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Clippers end standout season with abrupt loss

Published on NewsOK Modified: May 4, 2013 at 7:21 pm •  Published: May 4, 2013

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Chris Paul and Blake Griffin regarded each other with weary disbelief in the locker room in Memphis after the Los Angeles Clippers' fourth straight playoff loss.

"I can't believe it's over," Paul said to his power forward.

After a regular season unlike anything in the Clippers' mostly miserable history, everything ended with a decidedly Clipper-like first-round playoff flop. Their club-record 56 wins and first Pacific Division championship meant little against the rugged Grizzlies, who abruptly sent the Clippers to a perilous offseason in which Paul's free agency is only the largest of several uncertainties.

And though Paul, Griffin and their teammates have changed the sports world's perception of a franchise synonymous with losing during the best two-season stretch in club history, the Clippers' best regular season is already a memory.

"I have nothing to do," Paul said Saturday at the Clippers' Playa Vista training complex. "This is unreal. I had no idea that the season would be (over now). We only played two weeks longer than anybody else that didn't make the playoffs. It stings. ... This right here was unacceptable, though. We lost, first round, to a good Memphis team, but a team we were capable of beating."

Paul claimed he hasn't even started thinking about his future because he had planned to be playing until June.

"I'm going to take my time," Paul said. "I don't know how this whole thing is going to play out. I'm still trying to figure out what I'm going to do the rest of the day."

Paul was ejected from Game 6 in Memphis with 2:29 to play, although he claimed he said nothing to any official to warrant it. The Clippers mostly held their tongues about their 33 personal fouls and five technical fouls in the clincher — even under questioning from 3-year-old fans.

"For me, the craziest thing is the season is over," Paul said. "I still haven't got that wrapped around my brain. I woke up this morning, and little Chris, I've got him in my bed, and the first thing he said was, 'Daddy, why you lose again?' I told my wife last night on the bus ride to the airport, that's probably the toughest thing right now — he's old enough to understand what's going on, and we don't have any more games."

While Paul is a jewel in the NBA's upcoming free-agent class, most league observers expect him to re-sign with the Clippers, given the North Carolina native's newfound fondness for Los Angeles and his burgeoning partnership with Griffin. Paul and Matt Barnes, another impending free agent, already spoke on the plane ride back from Memphis about the possibility of re-teaming this fall.

Coach Vinny Del Negro's contract also is up this summer, and while his players uniformly backed him while packing up for the summer, the Clippers' first-round loss could weigh on his future. Del Negro will speak publicly about the season Monday.

Once their future is more settled, the Clippers should be able to look back fondly on their dynamic season. Their landmark division title is a reward for one of the NBA's most exciting teams, a group that packed Staples Center nightly with fans eagerly anticipating the next alley-oop dunk and dramatic rally in Lob City.

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