The Los Angeles Clippers came into the bubble at Walt Disney World as an immensely talented squad, albeit one with strong personalities. That seemingly caused tension within the ranks, an issue that came further to the light with reports of the hiring of Tyronn Lue as the team’s next head coach.
According to The Athletic’s Jovan Buha and Joe Vardon, some players on the team “bristled” at what can be viewed as preferential treatment given to star free-agent signing Kawhi Leonard.
Some Clippers take issue with preferential treatment
The Clippers signed Leonard, who won a ring with the Toronto Raptors in 2019, and traded for Paul George last July. Both are California natives and joined a group that had been together for a couple of years already.
Leonard and Clippers coaches continued with load management for the star and he played in only 57 games during the season. That, along with a handful of other concerns, reportedly rubbed his new teammates the wrong way.
Players like [Patrick] Beverley, Montrezl Harrell and Lou Williams — Clippers bedrocks before the arrival of Leonard and George — bristled when Leonard was permitted to take games off to manage his body and to live in San Diego, which often led to him being late for team flights, league sources said. The team also allowed Leonard to dictate to [coach Doc] Rivers when he could be pulled from games, among other things. Lue was on Rivers’ bench for all of this, but the Clippers were Rivers’ show.
There were signs of tension inside the Clippers’ locker room throughout the season. It came to a head when the team blew a 3-1 series lead to the Denver Nuggets in the Western Conference semifinals.
Lue tasked with balancing personalities
Lue, 43, replaces Rivers, who reached a “mutual decision” with the Clippers to leave last month. He will be tasked with balancing those star players and pushing them to a title, just as he did with LeBron James and Co. in Cleveland during the 2015-16 season.
Leonard and George were asked by the front office about coaches they were considering and what qualities they wanted in a coach, per The Athletic. But neither reportedly wanted a final say on the decision and only gave insight when asked.
Lue spent a year as an assistant under Rivers and was one of two candidates who “checked every box on the Clippers’ internal checklist,” per The Athletic.
The team wants Lue to approach the job as a blank canvas, as if he weren’t on the staff last year. But they also reportedly view his hiring as an advantage because he knows the situation.
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