’t care, everyone wanted to go home” card after the fact. If the Clippers had emerged victorious, would we be hearing this narrative?
Did they ease up once they had that 3-1 advantage? It’s ludicrous. Kawhi Leonard and Paul George were logging heavy minutes in those critical games. The reality is, regardless of the setting, the Clippers choked. Moreover, they held double-digit leads in Games 5, 6, and 7!
Now, we’re subjected to Lou Williams attempting to spin the narrative, implying they lost because other teams wouldn’t respect their potential championship. Just saying that aloud sparks laughter every time.
Let’s face it – choking in playoff series happens. The Clippers aren’t alone in that experience. Factor in Doc Rivers, and it’s almost expected that his teams are more likely to blow a lead than secure a series win. Trying to reshape the narrative years later, suggesting they lost because nobody cared or they intentionally fell short to garner respect for a hypothetical ring, is cringe-worthy. I almost pity Lou Williams for having to sell this narrative. There’s no way he truly believes it in his heart.
They choked. It happens. Just own it and move forward.