"I am trampled under sole of another man's shoes. Guess I walked too softly."
-- Scott Weiland
The most frustrating phenomenon of the rock and grunge deluge that defined the early '90s was the enigmatic and erratic Stone Temple Pilots.
STP should have had an arc on par with Pearl Jam, the Smashing Pumpkins and Oasis, right under Nirvana. Any songwriter will tell you that Sour Girl, Creep and Atlanta were on the level of Live Forever, Between the Bars and Lithium. Wicked Garden and Interstate Love Song hold up as radio staples.
I saw STP open for the Red Hot Chili Peppers and blow them away. Their sound was a wall of dissonance. Scott Weiland's vocals were devastating. It’s the best show I've ever seen. STP should have been touring arenas into their 60s, but they never reached their potential. They should have been much more.
So too should the Los Angeles Clippers.
Overshadowed by the overblown Donald Sterling debacle was yet another disappointing exit for an underachieving title contender.
In three years with Chris Paul, the Clippers have never made it past the second round of the playoffs. In his first two years they were bounced by the Spurs and Grizzlies. This postseason, it took them seven games to squeak past a Bogut-less Warriors team whose coach needed five games to realize that he might want to double-team Blake Griffin. Then they were trounced by the Thunder in six.
The Clippers finished the last two seasons with a franchise-record 56 and 57 wins, respectively. This year, Paul made the All-NBA First Team. Blake Griffin made All-NBA Second Team and came in a surprising third in the MVP vote, behind Durant and LeBron.
Their front office surrounded their superstars with nothing but talent. Center DeAndre Jordan led the league in rebounding. The 34-year-old Jamal Crawford, who’s trademarked the term “heat check,” turned back the clock to win his second Sixth Man award.
Last summer, the missing piece was coaching. To address that, the Clippers made a rare and unusual move that was just hijacked by Jason Kidd: They swapped a 2015 first-round pick in exchange for the Celtics' Doc Rivers. It was supposed to be a huge upgrade from Vinny Del Negro.
They followed that up by trading for J.J. Redick to fill their desperate need for outside shooting. Redick would keep opponents honest and ease pressure off Griffin. They also somehow convinced tough-as-nails Matt Barnes to re-sign for next-to-nothing.
During the second half of the season, they brought in free agent forwards Danny Granger and “Big Baby” Davis for depth prior to a playoff push that never materialized.
The Clippers' regular season numbers between 2013 and 2014 were eerily similar. Their three-point shooting hovered at 35 percent, and their field goal shooting at 47. Their chronic issues – defensive rebounding, guard penetration and free throws – remained.
Their abysmal free throw shooting didn't just continue, it worsened like the Matrix sequels, dipping from 73 percent in 2013 to 71.3 percent last season, fourth worst in the league. In their second-round series, the Thunder outshot the Clippers from the stripe by an 82.9 to 70.7 percent margin. The Thunder got to the line five more times per game and made a staggering 41 more free throws overall. Forty-one.
If, like Peter Gallagher, you emerged from an extended coma and saw these statistics, you'd first be stoked to discover you were engaged to Sandra Bullock. Then, you’d assume that Del Negro was still coaching the Clips.
How good is Rivers really?
Here's two more revealing playoff metrics:
The Clippers’ defensive rebound rate -- the percentage of missed shots they pulled down at their own end of the floor -- was a horrendous 72.5 percent in the regular season, fifth worst in the league. In the playoffs, that number regressed to 70.4, second worst among the 16 teams.
So much for boxing out.
Drives, which the NBA measures as any touch which starts at least 20 feet from the basket and ends within 10 feet. The Clippers averaged only 18.7 drives per game in the playoffs. Dead last among the 16 teams. They scored only 11.8 points per 48 minutes on those drives. Also dead last.
So much for spacing the floor.
Weiland was the Robert Downey Jr. of rock 'n roll, except that he never recovered. His band replaced him with Linkin Park's Chester Bennington last year.
The Clippers and Paul got a pass because of the Sterling turmoil. They won't get another.
Paul wants to be considered the greatest point guard of his generation, yet he's never made the conference finals. He's already 29, the peak of his prime. If he can't do it with Griffin and Rivers he never will, and his legacy will be his twin brother at State Farm.
The Clips don't need any more pieces. They just need to stop whining at the refs and start playing with some heart.
If they don't, they'll disappear into the ether like STP, who were slowly trampled under the sole of great expectations.
Correction: I erroneously stated that the Clippers lost to the Memphis Grizzlies in the 2012 playoffs. The Clippers in fact defeated the Grizzlies in 7 games in Round 1, and were swept by San Antonio Spurs in Round 2. I regret the error. It has been corrected.